Laws to fight vote buying
I was born in Taiwan. Although I am now living in the US, I still pray that freedom and justice can prevail in Taiwan. One month before the recent presidential election, I called a relative in Taiwan. I told her that Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) appeared headed for victory, based on the news I saw on the Internet. However, she was not sure. She said that many people she knew had already received vote-buying money from a powerful political party. Now it appeared that she was right. Vote buying is a shame of Taiwan.
In the US, there is the Money Laundering Control Act as well as Suspicious Activity Reports to fight such acts. Any cash transaction of more than US$10,000 has to be automatically reported by the bank to relevant regulatory agencies. This is designed to make it difficult for illegal activities to evade detection.
I hope that Taiwan will soon fully implement similar laws and regulations to make it more difficult for rich political parties to buy votes with cash in any election. God bless Taiwan!
Biological pest controls
Experts recently lamented the continuing use of rodenticides in Taiwan, which are toxins used to kill rodents (“Researchers urge poison-free rat-control measures,” Jan. 11, page 2). These dangerous chemicals are toxic to wildlife and humans, causing death through poisoning or cancer, and are one of the leading causes of the decline and likely extinction of the Taiwanese subspecies of the Australasian grass owl, the other causes being habitat loss, pesticide use and bird nets (“Experts fear for Australasian grass owl,” Oct. 1, 2011, page 2).
As usual, agriculturalists defend the use of rodenticides, claiming that there is no alternative to protect crops, while scientists claim they need “more knowledge about the Australasian grass owl’s behavior, current population and the state of its habitat.”
However, there is a proven method for battling rodents and protecting owls at the same time. In an excellent video on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJDVohcnfHQ), the use of barn owls and kestrels as biological control agents in Israel and Jordan shows that the introduction of barn owls increased crop yields by up to 24 percent, which adds up to an annual net profit of US$30 per hectare.
By placing thousands of nest boxes for barn owls and kestrels all over the Israeli countryside, these two bird species quickly decimated the rodent population and thus eliminated the need for rodenticides during the past decade.
A pair of barn owls catches between 2,000 to 5,000 rodents a year, but they are often limited by the number of available nest boxes. However, when nest boxes were provided and prey poisoning was stopped, this method of biological control was successfully employed in India, Malaysia, South Africa and the US, and has been used for protecting various crops such as alfalfa, citrus fruits, cocoa, dates, nuts, oil palms, rice, sugar cane, vine and wheat. Just do a Google search of “owl biological control.” There are now even commercial firms offering barn owls and purpose-built nests to farmers.
Farming organizations, nature conservation groups and the Taiwanese government should support more research and application of biological control methods because they create a typical win-win situation of sustainable ecosystem management: Biodiversity and farming revenues go up, while pollution and farming costs go down. What is there not to like about this?