Polygonatum cyrtonema, inspecting Solomon's Seal plants and weighing harvested wild plants

Polygonatum cyrtonema, inspecting Solomon's Seal plants and weighing harvested wild plants


Published 17 July 2015


Success of traditional Chinese medicine environmental governance project celebrated in China

Beijing, China, 17th July 2015—participants in an innovative project promoting sustainable use of wild medicinal plants in China met this week to celebrate their success and look forwards to the future as the 30-month project comes to an end.

The European Union-funded Sustainable supply chains: Engaging China’s private sector in sustainable management of medicinal plants (EGP MAPs) has helped establish sustainable supply chains for medicinal plants ingredients in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) industry and contributed towards improved rural livelihoods and environmental governance in Hunan and Zhejiang Provinces. More than 1,100 individual wild-collectors and farmers have been supported through it. 

Supported by leading TCM manufactures and traders, EGP MAPs has brought together stakeholders within the industry, including companies, their suppliers (farmers and wild-collectors), conservation NGOs, industry associations and academia as well as government officials.

“This project was the first of its kind in China, helping establish the principles of sustainable wild plant sourcing by some of the leading players within the TCM industry,” said Huang Xueju, EGP Project Manager, EU Delegation in China.

Key to achieving wild plant sustainability was following the FairWild Standard’s best-practices for wild harvesting and equitable trade in plants. The Standard’s eleven principles cover social, environmental and economic aspects of sustainability, and provide a comprehensive framework for tackling the complex issues involved in sustainable wild collection.

Major project successes highlighted at the Beijing meeting included:

  • The development of TCM-sector Corporate Social Responsibility guidelines to help businesses green their supply chain management and improve product competitiveness.
  • Development of a long-term strategy and implementation of a roadmap for sustainable production and supply chain management by targeted TCM manufacturers and traders.
  • Development of training materials aimed at manufacturers and traders on implementation of the FairWild Standard, including “train the trainer” materials.
  • Assessment of wild plant resources at a pilot wild-harvesting location in Zhejiang province.
  • Engagement with leading industry stakeholders through TCM Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Forums held in 2014 and 2015. The Forums were convened on the platform provided by the International Trade Union of Genuine Regional Materia Medica (TUGRMM), thus ensuring their continuation beyond the project’s completion.
  • Development of case studies on sustainable wild-collection worldwide.
  • Examination of the feasibility of introducing and adopting voluntary certification schemes in China.
  • Training sessions for more than 1100 wild-collectors and farmers on wild-collection, sustainable harvesting and production following the FairWild Standard in Hunan and Zhejiang provinces.
  • Establishment and legal registration of a national Farmer Association on TCM Sustainable Development under the Chinese Medical and Pharmaceutical Material Association (CMPMA). The association enables sustainable production practices and extends markets opportunities for sustainably sourced products, in particular Polygonatum cyrtonema Hua and Polygonatum filipes Merr. (Rhizoma Polygonati).
  • Compilation of a thorough review of existing laws and regulations governing TCM resources in China.
  • Research to understand the dynamics of international markets, including the EU, for sustainably-certified wild-collected botanical ingredients from China.
A Goji berry harvester, Qinghai province © Chenyang Li / TRAFFIC

A project study carried out by the International Trade Centre and TRAFFIC found China’s export volume and value for selected medicinal and aromatic plant (MAP) products (both wild-collected and cultivated) amounted to over 1.3 billion kg with a reported Customs value of over US$ 5 billion in 2013. This represents around 16% of total world exports of these materials. Hundreds of Chinese MAP species are either entirely or partially wild-collected, while the study also highlighted the potential for significant growth from anywhere between 5 and 15% of total exports for organic-certified products. 

“China currently has a golden opportunity to lead the world in promoting sustainable sourcing and equitable sharing of the benefits from wild plant resources,” said Yannick Kuehl, TRAFFIC’s Regional Director for East and South Asia.

As a key output the EGP MAPs project, a policy study on the TCM sector identified a total of 142 policies, laws and standards relevant to the collection, management and use of medicinal plant resources in China. These were analysed and a comparison carried out identifying potential areas for strengthening the laws and policies, in order to provide a more enabling legislative and policy environment for sustainable business practices in the TCM sector, as well as better regulation of management and use of medicinal plant resources.

“The FairWild Standard is a valuable reference for TCM management agencies to guide sustainable development work as well as an important tool for formulating TCM resource assessment plans and industry standards,” said Zhao Runhuai, Chief Technical Director of Sinopharm, the largest State-owned TCM company in China.

He also mentioned positive feedback from the government on the recommendations of the policy study, which includes improving the internal co-ordination among the authorities. The policy study is highly recommended by TCM administration bodies and the EU delegation to China and the State Administration of TCM (SATCM) has suggested it be submitted to the central government.  

The participating TCM companies and NGOs also discussed the sustainability of the project. Although the EGP funded project comes to a conclusion, the conservation work on medicinal plant resources is in the ascendant. 

“We can be proud of what EGP MAPs has achieved to date, and this project has laid a solid foundation such that we can look forward to a bright future for wild-plant harvesting within China’s TCM industry,” said Zhou Fei, Head of TRAFFIC’s China Office.


This communication has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this communication are the sole responsibility of TRAFFIC and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

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