Organic agriculture and food in Malaysia

I consume organic food, and so does my wife, especially during her pregnancy with our son, Zachary. However, my mom does not eat organic food – ever. She claims organic food actually makes us sicker not healthier. And she got this idea from her medical doctor.

Are organic agriculture and food healthier and better? What does science say? (photo from

What surprises me is the issue of organic food has inadvertently become like a religion to some people. Some believe in organic food fervently because they believe organic food are healthier, more environmentally friendly, and more socially responsible than conventional food. In contrast, non-believers not only mistrust organic food but also vehemently call them a fraud and people who believe in organic food as fools and being conned into parting their money.

So, are organic food good for you or not?

What does science say about the benefits of organic agriculture and food?

Organic food is produced from a system of food production that does not use any: synthetic agrochemicals (such as fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides), hormones (such as growth hormones), antibiotics, food additives, GM (genetically-modified) crops and animals, and feed derived from GM sources. Organic farming encompass four key principles:

  1. Health – health of soil, plant, animal, humans, and environment must be sustained or enhanced
  2. Ecology – farming practices based on living ecological systems and cycles and to work with them, emulate them and help to sustain them
  3. Fairness – practices that are fair to life opportunities
  4. Care – practices that are based on precautionary and responsible manner to protect the current and future generations and the environment

In other words, organic farming stresses heavily on emulating or working with natural systems, care of human health and the environment and life in it, as well as being a socially responsible system.

Consequently, it is no surprise that some people might find organic agriculture’s “back-to-nature” and human health principles appealing. Nonetheless, the issue of organics is increasingly becoming polarized. At one corner you have proponents and the other corner opponents, each putting forth scientific arguments arguing for and against organic agriculture and food.

As Prof. James McWilliams at Texas State University remarked, “We draw these bright lines between organic and conventional food, but science doesn’t draw those lines. They crisscross, and you have people on both sides of the argument cherry-picking their data.”

“The real cost of organic food” by Jeffrey Kluger (Time, Sept. 6, 2010) (photo from

I read with interest the Time article (Sept. 6, 2010) “The real cost of organic food” by Jeffrey Kluger. The article argues that although organic food are more expensive (no surprise there), organic food carry lower risk of health problems because no pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones are used. Moreover, in some cases, organic food carry slightly more micronutrients than conventional food. Cattle raised on grass (cattle’s natural food), as opposed to cattle raised on cereals (cereals are not cattle’s natural diet), have a higher ratio or omega-3 acids which could reduce risk of cancer or heart disease. Grass-fed cattle also have lower risk of E. coli (a dangerous bacterium) transmission because of reduced crowding as compared to grain-fed cattle that are often kept close together to one another in cattle pens or barns 24/7/365.

And then there is a matter of taste between tomatoes grown organically and conventionally. The taste of conventional tomatoes that are genetically engineered to ripen slower can never match the taste of natural tomatoes. Taste the two types yourself. And as any good chef would tell you: they would never use any tomatoes bought from supermarkets in their kitchens.

However, recent scientific evidence point to the importance of not being overly passionate on organic agriculture. Here are some recent findings:

  1. It is difficult to meet world food demand by using only organic agriculture. It is well known that crop yields from organic farms are lower than those in conventional farms, in particular during the early years of farming. Nonetheless, long-term projections still show that crop yields from organic farms could be as much as 40 to 50% lower than those in conventional farms. A 40% yield reduction in developed countries would require 67% more agriculture land to produce the same amount of crops. Consequently, this puts more, not less, pressure on land use if the world would fully adopt organic agriculture.
  2. There are strict regulations in place, in particular by developed countries, on pesticide residue levels in food. Regular food safety check ensures pesticide levels in food remain below threshold levels. Ironically, food grown organically could contain more plant toxins than food grown conventionally. When no pesticides are used in organic farms, crops face higher stress level from attacks by pests and diseases. And as a defense mechanism akin to antibodies inside a human body, the plants would protect themselves against damage by producing natural defense chemical compounds, called plant secondary metabolites. These secondary metabolites are however toxins and could harm human health.
  3. Long-term field experiments have shown organic farms applying organic manures show higher nitrogen pollution than from conventional farms. Pollution from fertilizers can be reduced provided fertilizers are applied at the quantity and at the time when the plant requires them. In other words, if we could apply fertilizers to match the timing and quantity of plant requirement, fertilizer loses and pollution would be minimized. This kind of matching can be more easily done using conventional fertilizers. Natural fertilizers like animal manures cause higher fertilizer pollution because the delivery of nutrients is not synchronized with crop nutrient demand.
  4. Organic farming are also not able to sequester (that is, help to store) more carbon in the soil because, as stated earlier, organic farms typically have lower crop yields; thus, lower amount of carbon are stored in the soil. It was calculated that if all cereal crops in Sweden were to be grown organically, it would result in a loss of soil carbon, equivalent to an average annual CO2 emission by 675,000 Swedish cars. As a side note: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, its excessive amounts in the atmosphere are currently causing detrimental global warming and climate change.

