BUY ORGANIC OR CONVENTIONAL?
We all strive to buy the best ingredients for ourselves and our families. In Singapore, much of the food and vegetable produce comes from all over the world. Very little is now grown locally, a lot of vegetables come from neighbouring Malaysia, and we get the benefit of produce from temperate regions and produce grown indigenous to various global regions. The concept of ‘seasonal produce’ is almost alien when it comes to looking for ingredients in Singapore.
So, when I walk into a wet market or a supermarket, what do I regard as quality ingredients? Pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilisers are my biggest concern, and increasingly, I’m concerned about GM foods. In addition to these, I realise that I have gluten sensitivities and am lactose intolerant, so these feature prominently on my ‘no-go radar’ shopping list.
A few years ago I came across the Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG creates a ‘Shopping List’ that serves to guide consumers based in the United States on which fruit and vegetable produce to buy – organic or conventional. Its ‘Shopping List’ is made up of 2 components – The Dirty Dozen (Dirty12) and The Clean 15 (Clean15). A new EWG Shopping List is published each year – See posts on Clean15 and DirtyDozen (KIV)
I also just discovered that the Institute of Responsible Technology (IRT) has published a Non-GMO Shopping Guide.
For me, the EWG Shopping Lists serve as a useful indicator of which produce to buy organic, and which ones you will probably get by with conventional produce.
Bear in mind that buying the Clean15 produce in Singapore may not reflect the lowest or negligible levels of pesticides, it really depends on where it comes from and the practices of the farmer. For example, I do not go out of my way to look for organic avocados.
Similarly, the Dirty12 produce listed does not account for produce which may have been grown organically or by ethical methods. For example, I will buy the pack of apples from the USA sold at NTUC because it is organic.
My take: Develop an awareness of where the produce comes from, feel the energy of your food purchase, trust your intuition, and don’t forget to wash your fresh produce well!