I was just at the weekly market at the Jaime Velasquez Park (Salcedo Market). As always, the stall with the most people were the Organic Fruits and Vegetables stalls (well, ironically, aside from Ineng’s PORK barbeque.) I just realized that with the hype on Organic produce today, everyone’s rushing to buy anything labeled “organic.” But the term is being loosely used left and right. And, with producers branding their produce as that, who knows if we really get what we want, and need. My husband has been adamant about how in the Philippines, true “organic“ produce is hard to come by. Strictly speaking, the fruit or vegetable must have been grown in land that has not used commercial fertilizer for the last three years. And you know that in our country, that alone is quite a feat. Also, a lot of experts argue that the environmental advantage of buying organic is negated when you are shipping the product over long distances. Take the case of vegetables that are not indigenous to the Philippines such as spinach, cauliflower, apples and oranges. These have to travel far distances to get to our markets, using vast resources and energy to get to us. Imagine how much emissions we get from airplanes and trucks, as these produce travel over great distances. Now if we buy these because they are labeled organic, now where is the “green” value of that? Also, these temperate vegetables and fruits cannot simply thrive in our environment. We can only product them if we use the very fungicide chemicals that we shun. Additionally, fruits like mangoes normally would only fruit once a year, usually summer. If these fruits are forced to flower and fruit, you would have to induce the same by pumping it with nitrates. My take on this is this: BEST is Local and Organic; and NEXT BEST is Local and In Season. Adjusting our diets to what is indigenous to the Philippines and what is in season ensures that what we get and eat are the freshest. And, in addition to “saving the planet,” we support our local farmers.
*As of now, locally grown organic products include rice, fruits and vegetables (mostly carrots, celery, potatoes, onions and tomatoes), herbs and spices, soybean and honey. There are some farms selling livestock and poultry, fish, dairy and fertilizers. The main organic export products we have been successful with are muscovado sugar, bananas, and coconut oil.