The pesticides that farmers are currently allowed to use in Vietnam do not contain carcinogenic substances and the use of pesticides in agriculture is closely monitored, Nguyen Xuan Hong, director of the Plant Protection Department, said at a monthly meeting to review food safety controls in Hanoi on Nov. 20.

Over the last month, he said, the agency conducted a test on 50 samples of vegetables mainly eaten raw and found that the trace amounts of pesticide residue and heavy metals were within permitted limits.

Over the last year, the agency has analysed 1,545 vegetables samples, and only 12 revealed excessive pesticide residues, accounting for a miniscule 0.8 percent.

This figure was relatively low compared to the equivalent ratio in neighbouring countries, like Thailand (10 percent) and Malaysia (12 percent). In China , the ratio varied from 2 to 17 percent.

"Over the next five years, we want to lower the ratio to 0.5 percent," he said. He noted that while Vietnam allowed the import of farm products from 59 countries and territories, only 13 of those areas had the right to export farm products of plant origin to use as foodstuffs.

Deputy Minister Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu asked relevant agencies to step up inspections on farm products from the countries that have not acquired such rights. By the end of this year, if these countries still do not have the right to export such products, Vietnam will stop importing their farm products, she said.

She also asked the department to regularly check the quality of pesticides. Once a pesticide is discovered to be of low quality, its manufacturer should receive a strict punishment such as having its business licence revoked.-VNA