Finally, one notable negative of organic agriculture is its high labour requirement. Organic farms require more manual labour than conventional farms because pest, disease, and weed controls are done manually, without resorting to any chemical spraying, in organic farms. Labour shortage are an acute and serious problem in many developed and some developing countries. Most organic farms in Malaysia are small between 0.8 and 4 ha partly because of Malaysia’s persistent and long-term labour shortage problem.

Organic agriculture is an important type of agriculture farming. Scientific evidence currently show that the issues of organic agriculture and organic food are not clear cut as proponents and opponents of organics would like to have us think. The evidence instead point to both the good and bad of organics.

Cuba: A sustainable agriculture revolution to teach the world

Perhaps the story about the organic revolution in Cuba would be helpful to us contemplating about organic agriculture.

Cuba is a country about 600 km from Miami, USA or over 17,000 km from Malaysia. In the late 1989, Cuba’s closest allies and trading partners, the Soviet Union and the socialist block in Eastern Europe, collapsed. Almost overnight, Cuba lost more than 80 per cent of its imports. Oil and trade embargo on Cuba further destroyed her economy and agriculture. There was little fuel for the tractors, little fertilizers, little pesticides, and few spare parts for farm machinery. Cuba was not only facing economic ruin but also a major food crisis.

The calorie intake per person in Cuba fell from 3,004 calories a day in 1989 to only 2,323 calories a day in 1993. But today, Cuba has an average calorie intake per person of 3,547 calories per day, which is even higher than that in 1989 and higher than what the US government recommends for US citizens.

So what happened in Cuba?

Facing no possibility of importing food, fuels, or agrochemicals, Cuba had to reinvent her agriculture to one that is more self-reliant, based on sustainable agriculture practices of requiring low external inputs.

Many more key reforms were done, such as by introducing urban agriculture. Cuba’s vacant urban lots are transformed into “organoponicas” for growing food crops organically without any pesticides and agrochemicals. Nearly all of vegetables and fruits in Cuba are grown organically, and Cuba is today 80 per cent self-sufficient in vegetables and fruits.

Vacant urban lots in Cuba are transformed into urban gardens for growing crops organically. Notice the apartments in the background. (photo from

Cuba’s agriculture reinvention shows that sustainable agriculture does work and organic agriculture can feed an entire nation (photo from

So successful is the organic farming in Cuba that Oxfam International called Cuba “the largest experiment in sustainable agriculture”.

Cuba has much to teach us all. Cuba is different from other countries, of course. For one, Cuba enjoys plenty of labour to work the organic farms. But Cuba remains a very good example that the principles of low-input sustainable agriculture can work and that organic farming can feed a nation, provided there is enough effort and motivation to make it successful.

Organic agriculture development in Malaysia

Over in Malaysia, organic agriculture has a relatively young and less spectacular history. The development of organic farming  followed two concurrent paths, one led by the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and the other by the private sector.

One NGO that played an pioneering and prominent role is CETDEM (Centre for Environment, Technology and Development, Malaysia) who became wary of conventional agriculture practices, in particular over issues on environment degradation, health of plantation workers from pesticide use, food safety, and low external sustainable agriculture. In 1987, CETDEM realigned itself to follow the organic movement.

