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OTAP Sustains the Earth and Benefits the Next Generation
Organic Products have been becoming more and more popular with Taiwanese consumers in recent years with countless products of different categories labeled "organic". There are magazines with "organic" themes, markets and stores that specialize in organic products, and there are even expos on organic living and fashion. Organic has become a new fashion trend. With countless selections available, how can consumers choose safe and healthy organic Products?
Huang Yuh-Ciong, a section chief at the Agriculture and Food Agency in the Council of Agriculture said that organic agriculture is a method of production that follows natural principles and allows natural resources to be reused and recycled. It's also a management system that stresses soil and water conservation and ecological harmony. In order to have an OTAP stamp on the label, during the process of farming or raising animals, for any agricultural product going through the approval process, no synthetic chemical substance, including chemical insecticides and pesticides, fertilizers, growth hormones, animal drugs or other hormones can be used, and the soil and water used must not be contaminated. Not only that, but the agricultural land must include a zone for ecological preservation, and in order to ease the impact on the soil, different crops must be grown in rotation each successive season on the land. With all these conditions met, the producer must go to a certification body approved by the Council of Agriculture. Currently, there are four approved bodies: MOA International, TOPA, TOAF and FOA. All of these have the trust of the public. In order to determine whether a farm meets the organic standards specified by the government, these certification authorities send auditors to the farm to examine and observe the production environment and process.
Organic agriculture has gotten a great deal of attention because it produces without harming the ecology. Using synthetic chemical fertilizers pollutes water, air and the soil. The overdevelopment of agricultural land through high-intensity farming or herding destroys the ecosystem, degrades the soil and threatens the lives of birds, insects and other creatures. But the worst part is the residues of chemical pesticide, growth hormones, animal drugs or other hormones in agricultural products that are extremely harmful to human beings. However, in order to reduce cost, the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers and high-intensity agriculture takes less time, less effort and saves money. It's often very necessary for farmers to use low-cost production methods including harmful chemicals because natural disasters like floods caused by heavy rain can destroy a lot of crops. Without using low-cost production methods, how can farmers deal with the expense of fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs?
Ms. Huang farther said that in order to solve issues regarding production techniques for organic agriculture, the government has established specialized teams to research new production methods. These teams teach farmers to make organic fertilizers or to better utilize organic materials to conserve resources in the soil. Because of a shortage of available land, the Taiwanese style of organic agriculture uses crop rotation to sustainably maintain the land. Because different crops need different kinds of nutrients and varying degrees of acidity in the soil, vegetables are planted based on suitable seasons in rotation so that available land can be used effectively, in a way that is similar to the fallow method used internationally.
To combat diseases, Taiwanese-style organic agriculture employs a combination of intercropping and sprays of natural insecticides. Intercropping refers to planting other crops next to the main crops to reduce the ratio of germs and insects attacking the main crops. The principle components in natural insecticide depend on the crop to which the insecticide is applied. A solution containing bacillus thuringiensis or Neemix, garlic essence, sugar vinegar and wood vinegar is sprayed on rice and vegetables. These solutions are harmless to people and cause no harm to the ecosystem. Also, because the wastes are natural, they can be reused as fertilizers for the sake of resource recycling.
Organic isn't just something that applies to agriculture; it's also a way of living by coexisting with nature. The main concept is to conserve resources and care for the Earth. This concept helps to bring about better health for ourselves and restores and maintains energy for nature, which will benefit our next generation and those after.