An 11-year-old koala bear named Ligi at Taipei Zoo died of malignant tumors in her liver and spleen in July. Recently, Eva, another female koala at the zoo, died from a malignant lymphoma and other complications in her liver, accompanied by acute bleeding. The deaths of the koalas are saddening — but also astounding.
The cause of the liver tumors must have been linked to food, which might have contained toxic substances, especially pesticide residue.
Imagine if arrow bamboo, which the pandas eat, had been sprayed with pesticide; it would have been strange indeed if they did not fall ill after consuming it.
The government has laid particular stress on the economy to the detriment of the environment, and for an extended time colluded with the business sector.
While agricultural authorities have long worked hand in hand with pesticide companies to encourage farmers to use sprays, they have failed to provide them with both appropriate guidance and instructions on the correct use of pesticides, or with knowledge on the scientific and moral demands involved in organic cultivation, as it is applied in Japan.
This has led to pesticide overuse that has wreaked havoc on the ecosystems surrounding our domestic farms.
Recently, the Consumers’ Foundation conducted a study of bean products in the market and found that 59 percent contained insecticides, with dried tofu topping the list. Such results are very disheartening indeed.
If the agricultural authorities continue to refuse to promote organic farming because they fear this would displease pesticide companies, then the result will be more vegetables and fruit containing pesticide residue.
Pesticides, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls are all considered to be a kind of environmental “hormone” and can bring about qualitative changes in DNA that in turn may cause cancer.
If Taiwanese consumers can’t escape harm from these environmental hormones, how can we expect koalas — which lack the ability to select food and live in zoos controlled by humans — to avoid harm?
The rate of liver cancer and dialysis patients in Taiwan has always been high and liver cancer has been one of the diseases with the highest death rate.
Who dares say this has nothing to do with pesticide residue and food hygiene?
If we compare Taiwan with Japan, we would find that the Japanese government places great importance on environmental protection, food security and health.
As a result, average life expectancy in Japan remains the highest in the world at 79 years for men and 86 years for women.
Only when a country takes environmental protection seriously can it allow its people to live a happy life and enjoy high living standards.
It goes without saying that misdirected environmental policies have even more damaging impact than corruption.
Hsu Chin-wen is a part-time lecturer in the Center of General Education at the Transworld Institute of Technology.
TRANSLATED BY TED YANG