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The Guarantee of GAP Premium Agricultural Products
Man should be nicer to himself. If that’s the case, man must start from buying farm produce with GAP (Good Agriculture Practice) labels
when shopping for agricultural products.
GAP has to pass soil and water inspections and tests, the same standard procedure as other domestic agricultural inspections and tests. “Now GAP is in stricter control of agricultural pesticide residue than before, because the examination instruments used by Taiwan Agricultural Chemicals and Toxic Substances Research Institute are extremely precise to the extent of 0.0001ppm,” said Chiu Hsi-hsin, a specialist at Agriculture and Food Agency, the Council of Agriculture (COA).
This has an importance influence since GAP operation standards require farmers to use only recommended agricultural pesticide. Sensitive instruments would sometimes detect residual agricultural pesticide not on the recommended list but were not used by the farmer growing the agricultural product.
How can this happen? “The instruments are too sensitive. They just sprayed a little of the pesticide on the field next to mine and my field was contaminated,” said a farmer, stressing that “I did not use the pesticide.” Even though the detected residue of agricultural pesticide not on the recommended list is minimal and less than the permissible amount remained on other agricultural products, the product is still not qualified to apply for GAP label because the standard set for pesticide residue chemicals not on the recommended list is 0.
Chiu cited the toxic wax apple incident in 2009 as an example. He said a shipment of wax apples were denied of GAP labels after 0.002ppm of flutriafol, an agricultural pesticide to kill germs, was detected. Because the pesticide is not on the recommended list for wax apples, so the residue standard is 0. But the permissible flutriafol residue standard for grape and other berries is 0.5ppm. Judging from this amount, the flutriafol residue on the wax apples should be safe. But they were still not allowed to have GAP labels because the required standard of 0 means no residue is permissible.
Take citrus fruits as another example. Chiu said citrus fruit skin contains oil and grease and agricultural pesticide being sprayed could easily attach to it. Many farmers used pesticide following safety procedures and checked fruits three days later. They felt at ease when the detected pesticide residue was low at 0.02ppm and thought that they could harvest after another 30 days. But why the residue was still 0.02ppm 30 days later? Chiu explained that some farmers even found 0.02ppm of pesticide residue on their citrus fruits four months after spraying the pesticide because of their oily skin.
Therefore, farmers have to solve this problem by trying to improve farming practices or use pesticide that dissolve more easily. Since the standard is required by government regulations, farm produce with more pesticide residue than the standard is disqualified for GAP label even if farmers had used the right pesticide in the right way.
It is really not fair for the farmers. But considering this from another point of view, this represents that consumers can get more protection. More importantly, the environment of Taiwan maybe further protected because of the consumers’ insistence.
Thus, to support GAP labels is to help yourself as well as the Earth.
And when consumers take the initiative to support GAP labels, farmers who have worked hard to strictly follow operation procedures and tried their best to prevent agricultural chemical contamination will get their rewards.
“With or without labels have already affected the price of agricultural products at auction,” said Chiu. “White bamboo shoots have a price difference of NT$20 per kilogram, with labeled ones being 20% more expensive. Loofahs produced in Yuchih Township, Nantou County are sold at a price of NT$5 more per kilogram, also 20% higher.”
“Some wholesalers are afraid of labels and they ask farmers not to put labels on their products, because farm produce without labels will be ignored when there are labeled products on the market,” pointed out Chiu.
Customers can buy agricultural products with GAP label in Wellcome, Matsusei and Taipei Agricultural Products supermarkets as well as more and more superstores such as a.mart (Ai Mai) and RT-Mart. Even vegetable vendors in many traditional markets are selling farm produce with GAP label now.
As more and more places are selling labeled agricultural products, there will be more guarantee of food safety for customers.