Certified organic and non-certified organic vegetables: What you need to know

Should you be worried if your favorite “weekend farmer” (that is, the vegetable grower that you occasionally meet in weekend markets) whose produce he verbally claims organic is not certified?

The answer is yes and no.

 

Under the RA 10068 or better known as the Organic Agricultural Act of 2010, growers that claim their produce (fruits and vegetables) are certified organic but do not have proof to show for, can be legally liable – for the simple reason that using the term “certified”, without being so, is already an act of public misleading. 

What gives?

For instance, you’re in dire need of a lawyer for a legal case that can very much implicate you. You wouldn’t just seek assistance from someone that may speak like a lawyer or act like lawyer, even though he may have the true wit of a lawyer. You would not risk a very critical situation in your life in the hands of someone who has no proof that he or she can help. In this case, the professional certification is your piece of mind.

The same is true for growing organic vegetables. A certification is your guarantee that the produce you are buying is carefully monitored and inspected -- to assure you that the farming processes of such grower conform within Philippine National Standards for Organic Crops and Livestock Production. And why not, we are talking about vegetables, the basic type of food that you feed yourself and family. These are foods that are supposed to nourish your body. You wouldn’t eat a meal you know that was prepared from a filthy kitchen, so why buy vegetables from anyone without knowing how they were grown?

If it matters too much that the public should know the value of organic certification, then why wouldn’t all organic growers just apply for a certification? The answer: it’s too strict, tedious and expensive.

Proof of safety

No matter how the produce appears to be organic, you as the consumer can never be sure unless you see the organic certification seal. What comes with your awareness of the seal is the assurance that the products you are buying were grown devoid of harmful chemicals to the environment and to the farmers and to you.

In the Philippines, the Dept. of Agriculture nationally accredited, 2 known certification bodies -- OCCP (Organic Certification Center of the Philippines and NICERT (NISARD Certification Services) – and thus permit them to have nationwide power to certify growers based on strict standards in Internal Control Systems. 

 

Farmers are monitored on a regular basis from seeding-to-harvest-to-processing, so that any form of compromise in quality or integrity of harvest is avoided. If farmers do not follow the policies and standards, they would risk the permanent removal of their certification. 

 

Photo credit: www.ati.da.gov.ph

 

The Kangkong analogy

Who doesn’t love kangkong (water spinach)? This vegetable is a staple siding whenever you have fried meat for lunch or dinner. The steamed preparation works best with a mix of toyo and calamansi or just a small dollop of bagoong. Despite your natural love for kangkong, do you really know how it’s grown?

Kangkong easily grows fast and wide in moist areas. Considered to be a wartime veggy, stories have it that kangkong grows even in the canals where soldiers used to hide. And though it’s packed with nutrition such as protein, vitamins and minerals, reliable information also has it that if it was harvested from contaminated areas, then consuming it could lead to the transmission of parasite to the body most especially when eaten raw.

 

Photo credit: www.2.bp.blogspot.com

So unless you grow your own kangkong or know the farmers that grow them then you’re at peace; otherwise, you can never be sure if it’s safe to eat its safety of consumption.

For this reason an organic certification makes all the difference.

You’re better off knowing that our government has enforced regulating agencies to safeguard the agricultural harvests – in this case organic vegetables. In addition, mixing certified organic vegetable with non – organic vegetable is also a grave offense and warrants a stiff penalty. And to further protect the interest of the consumers, those who claim and brand their produce as “certified organic” but fail to show proof will be heavily fined and jailed. Thanks to the Dept. of Agriculture for initiatives like this, after all it is your right as a consumer to have access for safe food. So next time you buy your organic vegetables don’t just take your farmer’s word for it, instead ask for proof.

 

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You also might find these interesting:

  Everything you need to know about organic foods 

  Understanding organic food labels, benefits and claims

  Philippine Organic Agriculture Act of 2010