28 Jun2010


There was a part of me wishfully thinking that insecticides were not a major concern. I eat a LOT of strawberries and had recently taken to consuming more local ones rather than the Californian ones in the freezer section that I use for protein shakes. And all throughout our early morning picking, there wasn’t an insecticide sprayer in sight. A short discussion with the farmer tending the plots we were picking had him admit to insecticide use, “but only until the heavy flowering stage, not while berries were ripening.” He added, somewhat convincingly, that he didn’t open to the public for picking if fields were recently sprayed, and any spray they DID use wasn’t really the supers harmful/”black label” stuff… they were, after all under the “auspices” of the Benguet State University…


He added that it had poured the night before and yes, I agreed that would wash away some of the chemicals, but then put it straight into the soil that provided nourishment to the same plants. So I was sceptical to say the least, but so far so good. But just 5 minutes later, as we returned to our car, I spied this guy spraying strawberry plants less than 50 or so meters away from where we were picking! And take a good look at the photos, in the field right NEXT door to the sprayer, there are oodles of ripe berries ready for the picking! YIKES. I realize there are probably less harmful insecticides, but the vision of this guy with mask on spraying the berries were a REAL TURN-OFF. There goes any future local berry purchases unless they are certified organic by a reliable source. Bummer.


Now I am really beginning to wonder how safe it is to eat so many of the leafy greens and other vegetables that come down from “commercial” farms in the mountain province and elsewhere in the country. People think they are doing themselves a healthy favor by focusing on vegetables, but egads, what if they are consuming the equivalent of an insecticide cocktail every day of the week? In that case, eating lechon and sisig more often might not be so bad. :)



  1. natie says:

    what a downer,MM..today i bought baby bokchoy with some “holes” on the leaves. does that mean no chemicals were used? i still have to wash, nevertheless.

    Jun 28, 2010 | 5:53 am


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  3. betty q. says:

    Sometimes it is wise to get to know the farmer! We pick strawberries at the same farm since we moved here and have come to know the farmer/owner of the strawberry field we go. My son occasionally helps out the old couple at their farm and I help out with their marketing strategies by doing the advertising for them on the computer (or rather my other son would!) and also make jam for their home use.

    So it is a good idea as Connie C. suggested to support your local farmer…get to know them…not only will you be given a few quirks like telling you if the fruits are sweet at the time you purchase them or wait for a few more weeks so the fruits will be at their prime, they also give use a lot of “dagdag” to the ones we bought.

    Jun 28, 2010 | 5:59 am

  4. Connie C says:

    Unfortunately, strawberry ranks # 6 in the most pesticide laden fruits.

    “Peaches, apples, and sweet bell peppers were the three most pesticide-laden crops tested, while frozen sweet corn, avocado, and onion were least contaminated. The Environmental Working Group team estimates you can lower your pesticide intake by as much as 80 percent if you steer clear of the top 12.” ( mentioned in the previous post).

    Now we wonder what harm the remaining 20% will do to our system.

    And among the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, collards, kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi) that are supposed to help with detoxification, kale ranks number 9 of the top 12 on the list.

    Jun 28, 2010 | 6:40 am

  5. kurzhaar says:

    I’m guessing they were spraying fungicides, not insecticides. Which is sometimes worse, in terms of toxicity to humans. And as you note, chemical sprays wash off the plants, into the soil, and into watersheds or riparian habitats. So you hope whatever they were using was something that is of a lower toxicity…

    This is what happens when you grow the same crop over and over again in the same spot. Like any other crop, strawberries should be rotated with other species. I used to belong to a CSA in California that delivered strawberries to us almost year-round, but the farmer rotated his fields so that strawberries were grown in a given spot only once every 3-4 years. He farmed organically, and told me that if you were lazy and left the plants in the same spot, you were almost guaranteed to end up with fungal diseases.

    Strawberries are like sponges, so good luck to anyone who thinks they can “wash” the pesticides out of the fruit. Year-to-year, strawberries have one of the highest residual levels of pesticides of commercially grown crops…so they are definitely something worth growing yourself or at least buying from an organic farmer.

    Jun 28, 2010 | 6:49 am

  6. Footloose says:

    When you mentioned in the previous post that the strawberries you pick yourself is priced significantly more than the already picked ones, I thought the producers were just covering the berries that directly disappeared into the customer /picker’s mouth. Now with toxins still unwashed off the berries, the price is going to be even more.

