Demand for ‘pesticide-free’ vegetables climbs

Not all 'organic' products are pesticide-free

June 24, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 09:36 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA, 21/06/2015: Organic vegetables sold by a residents association in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: S. Gopakumar

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA, 21/06/2015: Organic vegetables sold by a residents association in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: S. Gopakumar

With increasing awareness of the health hazards of consuming vegetables cultivated in a polluted environment, residents who have no option to grow veggies at home have started turning to outlets that sell ‘pesticide-free’ vegetables grown using organic manure. A number of shops have sprung up in the city that claim to sell organic vegetables.

What was considered a passing fad a few years ago is slowing and steadily becoming a trend, a manager of an outlet that sells organic products, including vegetables, said.

100 customers

“In the beginning, I never had more than 100 customers a month wanting organically grown vegetables, but today I get more than 100 customers a day. We even have a database of customers with whom we are in touch on a regular basis through phone call and SMS. We inform them about the arrival of fresh stocks so that they can make purchases at the earliest,” he said.

The trend of buying organically grown products was not restricted to the higher income class; even the middle class was willing to pay extra to buy ‘safe’ vegetables, the manager said.

However, the Office of the Commissioner of Food Safety has a word of caution for people who shop for organic vegetables.

A senior official in the Office of the Commissioner of Food Safety, Thiruvananthapuram Circle, said not all products sold in these shops were produced organically.

“It’s not true that products sold in these outlets are completely free of pesticides and are grown organically. We have warned the outlets using the tag organic products for marketing. A popular outlet near Kuravankonam was denied licence as the owner refused to remove the organic tag,” the official said.

Act to be amended

The Food Safety Act needed to be amended to bring in more clarity on what constituted an organic product, he said.

According to Jayakumar of Thanal, a third-party certification was a must for a product to claim that it was produced as per standards prescribed by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

Output of a process

“The challenge in organic vegetables is to understand that ‘organic vegetable’ is not a product but an output of a process. Organic farming guarantees worldwide that the farmer/producer has followed the pre-agreed verifiable standards. Kerala is not generally seeing organic farming in the above detail and is rather caught up at a different level,” he said.

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