The explosion in 'organic' foods...


#1

Over the past few years in Taipei I’ve noticed an explosion in organically labelled food on the shelves and ‘organic’ mini marts that sell it, in my area of Mingsheng Community.

In my home country it took years to get certifications as the move from conventional to organic is slow as the pesticide residues take years to tail off. In fact there was a separate classification ‘in conversion’ which was somewhere in between the organic and conventional price.

However it seems in Taiwan there is no shortage of organic fruit and veges in my area. The term organic is thrown around a lot, my kids apparently eat organic rice at school according to the menu, and my neighbour gave me some wu long tea the other day that is apparently organic too!

A brief click through the TOC website, one of the certifications I see plastered on everything at Orange mart, reveals no real information on the certifying process and nil transparency on data. Basically an agent says it is USDA organic or not after testing some samples at the farm. No mention of any independent oversight of the agent’s activities. Indeed, no acknowledgement of the conflicted nature of the agent as a single sign off authority. Does that not sound like moral hazard?

Wondering what other people’s views are on the thriving organic produce market in Taiwan, is it worth it for you to shell out the cash? Is there a certification which is more trustworthy than others?


#2

Even in Europe ‘organic’ isn’t always organic, it’s self-regulated, meaning the government ‘trusts’ the companies that grow and certify ‘organic’ food. I don’t.


#3

Technically, I think it means they contain complex carbon compounds.


#4

Most food in Taiwan is imported to start with.

But in general there is a rule amongst farmers. If I don’t know the farmer, its not organic in my book.

There are 2 other very common types of farming here. Natural. And “no poison”. Both titles should be pretty self explanatory.

But there are a few reasons that food produced in Taiwan is not (cannot be) organic in the purest sense of the word, though there is truly lots of certified organic.

1 is land size and farm plots. Here are some large farms for sure, government, Tai Tung etc. But they actually actively discourage organic/protective/diversified agriculture. The majority of farms are relatively small thus making control from neighbours impossible. There are some areas, such as Luoshan (spelling) on the taidong/hualien border that is mostly “organic”. Deep mountains are so “remote” that litter and spray drift aren’t a real issue.

The western flat lands are so contaminated I would bother entertaining the conversation of organic with people. East coast is better in the sense far less soil and water issues with heavy metals and oils.etc.

Air is an issue as the entire island is heavily polluted.

So I would say, don’t stress it. Your are going to have a VERY hard and expensive time teyingGto get everything clean in Taiwan. But you can readDup on Thu vs andDpick and choose which ones from where are better. I personally wouldn’t eat anything from areas like Changhua and surround. Kaohsiung and pingtung are horrible in an unmonitored kind of way. There is a reason people like buying from the east side and higher mountains, and the real reason isnt often the taste.


#5

Oh, and obviously corruption. Taiwan is ripe with food scandals. Not a week goes by I don’t see containers “rebranded”

Sickening


#6

Thanks for some helpful comments. Pretty hard to trace the geographical source of vegies and fruits though isn’t it? I had a little look at the mini mart the other day and most of the organically labelled stuff seemed to have generic office addresses on the package. How would one even begin to trace the source of their produce bought in Taipei?

Also, I’m assuming all the produce you buy on the street and wet market is from all those crappy polluted areas you mentioned… if there is no advertised differentiation then why would they not ship in the cheapest product?


#7

Well, organ failures and cancer, amongst other things, are among the highest in the world. Its not a coincidence.

Places now are selling traceable product. There are flaws with every system. But its a start.

Its one of the useful things about ngo groups. I generLly don’t like Greenpeace, but I support the offices here as they have done a fair bit of independent testing.