    I took part in strawberry picking just once. I found the experience pretty close to planting rice is never fun except you are not troding on deep muck. I am so gung ho about picking tiny wild ones though and I can actually restrain myself and refrain from popping them in my mouth in anticipation of their intensely flavored jam.

    ConnieC, Thanks for the useful info. Rose crossed rutabaga with a potato once back in St. Olaf but did not know what to call it, rutatato or potabaga.

    Jun 28, 2010 | 6:50 am

  7. hunter says:

    this is true not just for strawberries but for most of your pretty looking cabbages, cauliflowers, pechays, etc.

    THE TEST: ask the farmers or the vegetable/fruit vendors what produce they eat and you can be pretty sure those are the safe ones. most farmers and vendors are pretty honest and it was one strawberry gardener who once told me that they don’t eat the strawberrys they produce (pang turista lang) as they know all the dodgy stuff they put oh the berries.

    THE RULE OF THUMB: the advice from a local is to ask or look for the less than perfect looking fruit/vegetable. farmers would usually plant separate crops intended for their own/friends/families consumption and these ones are not sprayed with the insecticides. in the markets, chances are the veggies with insect marks or appear smaller in sizes would have been spared the insecticides. they might not look pretty but these are the ones that are ‘clean’ and most importantly, these are the fruits/veggies that the vendors/farmers themselves eat.

    Jun 28, 2010 | 7:02 am

  8. franco says:

    I could be wrong but I think they are spraying foliar fertilizer (crop giant, the thing in the orange container). But I agree with everyone that we should move away from pesticides. Pesticides are making all of us sick.

    Jun 28, 2010 | 7:37 am

  9. Clarissa says:

    hmmm. and my (bad) habit is eating the strawberries from the market, popping each into my mouth after a quick wipe on my shirt. i guess i won’t be doing that anymore :s

    Jun 28, 2010 | 7:49 am

  10. Betchay says:

    Are vegetable/fruit wash available in the markets effective in washing away pesticides?How about those contraptions that has UV lights(?) or those bubbling waters that says removes toxins from fruits and veggies?Has anyone use any of them? They are quite expensive.Are they worth it?

    Jun 28, 2010 | 8:14 am

  11. Guia says:

    Here is info on “Crop Giant” from a manufacturer, Agro Chemical Corp from Taiwan: “A kind of reducing sugar plus coenzyme which can increase the efficiency of photosynthesis, hence improve fruit brix, early harvest & reduce of fruit drop.” Reducing sugar and coenzyme are organic compounds, so good.
    The photo in the manufacturer’s website is a white plastic bottle with pink border around + green on the bottom. They have another product, “Vital Giant” with a yellow label just like the 2nd bottle in the photo? There is a Phil. source of Crop Giant, “giant foliar fertilizer philippines,” which may be the manufacturer of the orange bag? Just sleuthing…

    Jun 28, 2010 | 8:57 am

  12. present tense says:

    I think one must note that most medicines have their ‘roots’ in plant forms. I believe this is true not only of insecticides but of human meds as well. They are tweaked to produce the desired effect. Nowadays, we have second, third, and fourth generation re-engineered stuff. And for a medicine to qualify as safe for humans, it has to pass 3 phases. Phase1 is to determine its safe dose. Phase2 is to determine if it will work. And Phase3 is to determine where it wont work. Side effects are ALWAYS the issue. Poisons will kill the invader but will also kill the host. It might be safer not to use any pesticide and to just cook the insects instead – and eat the strawberries. Even the FAO of the UN is still studying chemicals deemed GRAS ( generally recognized as safe) 30 yrs ago

    Jun 28, 2010 | 9:03 am

  13. Gardenerd says:

    I just love strawberries! I hope my ozonizer is doing me good.

    Jun 28, 2010 | 4:25 pm

  14. dragon says:

    @ Guia: I dabbled in importation of agrochemicals a few years ago – a highly, highly profitable business mind you. Agrochemicals (insecticides, fungicides, etc.) are harmful because regardless of how you look at it and I will be the first to tell you: where this product is concerned, the Chinese and Indian varieties are the worst/most damaging (nothing personal here) – not regulated (inspite of claims they are).

