Thu, Apr 03, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Farmers, restaurant chain promote 'non-toxic' food

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Hualien County Commissioner Hsieh Shen-shan eats a calligraphy brush dipped in ink at an event at the National Taiwan University Alumni Club in Taipei yesterday aimed at promoting pesticide-free agricultural products. The brush is made of glutinous rice and pineapple cake and the ink is also made from edible products.

PHOTO: CNA

The Hualien County Government's Agriculture Bureau formed an alliance with the Su Hang restaurant chain in Taipei yesterday to promote non-toxic farming and the idea of sustainable development.

Lin Ching-shuei (林清水), director of the Kuang Feng Farmers' Association, said that by forming the alliance, the Hualien County Government hopes that people will become more aware about agricultural products from the county and will understand the idea of non-toxic farming.

The Su Hang restaurant is famous for its Jiangsu-Zhejiang cuisine.

"We hope that the general public will associate products of non-toxic farming with `health and quality,'" he added. "We expect this kind of cooperation will create a win-win situation for consumers, restaurants and farmers."

Non-toxic farming in Taiwan was launched by Hualien County Commissioner Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山) in 2004 to provide agricultural products that are grown organically without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or livestock feed additives. The certification process is in accordance with legal standards to maintain soil productivity and control pests.

There are several differences between organic farming and non-toxic farming -- regular tests are carried out by 15 qualified inspectors on the farms rather than having samples submitted by farmers themselves as is the case with organic farming testing.

In addition, all products must pass an examination 10 days before going to market. Non-toxic farming includes agriculture, fish and livestock, while organic farming focuses more on agricultural products.

"There are three goals of promoting non-toxic farming -- to let consumers eat healthy food, to protect the environment and to help agricultural transformation," said Chen Hsiou-ching (陳秀卿), spokeswoman of the non-toxic farming group.

She said non-toxic agriculture is high-quality agriculture that not only guarantees an income for farmers but also pushes the economic development of Hualien County.

"It is also a concept of sustainable development," she said, adding that "with the increased incomes, more and more farmers will want to become involved in non-toxic farming and therefore our environment will improve."

Besides "green" agricultural methods, all products of non-toxic farming use environmentally friendly packaging materials such as polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable resin that is derived from cornstarch.

Chen said that every product has an agricultural practice certificate in the form of a sticker that shows the traceability of the product -- who grew it, and when and how it was made.

"By knowing where the product comes from, consumers feel safer and many of them have become regular customers," she went on.

Chen added that the non-toxic farming project has also generated a surprising windfall, in that "many farmers gain an enormous sense of accomplishment after switching to non-toxic farming because they are playing the role of a `food doctor,' providing healthier food to their customers."

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