Tan Siew Luang of CETDEM, one of the pioneers of organic farming in Malaysia (photo from

However, it was only in the 1990s that many pioneering organic farms were established such as the organic farms in Penang and Kuantan, Sustainable Living Centre in Gopeng, Perak, Lifestyle farmhouse in Melaka, Ecofarm in Rompin, Negeri Sembilan, and Nakim Farm in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan.

The early consumers of organic food in Malaysia were the health conscious group, typically those who were suffering from cancer or some degenerative disorders.  The other group of organic food consumers were Buddhist vegetarians.  However, nearly (98 per cent) all organic food consumers in Malaysia were the Chinese.

Organic food was a niche market in Malaysia then. Normal retailers and supermarkets, for instance, did not carry organic food. Consequently, some people took the initiative to setup informal, home-based distribution centers to help to obtain and sell organic food. These informal, home-based distributors were run by people who themselves followed natural or alternative health systems and diets.

A major milestone in organic food development in Malaysia occurred when Steven Leong established a manufacturing facility to produce organic compost and fertilizer, the first in Malaysia. It was only when organic fertilizers and compost could be supplied in bulk and in steady supply could organic farms be more firmly established and produce higher yields in Malaysia.

In 1995, Premier Organic Produce, the first organic marketing organization, was co-established by Steven Leong. Premier Organic Produce was the first dedicated commercial wholesaler of a wide variety of organic produce (mainly vegetables) and with comparative quality with conventional produce.

Today, organic food still remains a niche market, but one that is growing rapidly. In 2001, for instance, only 131 hectares (ha) in Malaysia were organic farms. In just a span of five years, the land area for organic farms grew by an incredible 18 times to 2,367 ha, of which 962 ha are perhaps certified organic, as surveyed by the Swiss Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and the Foundation Ecology & Farming (SOEL), Germany, in 2007.

Zenxin at Kluang, Johor is the largest organic farm and the leading retailer and distributor of organic food in Malaysia (photo from

Organic dragon fruits (pitaya) at Zenxin farm (photo from

Compared to other countries in the region, Malaysians are among the most knowledgeable in organic food and their health benefits. While the Chinese still remain the major consumers of organic food in Malaysia, the younger Chinese generation (mid-thirties and forties) have started to take a keen interest in organic food, unlike in the past where it was mostly the older Chinese generation. Other races such as the Malays and Indians have also started to try organic food, although their numbers still make up a small fraction of Malaysian consumers.

Starting from 1999, family-run organic shops started to emerge in the Klang Valley and in other major towns in Malaysia. However, the growth of family-run organic shops have been short-lived. Since 2006, very few family-run organic shops have opened. Instead, their roles have been taken over by big retailers like Cold Storage, Jusco Supermarket, Tesco, Giant, and Carrefour. All large supermarkets in Malaysia now carry certified organic food in large quantities and varieties. Smaller and more upscale supermarkets like Mercato, Isetan Supermarket, and Village Grocer also stock certified organic food.

Selina Gan, Managing Director of the leading organic food retailer, Country Farm Organics, in Malaysia (photo from

The hub of vegetable farming in Malaysia can be found in Cameron Highlands. Grace Cup Sdn. Bhd. and Cameron Organic Produce Sdn. Bhd. (established by Lee Ong Sing in 1997) have established organic vegetable farms in Cameron Highlands. Large local organic retailers such as Country Farm Organics and Zenxin have established a foothold in distributing and selling organic food to consumers.

Nonetheless, organic agriculture and food are facing several challenges in Malaysia. Although the demand for organic food in Malaysia is growing, the supply of local organic produce is not keeping up with the increased demand. Local supply can fall by as much as 50 per cent in certain periods of the year. Beside the inconsistent supply, the varieties of local organic food are also limited. Consequently, Malaysia still needs to heavily import organic produce from other countries, especially from Australia, U.S., and New Zealand.

Another problem facing organic food consumers in Malaysia is the price difference between organic and conventional food. Although it is well known that organic food is more expensive than conventional food, their price difference in Malaysia is particularly substantial, by as much as 100 to 300 per cent, compared to only 25 to 30% price gap in the U.S. and E.U.