    The only thing safe to use is homegrown/made fertilizers from compost and organic (your own) farming.

    Jun 28, 2010 | 6:09 pm

  15. solraya says:

    They don’t wash away. It goes into the sytem of the plant :(

    Jun 28, 2010 | 6:11 pm

  16. Tricia says:

    I saw this when we first went to La Trinidad on a boring day staying in BCC in Baguio. I was aghast with the amount of spraying that they do. I read somewhere that strawberries are one of the fruits that is best eaten organic unlike banana & pineapple that has “thick” skins.

    Ever since I got to try organic strawberries from Wholefoods Market in San Francisco last year, I never laid hands on strawberries from Baguio again. Ibang ibang ang lasa ng organic. There is no lingering “pakla” unlike the ones that was sprayed with insecticide.

    Jun 28, 2010 | 9:08 pm

  17. myra_p says:

    Great post. So many people don’t realize how much pesticide is used in our pretty vegetables from Baguio. One trick taught to me by a sustainable farmer is to look at the leaves of broccoli… If there is an aqua tinge, don’t buy anything from that vendor. Also, be wary of any vegetable that looks too big, too pretty, too shiny or too perfect.

    Support your organic farmers, even if just for leafy veggies and thin-skinned fruits!

    Jun 28, 2010 | 11:36 pm

  18. Sam says:

    Here in the US, there is this non-profit organization called “Environmental Working Group”, they have a website where they publish a lot of articles about organic food, pesticides in our food, clean water, etc. They have this list – “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides”, which my wife use all the time when going to the grocery store. One of the dirty dozen’s that you should buy organic is – strawberries.

    Just recently, my whole family got scared about a becoming common medical condition for women age 40 and above. Breast cancer. Fortunately, what my wife had was a benign mass in her breast. We did a lot of research about cancer since then and what we found out is that a lot of carcinogens get into our bodies because of the food that we eat. Or somehow the cancer cells get triggered by what we put in our bodies. The chemicals they spray in our fruits and leafy greens are really harmful for our bodies. So even though we are in a really bad economy, we try to save our money, but not for the food that we eat. We try to eat everything organic nowadays.

    I always wonder about this – how come our parents, who are already in their 80’s are still active and well. I told my wife, it could be the food that they ate when they we’re in their younger years. Back in the Philippines, we live near the sea, and my parents used to be working as fishermen and salt-makers. And back then, I don’t recall anybody spraying anything in their plants and fruit trees and vegetables gardens. They catch fish right out from the sea. We eat all native chickens and pigs and ducks. So what’s the difference? No chemicals back then, it’s sad to say, it’s the norm nowadays. You guys wonder about this too?

    Jun 29, 2010 | 5:27 am

  19. EJ says:

    Footloose, whenever I’m tempted to pluck a wild berry and eat it immediately, I remember what a good friend once told me – “Never eat anything that is lower than a dog’s height.” ;-)

    Jun 29, 2010 | 5:46 am

  20. Lin says:

    When we were still living in the Philippines my parents had a friend who worked in the fertilizer business in Taiwan go to Manila to do research on the fertilizers used on the crops. After his research was done, he stopped eating ALL vegetables and fruits grown in the Philippines! So when we was staying with us he only ate meat. He said although it is impossible to wash off all the chemicals in our fruits and vegetables, he recommended at least soaking all of them in salt water after washing them before eating or cooking.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 8:03 am

  21. present tense says:

    EJ, it’s funny but there is probably nothing more organic than urine. Phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium naturally occur in urine. The problem occurs when say, you are under medication or lift weights – because then we have to include steroids, antibiotics, or whatnot into the mix

    Jun 29, 2010 | 9:15 am

  22. corrine says:

    It’s not only the Philippines that use pesticides and other chemicals. Look at the shiny apples that come from China and elsewhere. There’s got to be chemicals on them. Could this be one of the causes of cancer and other diseases?

