After the Consumers’ Foundation released a test report earlier this month that alleged traces of pesticide had been found in a sample of organic brown rice sample from Hualien County’s Fuli Township (富里), several farmers led by the Fuli Farmers’ Association protested at the Hualien District Court yesterday, urging the foundation to apologize for what they said were faulty results.
The controversy began when the foundation said on June 4 that more than 60 percent of the samples of rice produced in the township had failed to meet its grade labeling, and a organic brown rice sample was found to contain residues of the pesticide Carbaryl at a level of more than 0.11 parts per million (ppm), above the minimum tolerance level of 0.05ppm for non-organic rice.
However, the Hualien County Government held a press conference on Tuesday last week, saying it tested 60 samples collected from 27 sacks of rice at the Fuli Farmers’ Association’s storage facilities and 33 samples from this year’s first-season rice crop, and none contained traces of pesticide.
The next day, the Consumers’ Foundation released a statement saying that the sample they tested came from last year’s second-season crop, which is a different batch than the one the 60 samples tested by the local government came from.
The foundation also questioned why the farmers’ association would not release its own test results.
Yesterday, in front of the Hualien District Court, about a dozen organic rice farmers from the Fuli Farmers’ Association held signs that read “Bullying the farmers,” and “Apologize and compensate,” as they called for the foundation to apologize for ruining their reputation.
An attorney commissioned by the association, Lin Wu-shun (林武順), said the farmers urge the foundation to apologize, and that if it refuses to apologize within the next three days, they would file a civil lawsuit against it, asking it to make a public apology and pay at least NT$12 million (US$402,000) in compensation.
Lin said that even if the foundation’s test results were valid, it could be the result of contamination during the production process, not the result of farmers using pesticides on their crops.
The Agriculture and Food Agency yesterday said its test results from samples of three types of packaged organic rice produced in Fuli did not show any traces of pesticide, and suggested that the foundation cooperate with the agency in future inspections so the test results would be legally binding.