The Council of Agriculture (COA) stated that verified area of organic agriculture in the country has reached 7200 hectares with 3.5 times growth compared with that in 2007. Nevertheless, the current Agricultural Production and Certification Act only regulates organic agricultural products while omitting counseling and promotion of organic agriculture. Moreover, parts of the management and administration lacked flexibility. Thus by taking into consideration the current situation of domestic organic agriculture, future development needs, and suggestions from all sectors, the COA proceeded to draft the Organic Agriculture Promotion Act (OAP), which was then passed by the Executive Yuan on July 27. The act included industry counseling, product management and bilateral organic equivalency recognition with other countries, among other product trading issues. This would greatly boost sustainable development of organic agriculture in Taiwan and gradually achieve the objective of becoming an organic country.
Put equal emphasis on counseling and management. Third-party verification still required for organic certification. Eco-friendly farming is to be included for counseling.
The COA explained that the Organic Agriculture Promotion Act integrates the current Agricultural Production and Certification Act, which focuses on product verification and management with the civilian oriented Organic Agriculture Promotion Regulation, which emphasizes industry counseling. The OAP Act regulates that organic agricultural products would still be required to pass third party certification. It also clearly states that authorities concerned ought to implement counseling measures for organic agriculture, including proposing a promotion program every four years, encouraging the establishment of organic agriculture promotion zone, offering production and marketing technique, facilities, equipment, capital loan and information platform, as well as encouraging schools, armed forces, government institutions and business organizations to purchase local organic agricultural products. Furthermore, the Act requires administrative authorities to promote eco-friendly organic agriculture, which means that counseling targets would not only include third-party certificated organic business operators but all Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) or eco-friendly farming producers as well for the purpose of expanding organic and eco-friendly cultivated area.
Apply flexible management that protects farmers and consumers’ interests domestically, while promote bilateral organic equivalency recognition internationally
The COA further explained that it is common to find organic farming fields nearing by conventional farming fields in Taiwan. Even though protective measures are adopted by organic farmers, sometimes pesticide and minimal residue of prohibited substances can still be detected in organic products due to the contamination from neighboring fields. Although organic farmers should not be held directly liable, they would still be penalized under present regulations. Fortunately, new regulation clearly states that if organic farmers could prove that protective measures were carried out and that the pollution was caused by neighboring fields verified by relevant local authorities, these farmers would not be penalized. However, the contaminated batch should be recalled and not be sold as organic product so that consumers’ interests can be protected. Regarding the violation of misplaced or misinforming organic labels, the authorities would first issue a warning and request the discrepancy to be corrected in due time. Failure to comply would result in penalization.
The COA pointed out that presently Taiwan has not received bilateral organic equivalency recognition from any country; therefore, Taiwan’s organic products cannot be sold as organic in overseas markets. The new Act states that within the one-year period after it comes into effect, and for any country that fails to sign the bilateral organic equivalency recognition agreement with Taiwan, its organic product would not be recognized by our government. The measure is expected to urge more countries into signing the recognition agreement with Taiwan, which in turn would generate more export opportunities for Taiwan’s organic agricultural products.
The OAP Act was a regulation custom-made for the optimal development of Taiwan’s organic agriculture and is scheduled to be examined in the Legislative Yuan soon. Executive Yuan Premier Lin Chuan instructed the COA to proactively coordinate and communicate with other relevant authorities about the content and vision of the Act. He wishes that the legislative procedure could be completed soon to meet the demand of the industry.