We all know that eating organic is a good thing: no pesticides and synthetic chemicals in our food, less impact on the environment, getting maximum nutrition, and all that good stuff. This is how food was MEANT to be grown.

A lot of the time, the top argument against organic food is the cost, and that's because production cycles are longer and farming costs tend to rise.  Luckily, organic food is quite accessible and affordable in the Philippines, and in places like Benguet one can bring home a huge load of organic vegetables for a few hundred pesos. But of course, it's not like we can get hold of organic produce all the time, so here are some guidelines we can follow:

  1. Consult the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen listsThe Environmental Working Group (EWG) regularly publishes a "Dirty Dozen" list to provide guidance to consumers on produce with the highest levels of pesticides. Strawberries and spinach are at the top of this year's list.  On the other hand, the Clean Fifteen - including papayas, mangoes and eggplants -- are likely to have minimal to no pesticide residues.
  2. Beware Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMO)GMOs are associated with health problems and accelerated aging. Things like corn and soy may not be in the Dirty Dozen, but they are among the top genetically-modified crops in the Philippines. Best to seek out organic options.
  3. Opt for fruits and veggies with a thick inedible peel. In general, anything with a thick, tough exterior - like bananas, oranges or avocados – absorb less synthetic chemicals. You'll notice the Clean 15 includes many of these types of produce. On the other hand, if you’re consuming things like leafy greens or fruit with thin, edible skin like tomatoes, then these have a higher risk of pesticide exposure, plus they can be difficult to wash thoroughly.
  4. Go for local, in-season produce. The closer you are to the source of your food, the fresher it is, and the less energy gets used up in bringing it to you.  Local produce also tastes better, lasts longer and tends to be more nutritious.

Also, let’s support our local farmers! Sometimes they follow organic farming practices but simply can't afford the certification.  Have a chat with your suki and learn how they do things!

Finally, even before concerning ourselves with whether our produce is organic or not, let's first think about whether we are even eating properly. The 2013 National Nutrition Survey says that the average Filipino eats only about 114g of vegetables a day. That’s equivalent to a cup of string beans or a few carrot sticks or a palmful of broccoli! If you're like the typical Pinoy, then adding more vegetables to your diet – regardless of where they’re from – should be the priority.