Despite the higher price and limited variety of organic food in Malaysia, I foresee that organic agriculture and food would continue to rise rapidly in Malaysia as Malaysians become more health and environmentally aware.

My students visit to GK farm, Kajang, Selangor. Famous organic farmer, Gan Koon Chai (grey T-shirt, middle) poses with my students. Note all of them are bare-footed as Gan believes being bare-footed promotes better health.

Gan Koon Chai and his organic farm in Kajang (photo from

Another well-known organic farmer, Yahqappu Adaikkalam, posing with my students at his farm, Lord’s Garden

Yahqappu Adaikkalam showing his compost for organic fertilizers (photo from

  1. Friedman, L.S. 2010. Organic food and farming. Introducing issues with opposing viewpoints. Greenhaven Press, MI.
  2. Gan, S. 2008. Plenary paper in “Organic ASIA – The Way Forward:  Innovations, Challenges and Collaboration for the Future!”, 28–31 October 2008, Sarawak Cultural Village, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.
  3. Kirchmann, H. and Bergstrom, L. 2008. Organic Crop Production – Ambitions and Limitations. Springer Science+Business Media.


  1. OT – Can you please do an experiment on which is the best way to clean regular produce? I am using a veggie wash which I find less than satisfactory as it cannot remove the thick wax on apples. I can tell it works well on most veggies and fruits because you can taste the difference. It can remove the wax from tomatoes, broccoli and kailan well, but is defeated by eggplants, zucchinis and apples. I asked other people what they use and these are their list:

    1. Baking soda
    2. Vinegar
    3. Baking soda and vinegar
    4. Cold water
    5. Salt
    6. Ozone
    7. Kangen water
    8. Hydrogen peroxide

    Commercial veggie washes:
    9. Melaleuca, Harvest Pure
    10. Atomy
    11. Young Living, Thieves Essential Oil veggie wash
    12. Safeguard, Fruit and Veggie Wash
    13. OKO Energie
    14. ETL No. 9

    I think some are plain bunk, but I have no way of testing the results. If you have the means, can you pls test these and let us know?

  2. Hello Christopher,

    Interesting blog you have here. I have to point out a mistake in your essay. Grass-fed cattle is no more organic than dedak-eating cattle. If the grass or pellets are organically grown, then only can they be classed as organic. If the grass is grown with chemical fertilisers or sprayed with pesticides, then the meat produced is not organic.

    Have you watched the documentary “Cowspiracy”? I highly recommend it. You will rethink the idea of food shortages.

  3. Hi Mr Christopher,
    I am currently not involved in agriculture but I am a quite curious to know how do farmers sell their crops? As in how do they market their crops and selling them to customers? From my research and understanding, most of the farmers in Malaysia still relies on agents or middleman to help them to sell their crops in which the farmers almost has no say to the pricing.
    For example, let’s say I open up a new vegetable farm (Be it organic or conventional one), and I have no connections to restaurants or hotels that would buy my products. So where else would I sell them to other than farmer’s market and community supported agriculture (CSA)?
    I am asking these questions out of curiosity as I am actually working in corporate world and feel that I am not suited to be in the rat race of corporate world. Thus, if agriculture is an opportunity to me, I will do it.
    Thanks in advance. 🙂

    • You can contact supermarkets if you want to sell your produce, but supermarkets will demand large and consistent supply from you. If you want to go into organic farming, supermarkets will demand organic certification. Otherwise, you can try smaller supermarkets or even sellers in the wet market who may buy from you. Again, consistent supply is essential; otherwise, people will be reluctant to get from you. My advice is to visit organic farms and get an idea on how they do it.

      • Hi Christopher,
        Thanks for your prompt reply. Alright, will follow you advice and go for organic farms and see how they manage it.
        I would like to ask if someone without agriculture background such as me will be hired as permanent worker in farm?
        Also, is there any case that you have confronted where farmers were not able to sell their crops to market and thus making low income to their life?
        Sorry for the bulk questions.
        Thanks again. 🙂

        • Try the GK farm at Kajang. You can work for them as an intern. There are people with little or no background in agriculture start a farming activity. Lots of hardwork but it will pay off. You may not be super rich from day 1, but it can happen, provided you are willing to work hard. Start small to slowly build up confidence.

