Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2009-07-06 01:54 AM
Endosulfan is an extremely toxic substance which has been banned in several countries, including the European Union, though is still widely in use in others, including India. The pesticide is believed to cause miscarriage and damage to the immune system.
On March 29, the Department of Health ended a complete ban on the pesticide to allow a maximum limit of 0.05 parts per million. In February, before the change, two batches of apples from the United States were refused entry to Taiwan because they failed pesticide tests. In March, six batches were stopped, including two that showed endosulfan levels between 0.02 and 0.04 ppm, said Sun Lih-chyun, professor at the agricultural economics department of National Taiwan University and a member of the Consumers Foundation.
The fact that official statistics show no U.S. apples were turned away in April and May might be the direct result of relaxing the ban, Sun said.
He pointed out that the relaxation also applied to cherries, plums, potatoes and almonds, all products most frequently imported from the U.S. to Taiwan.
Sun questioned the motives for the DOH relaxing the pesticide restrictions, implying the U.S. might have exerted political pressure on the government.
Economics Vice Minister John Deng denied the allegation, saying apples had not come up as a subject for recent Taiwan-U.S. trade talks.
The DOH said the new standards posed no threat to the health of consumers, and followed the rules of an international codex drawn up by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, as well as criteria used by the U.S. and the European Union.
The new standards apply both in equal measure to imported and to local fruit, the DOH said.
Lawmakers also slammed the loosening of the endosulfan ban. The government should take into account Taiwan's dense population, its climate and past pollution by heavy industry when setting rules for pesticides, said Tien Chiu-chin, a legislator for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.
Her Kuomintang colleague Cheng Ru-fen said the government should not allow fruit tainted with such a strongly toxic material to be sold to the public.