    Jun 29, 2010 | 2:52 pm

  23. pam says:

    I don’t think those frozen California berries would fare any better. Even anything “USDA approved” is questionable. Plus, you add the energy cost and environmental cost of transporting those berries all the way from the US to the Philippines. Even though I know many fruits and vegetables are sprayed with insecticides, eating those are still much better than eating antibiotics and hormoned filled US meat. The best solution would be to grow your own produce I guess, but that’s just impossible for most people (including myself). I’m curious what the animal farm industry looks like in the Philippines too. Maybe you can do a story on that next time. Hopefully, I’ll be pleasantly surprised that it looks nothing like America’s. Thanks for posting your insight and discoveries. This was really interesting.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 2:54 pm

  24. noes says:

    I recommend that you watch this video called “Food Matter”. It will open your mind how the insecticides affect the food that we eat and the diseases that we get from it.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 7:57 pm

  25. Jake Speed says:

    Keep those pesticide laden fruits and vegetables away from children’s diet. It will compromise their immune system and since children’s bodies are not fully developed yet, it may be harder for them to detoxify the pesticides that they ingest. I read a few books about this and those with asthma, autism, ADHD and those prone to allergies are the ones who suffer most.

    Before, I thought eating organic food was just a fad. Now, I realized that these pesticides really do harm to our bodies.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 10:33 pm

  26. noes says:

    Here’s the link for “food matter”.http://www.foodmatters.tv/

    Jun 30, 2010 | 7:48 pm

  27. chel says:

    that is why the demand for organic vegetables is growing nowadays =)

    Jun 30, 2010 | 10:08 pm

  28. present tense says:

    In my personal opinion, pesticides or treated fruits / vegetables are not the only issue. What passes for food nowadays are often edible food imitations. An example is yogurt which is really just milk and an acid to induce fermentation but when you see 26 different ingredients on the label, you start becoming suspicious. Another confusing item are foods labeled FAT FREE or LITE which is misleading because you amp up the sugar when you remove fat – only this time the ingredient label increases the carbohydrate content because sugar is really a carb. I really would encourage some debate, not necessarily a detailed discussion group but some light conversation on the health cost of a typical filipino meal. The health risk may trump the economic value of say a tapsilog meal. I am certain most of us know someone who is obese, diabetic, with heart some form of problems, cancer, etc – much of this is simply because we are unaware of our diet implications.

    Jul 1, 2010 | 9:48 am

  29. xkwzt says:

    MM, How do we know if the veggies they sell are really organic? Is there a certifying body in the Philippines that YOU trust? Are the veggies in the weekend market in Salcedo and Legaspi parks certified? Are there vendors at those market you would recommend? Thanks.

    Jul 1, 2010 | 8:26 pm

  30. myra_p says:

    xkwzt… Unfortunately, we don’t have a certifying body locally. And no, not all the veggies at Salcedo are organic, even if they say so. It boils down to how much you trust the grower, and how vigilant you are. Ask questions! I would only 100% trust Mara’s at Legaspi and Herbana Farms at Salcedo…. Again, if the veggies look too big, too shiny or too perfect, assume that they are not totally natural. Food for thought!

    And yeah present-tense, FAT FREE or LITE is so deceiving. So is fast-food like french fries… Sure it’s potatoes, but unless you see the actual potato being sliced, it’s probably formed composite potato. Fried in old oil. Plus salt.

    Sometimes I’m convinced that a grilled pork chop is healthier than large fries at McDonalds.

    Jul 2, 2010 | 12:25 am

  31. Fristine says:

    Marketman, this is simply abominable X-( *tsk* I buy my organic strawberries and blueberries from La Top whenever I’m in the area. They have a stall in the trading post. I text/call them first: 0920-6598489

    Contrary to popular belief, Philippines have TWO certifying bodies:

    1) OCCP – Organic Certification Center of the Philippines
    2) PilCert – Pilipinas Certification

    Gil Carandang founded PilCert and he was part of OCCP. A handful of produce brands are certified by PilCert like Hacienda San Benito.

    For the inclined, I wrote about how to choose “safer” (if not organic) for the Philippine Chronicles here. :)

    Jul 2, 2010 | 8:09 am

  32. xkwzt says:

    I always thought those shiny, round, perfect veggies were amazing! And here I’ve been, shelling out the extra pesos, for what I thought was healthier, organic greens. Gaaah!

    Jul 2, 2010 | 9:49 am

  33. present tense says:

    myra_p, nowhere in these modern times has food ( or what passes as food ) been as abundant as it has today. i would wager that many filipinos classified as poor or in poverty, have lower health risk profiles simply because they do not eat as much as high income folks do.