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  5. Hi christopher,

    Its good that you bring the awareness of organic farming in msia. However the organic farming has somehow being used as marketing tool by certain section of farmers to claim their produce as organic though contain high level of pesticides. These pesticides have actually created widespread of diseases that haunting us slowly such as cancers etc. I was being advise not to eat any hydrophonics produced in cameron such as salads vegetables and tomatoes which contained high level of pesticide in enclose system. Theres no regulations in msia to detect such usage in our local veggies as compare to spore. Hope you can look into it and spread awareness on such unethical ways of producing local veggies. Thank u.

      • Neo – hydroponic vegetables that are grown in a netted area have no pesticides. However, they cannot be classed as organic because they still use chemical fertilisers. There are regulations for pesticide use in Malaysia, but no enforcement or “close one eye”. However, what is more worrisome is that there are unethical organic producers who are not truly organic as the govt does not monitor their produce. (This is what a farmer told me.) Some certifying agencies are stricter than others, but even USDA Organic is corrupt. So if you want to be really sure, grow your own. It’s not that hard.

        • Yes, growing our vegetables is best as we would know what we put in (or not put in) into our food. Not all farmers who say they are organic farmers are really practising organic farming. Organic certification is therefore vital, and it is not just a matter of not using synthetic or artificial inputs that one can be called an organic farmer. Organic certification has some strict criteria (such as distance of the farm to industrial plants/factories and even how the farm workers are treated) before such a certification can be awarded. Yes, you are right that enforcement is a problem, but spot checks, even if done once a blue moon, would include soil and crop tests which would reveal if non-compliant agrochemicals were used in the farm, whether past or present.

  6. Hi Mr Christopher,

    Thank you so much for the detailed insight into the organic agriculture industry in Malaysia. Being a youth, going into agriculture is somewhat daunting given the traditional aspects in it. Despite that, it’s true to say that there is a lot of growth potential in this industry. My question is, upon reading up on all the various green technology like crop management and soil health implementation, would it be fair to say that in Malaysia, agri-tech has slow to evolve unlike countries like Taiwan. I would like to educate myself further into that particular line of work whereby the traditional trial and error can be replaced with formulas backed by science. I was hoping that you could give me some guidance on where to start on this.

    Also, from what I understand, there are different types of ‘organic’ fertilizers in the market, animal manure and plant compost in particular. Animal manure is known to have higher chemical content highly influenced by the type of animal feed. What about the uses of plant compost? For example, palm oil fruit bunch compost. Would this qualify as an organic fertilizer? Would there be a market for palm oil waste fertilizer? I am in the midst of researching and would love to know your take on this.

    Thank you.

    Best regards,

    • Yes, setting up organic farms is difficult especially if we have little experience. Working in an organic farm (such as an intern) would be a valuable experience. You can contact Cetdem or even GK farm for work/intern opportunities. Organic farms need not be high tech because they rely on whatever methods as long as they do not damage the environment — and such approaches are more science than relying on cutting edge technologies. There are benefits and drawbacks to using organic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers are slow release, meaning they release their nutrients slowly and gradually into the soil. The drawback is the nutrient release may be too slow for the plant to take up. The contents of organic fertilizers also vary because they depend on the source. Mineral fertilizers however have exact and consistent content, so we know what and how much nutrients we are putting, unlike organic fertilizers. Oil palm waste fertilizer are particularly rich in K (potassium), but they are often not made into a pre-packaged fertilizer. These wastes are often put in the field as surface mulch (which act like an organic fertilizer too).

  7. Hai Christopher,

    Thank you very for your helpful article, I love very much to know more about organic farm, organic tea farm,& organic herds farm, is there any organic herds or organic tea & spices small farmer in west malaysia ? we are trying to find currently , thank you so much.

  8. Hi Christopher,

    It was interesting to read your article on organic farming and the growing interest of people on organic food in Malaysia. I truly support organic agriculture and it feels good when health food stores and shops sell certified organic food. Thanks again for this informative article!

