Mon, May 08, 2017 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: New certifications by 2020: agriculture head

Council of Agriculture Minister Lin Tsung-hsien said in an interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) staff reporters Jennifer Huang and Wen Chun-hua that the council will be promoting a new certification system by 2020 to fortify consumer faith in better quality agricultural products

Council of Agriculture Minister Lin Tsung-hsien gestures during an interview with the Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) on April 28.

Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): How does the council view the series of food security incidents including the avian flu outbreak, pesticide abuse and excessive dioxin in eggs? How does it plan to improve the situation?

Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢): There are rumors that the council is about to relax regulations on more than 100 kinds of pesticides; this is a severe misunderstanding. The pesticides are not additional ones, but rather an expanded list of allowed pesticides.

The nation’s limited agricultural space has caused different kinds of crops to be planted in close proximity to each other. In such circumstances, pesticides originally intended for rice might be carried over to nearby vegetable patches or fruit orchards. While the pesticides will not necessarily be harmful to humans, it would prevent farmers from being able to sell their products, leading to losses.

To address this issue, former council minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) issued a directive to look into amendments that would allow for residues of legal pesticides on other agricultural products.

This is a continuing policy that is not affected by party affiliation, and the prime goal is to protect the rights and benefits of farmers. It will not affect food security.

Regarding excessive dioxin in eggs, preliminary findings are not excluding that farmers have added dirt to the feed of their own volition. The council will soon have results on the source of the contamination.

Regardless if this is an isolated incident, there is limited land and fields are often side-by-side with industrial zones and even residential areas. Therefore, agricultural products are threatened with pollution by industrial waste or materials.

The council must admit that responsibility for agricultural products and pollution control cannot be divided clearly among governmental agencies. Instead, a joint effort between the council, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Environmental Protection Administration should seek to prevent illegal materials from entering the production chain of agricultural foodstuffs.

The council is seeking to establish a “production resume” for agricultural products that would provide more in-depth information while stepping up the responsibility of product control for production, logistics and sales.

Certificates such as the Certified Agricultural Standard and the Good Agricultural Practice certificate will be integrated into a nationwide Taiwan Good Agricultural Practice certificate as early as 2020.

The new certificate will provide checkpoints for all processes, including environment, use of pesticides, packaging and delivery, and rebuild consumers’ faith in agricultural products.

LT: Pollution is as numerous as there are sources, and it seems the government is always playing catch-up. Is there a method to address pollution at its root?

Lin: We hope to tackle the issue at its source by reducing pesticide usage, or in some cases by not using pesticide at all. We also hope to promote the concept of biological prevention, such as dealing with agricultural pests like channeled applesnail by introducing predators, such as ducks or fish. Such methods would help drive off pests while ensuring less environmental pollution.

The council is also hoping to introduce a “plant doctor” act that would give doctors the task of supervising the purchase and usage of pesticides by handing out “prescriptions,” thereby addressing the issue of farmers’ being able to buy and use pesticides of their own volition.

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