It has come to our attention that a recent article on the Straits Times have sought to delve deeper into the world of organic food and its stand on pesticides with an article titled “Is organic food really free from pesticides?” Understandably, current organic lovers and potential organic consumers are concerned with the claims that this article is making.
Our article is written in hopes of helping to provide a deeper understanding of our farming practices here at Quan Fa Organic Farm and to put your mind at ease while we take a closer look at these claims.
Claim 1: All farmers have to deal with pests.
That is absolutely true. Crops attract a lot of pests because this can mean free food for them, new breeding grounds and many other possibilities. As farmers, we have seen our fair share of pests that may or may not destroy crops. However, as organic farmers, we stay true to being as natural as possible when it comes to pest-control strategies at our farm.
Claim 2: Organic farmers use lots of pesticides that are described as “natural” or “organic”; Organic pesticides has to be sprayed more often and have higher toxicity levels than synthetic ones.
While we cannot speak for others, at Quan Fa Organic Farm, when we say we do not use pesticides, we mean it. Our pest-control strategy is simple: staying as natural as possible.
To keep pests away, we make use of non-toxic sticky traps that attracts these pests with their bright colors. We also spray natural oils such as neem oil to help repel the insects. In addition to that, flowers are planted around our crops help attract predator insects keep harmful pests in check.
These methods are all chosen to help keep our farming processes natural while inflicting the least amount of harm to biodiversity as possible. For example, our oils repel pests instead of killing them off the way pesticides do.
Claim 3: The organic industry is a largely self-regulated sector.
There are strict regulations on what products can be labeled as ‘organic’ through various governing bodies. At the moment, due to its increased popularity and inherent benefits to consuming organic products, the organic industry is growing faster than the governing bodies are able to regulate.
Indeed, the organic industry has seen many types of people trying to jump onto the ‘organic’ bandwagon by being creative when labeling their produce as ‘Natural’ or ‘100% Natural’ as a way around the regulations so they do not have to contend with the stringent organic certification process. There have also been instances where farmers pass off conventional produce as organic ones, and even cases where certified organic produce (by the governing bodies) gets tested positive for chemical residues.
While this is all hard to regulate, what we recommend is going local. Support your community by getting local produce from your local farmers. Knowing your local businesses and farmers mean knowing where your food comes from and what goes into your food. At our farm, we have an open-door policy where consumers are encouraged to come down for farm tours to get find out exactly that. (See also: What You See Is What You Get)
What they failed to mention about the organic industry…
… is that there are many aspects that make up the organic industry. The article is only looking at one facet (out of numerous) for organic labeling – which includes but is not limited to the use of pesticides, of chemical fertilizers, of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), and of plant growth regulators such as hormones. They also did not look at other components of organic farming involving environmental issues such as ones that would affect soil fertility, the quality of compost, and just all-round natural farming and harvesting strategies. All of these have a direct impact on the level of nutrients that gets passed on to the produce.
(See also: Quanfa’s Harvesting Strategies)
An Important Note on the Use of Fertilisers
Conventional farming methods make use of chemical fertilisers for various reasons including enhancing their appearance and making them stay fresh for longer periods of time. Plants absorb these chemicals directly from their roots and is stored on the inside of the fruit or vegetable – yes, this means that even rinsing your produce thoroughly will not wash away these chemicals. When ingested, they can stay in your body for years.
Organic farming methods make use of compost as a form of fertiliser for our crops. At Quan Fa Organic Farm, we have developed our unique compost system that makes use of the organic matter that can be found in our farm. As we are an organic vegetable and fruit farm, no animal waste products are used in our compost. (See also: Quanfa’s Compost System)
“With organic methods, the nitrogen present in composted soil is released slowly and therefore plants grow at a normal rate, with their nutrients in balance. Vegetables fertilised with conventional fertilisers grow very rapidly and allocate less energy to develop nutrients.” – Alyson Mitchell, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis.
For products to be labeled as “organic”, there are many standards that farmers and organizations have to abide by. Pesticides are but one minor aspect of the whole qualification process. We hope this article clarifies some stuff up for you and if you are still worried about your organic food, we suggest visiting your local farm to see where your food comes from and how they are made!
Until next time, be well.