  9. Hi Christopher, I am loving this post. It’s great to see more people seeing the importance of organic farming and eating here in Malaysia.

    I would just like to inquire regarding organic farming, such as how to start and what is needed to be done, etc.

    I have always been interested in organic farming and eating, and would really love to have my own farm someday, hopefully.

    I have just graduated in December, so in terms of financials, I am not stable just yet but would like to know what steps that I can take now to start my organic farm along with perhaps making some income on the side. If that is possible.

    To be honest, I am not very interested in working in corporate and would like to venture into more things suited to my interest such as farming.

    Your reply is much appreciated, Thank you

    • The best option for you is to gain some experience working in an organic farm — a sort of intern. Google “GK farm” on its address at Kajang. The owner is friendly and even conducts classes. Pay him a visit. Alternatively, you can contact Cetdem organization for advice and addresses where you can find organic farms nearest you.

  10. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the insightful article on organic food. Recently I took interest in organic food after my first baby. Before this, I’m not too bothered with organic food even though I think it is more healthy. But for my new born, I started to buy organic broccoli and pumpkin from the supermarket (organic section) believing that it has less or no pesticide. But myself I still eat conventional food mainly the cost of organic is so much more ( x2 to x3) as you mentioned.

    Understand that organic plantation has lower yield and more labour intensive. I’m not undermining the organic producers but somehow I feel organic food in Malaysia is sold at a premium because it is market as such. Hope you can share your thoughts.

    Btw, I’m trying to grow some mushroom and search online where to buy the seeds but with no luck. This is how I come cross this article. Do you know where I can get some?


    • Yes, organic products are more expensive for several reasons, one of which is the lower yield and more labor demanding. Another reason, as you pointed out, is the target market. Organic products are still niche market, and they are targeted at health- and environmental-conscious consumers. The consumers are also more well to do, so the price for organic products are also higher. But not all foods are organic or can be available all year round in Malaysia, so it is very difficult to be 100% organic all the time. Organic food consumers usually try to increase their organic food intake but cannot be totally 100% organic. Organic fruits or even organic chicken are not always available in the local market. And good luck finding organic beef!

      Mushroom is not a plant, so you can’t grow them like you do with plants. In nature, you will find mushrooms growing under shade (cool, moist, and away from direct sunlight). Planting mushrooms will require a little more skill beyond just dropping seeds into a hole in the ground. Why not visit an mushroom farm to see for yourself how they plant it? There are many mushrooms farms around. Depending where you are, you can use the keywords “mushroom farms kajang” and you will get plenty of hits. Many farms welcome visitors and even have a shop at the farm to sell their products to the public. Just take note that showrooms for mushroom planting are a little different than the actual houses that are used to grow mushrooms. This is because the showrooms are modified for visitors’ comfort. The actual mushroom houses are dark and the floor is very wet (the mushrooms cannot be watered directly). You can call the farm to see if they can arrange a private tour for you.

  11. Hi Christopher,
    Good day to you

    I reside in Malacca, and am looking to do worm cultivation primarily to obtain worm castings for my (small) vegetable garden. Also I can use the worms to compost our discarded fruit peels, vegetables, etc.
    Do you know anyone doing worm cultivation, where i can buy some worms from?
    Your assistance is much appreciated.
    Thank you

  12. Hi Sir,

    It was so interesting to read the whole article but I just noticed that most of the organic farms were located in West Malaysia only. I am curious to know if there’s any in East Malaysia that doing the organic farming?

    • Yes, most organic farms in Malaysia are located in the Peninsular. However, use Google to search for farms, i.e., type “organic farms sarawak” and you will get hits. A visit to organic shops in and out of your area and talk to the shop owners and they can tell you nearby organic farms.

  13. Hi Chris,

    Thanks on your interesting article on organics.
    I am retiring next year & thinking to spend some time in a organic farm ( in a natural environment).
    I am 50yrs++ still healthy & able to contribute to the farm.
    Do you have a list of farms I can contact on this inquiry ?

    johnny chong

  14. hello sir… I am Monica Praira Philip. I am doing a research about organic foods. May i get some info about organic foods and the place of organic farms?
    Thank you…

  15. Dear Sir,

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  16. I am very much interested in organic activities. I am eager to know how we can improve the best organic manure ?

