Organic Falsehoods: Kuwait

Organic Falsehoods: Kuwait

In the 90s, with the rise of the baby boomers there was a surge in popularity for organic produce as the Kuwaiti consumers perceived that organic equated to higher health benefits, more nutrition and safer for consumption. People all in the name of  their personal wellbeing are willing to shell out a ridiculous amount of money on organic produce. Here I am setting the record straight, there is no science behind this idea that organic is better for your health. That is gobbilty goop! as there very few studies that have determined actual minute differences between organic and inorganic produce composition ex. higher vitamin C, lower nitrate content (Chen, 2005Williams, 2002Woese et al., 1997). As well there being very little evidence on human or animal health being affected greatly by whether your food is organic or not (Chen, 2005Williams, 2002).

I am not here to completely diss organic produce because there are benefits to turning to organic farming; that cover environmental, financial and health aspects. Environmentally, intensive chemical production methods that utilize chemical fertilizers and pesticides, leave residues that cause negative impacts on the environment as they leach into our water systems and affect our wildlife and marine life (Sadek & Oktarani, 2009). Shifting to organic farming can improve the soils organic matter, greater soil carbon levels and less soil erosion (Reganold & Wachter2016; Reddy, 2010 ). Organic farming also helps improve plant diversity and faunal diversity (insects, soil fauna and microbes and birds) (Reganold & Wachter2016). Financially conventional farming cultivation costs are higher as they rely on non-renewable resources and increasing yearly  purchased inputs (Reganold & Wachter2016Reddy, 2010). As for health, farmers and farm workers applying pesticide and fertilizers are being continuously exposed to chemicals that may have long term negative effects.

But the fact of the matter is there is limited farmland in Kuwait, its either in Wafra or Abali, with a neighboring farm right next to these organic so-called farms and an average 255.4 days in Kuwait experiencing dust, so you can only imagine the amount of particulate matter (PM) made up of; pollen, metals, fertilizers and pesticide residue flying around contaminating whatever’s within close vicinity (Al-Dousari & Al-Dousari, 2016). Also, if these cul-du-sac of farms use groundwater to water the plants, all these pesticides or fertilizer leach into the soil entering the shared water system and the point in mute. I am sad to break it you in a comparative study on conventional and organic vegetable produce quality in Kuwait by Elmi et al. in 2019; arsenic, copper and zinc contents were determined to be significantly higher in local organic lettuce than conventionally grown lettuce. Although we can all generally agreethat dietary pesticide residues pose a significant health concern, the long-term health implications of pesticide residues in one’s diet remain to be determined (Chen, 2005).

When looking at other countries in Europe or the US or even the UK, in order for anyone to be even able to label and sell their produce for that high market value. A farm needs to certified or accredited from a recognized agency, which is a long and arduous journey, with a stringent criterion. Criteria’s such as; no prohibited substances applied to the farm for at least 3 years, the use of organic seeds and other planting stockthe prohibited use of ionizing radiation and sewage sludge (USDA, n.d.). Even then, you question if these entities handing out these certifications are ‘‘mission-driven’’ or purely ‘‘profit-driven’’ (Fouilleux & Loconto, 2017). In Kuwait, there is not even a national standard for organic produce, actually let me reaffirm this by saying that Kuwait does not even test produce for quality and safety assurance. Even though, Kuwait is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) it however fails to undertake the set hygiene and food safety standards. However, there is a light at the end of tunnel as according to Abdulrahman Al-Fraih the head of the Department of Organic Agriculture in the Public Authority of Agriculture and Fisheries (PAAF), Kuwait, “ we are in the preliminary stages of working towards the recognition of organic farms in Kuwait through various accreditation agencies since organic rules and regulations have been finalized with the Secretariat general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)”.  

So when you go to the supermarket next time and shell out x amount of money for that organic lettuce or tomato ask yourself, is this farm certified? What am I actually getting? Am I doing it for my health? Am I doing it for the environment? 

Now you have the scoop!


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