  17. Hi Christopher,

    I really enjoyed your article. It is very informative. I was especially impressed by the Cuba story and learned quite a bit about organic farming in Malaysia. My views on the pros and cons of organic and conventional farming is mixed. Although both are different, both are also commercial. I’m always a bit skeptical when something becomes overly commercialised. I believe that the way forward, and to ensure sustainability and most importantly, quality, is not to make organic farming too commercialised, in terms of scale. I am particularly interested in community gardening or local farming (similar to the Cuba model). Trimming the supply chain will lower prices I think. I remember reading about a local farmer’s market somewhere in PJ. As for community gardens, well, my neighbour has a small plot of garden and she has managed to grow a decent variety of herbs and a bit of vege. I’m planning to do the same in my own garden, with luck, lots of it…

    We don’t have to go 100% organic. We can always replace whatever we can with organic produce and products within our budget. Even if we can replace 30-50% of our greens with homegrown, chemical-free greens will make a big difference in terms of health.

    Sorry for rambling. Interesting blog you have here… keep it up! Be well! Cheers!

    • Thanks for sharing! Yes, it is very difficult to be 100% organic, and you are right about community farming. What a good way to bring neighbours together, and it does not have to be organic too. Urban agriculture means agriculture done within the city and because of its scale, it often isn’t necessary to use chemicals or at least, minimize the use of chemicals.

  18. Sadly there seems to be virtually no organic stuff available here in Kuching. I know of 2 shops, both fairly small and with limited choice.

    Oh, also a luxury supermarket, which does have some grass-fed beef but at truly crazy prices (300 ringgit for a raw steak, or an all-you-can-eat buffet at the Hilton for 100 rm? Mmmm…)

  19. This is quite an interesting article. You provided balance arguments pro and con of the organic food, although understandably you veered to organics food later in the article.

    Thanks. i learnt something today.

    btw, i think I’ve came across one independent study saying there’s no significant difference between organics and non-organics food. it caused quite a ruckus, obviously from the organics group.

    Just wondering, do you feel organics food contributes more to your health? it seems the taste is better from what you said, but how about from health aspect?

    again, thank you for the article.

    • It is unfortunate that discussion about organics have become polarized: either good or bad. I too have come across many articles or studies like that. It only causes confusion because the actual situation is there are pros and cons to organic food. Non-organic food ought to be just as good as organic food, provided non-organic farmers adhere strictly to pesticide use. Unfortunately, consumer and supermarket demand for “perfect-looking” fruits and vegetables have caused farmers to over-spray their crops to ensure good marketability at harvest time. I have been to a farm in Johor where the farmer sprayed pesticides on his vegetables a day before harvest because he was afraid that his produce might be rejected by the Singapore market if his vegetable leaves have one hole too many. In the US, apples are considered the most harmful food because they contained the highest amount of pesticide residues.

      But before we blame it all on the farmers, we must understand that farmers only overspray because we, the consumers, demand flawless looking fruits and vegetables. The farmers would be the most happy people on the planet if, by tomorrow, supermarkets and consumers would suddenly prefer a vegetable with many holes on the leaves over one with no holes. Pesticides are a cost to the farmers, and the farmers would be most happy if they have a profitable reason to reduce their pesticide use.

      Most people have a romantic picturesque of organic food being produced in green lush fields under clear blue skies. Organic food may have once been produced by small, family-owned farms, but today, increasingly more organic food are produced by large corporations, sometimes by the same large corporations that also produce conventional foods. So, it is all ultimately about profits at the end, even for organic agriculture. Organic food is produced because there is growing demand for it, and there are people who are willing to spend extra money for organics. We should not be misled into even thinking that free-range chickens or cattle roam free all the time — despite what the nice picture on the organic food product shows to us. In some farms, free-range only means the animals roam free for the last one or two weeks of their lives before they are slaughtered for their meat.

      I am a moderate. I am not entirely for or against organic food. Organic food carry lower *risks* of pesticide residues, but I am not convinced that organic food are always more healthy than conventional food.

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