    Jul 2, 2010 | 10:28 am

  34. myra_p says:

    present_tense… That is actually the irony of the food industry. The cheapest food (or what passes as food) is the most abundant and more likely to be purchased by low income families to stretch their money and fill their stomachs. Maybe it’s not the case for provincial poor, but it is the case for the urban poor. A pack of instant noodles is cheaper than a fish. Sweet white bread is cheaper than wheat bread. Refined sugar is cheaper than raw sugar. Salty junkfood “satisfies” more than fresh vegetables. Don’t even get me started on oil, eggs, chicken….

    But that’s not to say wealthy people aren’t irresponsible eaters too. But they have less of an excuse to not eat better since they have the funds to do it!

    Jul 2, 2010 | 5:03 pm

  35. maddie says:

    oh dear. i’ve been obsessed with berries of late but have been buying the driscoll’s brand. i hope that’s an okay brand?

    Jul 6, 2010 | 5:42 pm

  36. Jason says:

    Im not sure kung applicable ito sa pinas ah.


    Ranking The “Clean 15”
    1. Onion
    2. Avocado
    3. Sweet Corn
    4. Pineapple
    5. Mango
    6. Sweet Peas
    7. Asparagus
    8. Kiwifruit
    9. Cabbage
    10. Eggplant
    11. Cantaloupe
    12. Watermelon
    13. Grapefruit
    14. Sweet Potato
    15. Honeydew Melon

    Ranking The “Dirty Dozen”
    1. Celery
    2. Peaches
    3. Strawberries
    4. Apples
    5. Blueberries
    6. Nectarines
    7. Bell Peppers
    8. Spinach
    9. Kale
    10. Cherries)
    11. Potatoes
    12. Grapes (imported)

    Jul 8, 2010 | 5:14 am

  37. Cielo says:

    These days, it’s a struggle to feed your family with safe foods. Nonetheless, I resolved to feed my kids, aged 4 and 2, only the kind of foods that my parents ate growing up. That is why, we grow our own indigenous vegetables, like malunggay, kalabasa, alugbati, tanglad, okra, etc.. As much as possible, I avoid the hybrid varieties and the heavily-sprayed ones like talong, ampalaya, pechay, sitaw, broccoli, cauliflower (how unfortunate, my daughter likes broccoli,) etc. I am constantly in the lookout for the native, organic meat (free-range, natural foods) and veggies, and for a reliable supply of raw, unpasteurised milk (although I believe that anyone past the toddler age should reduce milk consumption to the barest minimum or altogether avoid it). Where I am, there is an abundance of fishes but I buy only those that are less contaminated with mercury. I never buy apples, oranges or strawberries even from supermarkets in Manila. Apples are laced in formalin, you know, to keep them from rotting. Potatoes, I heard are submerged in some chemicals, too, after harvest to prevent them from sprouting. In the groceries/supermarkets, there is hardly anything that I can buy. I don’t buy canned tomato sauces because tomato acid reacts unfavorably with the tin. Peanut butter, I buy only the Lily’s brand, and the one in glass. Everything else, it seems, is plastic and artificial. I could go on and on but this is the picture, more or less, of my ordeal.

    Jul 21, 2010 | 11:48 am

  38. Cielo says:

    Oh, and one more thing, I avoid all GMO foods like the plague.

    Jul 21, 2010 | 11:50 am

  39. Delbz says:

    i actually never heard of a news wherein a tourist got ill/hospitalized/poisoned/died from eating handpicked strawberries. Sometimes, it’s all in the mind. EVERYTHING now uses insecticides. So i guess there’s no need for such a fuss. I’m not working in the strawberry fields or something i just happened to think of this. I mean, even pigs food, has harmful chemicals on them. Specially if the food thy’re eating are left over vegetables which has pesticides as well. :)

    Aug 22, 2010 | 7:57 pm

  40. Chu says:

    Next time you’re in Baguio, look for LaTop organically certified vegies. They’re available daily at the farmers’ store at Baguio Convention Center; Wednesday & Saturday mornings at Cafe by the Ruins. They’re also at SM Baguio & Megamall supermarkets & at the La Trinidad Public Market.
    Strawberries are available only in summer but blueberries, papayas, bananas are sold.
    I prefer latop vegs myself. They’re fresher, keep longer, & safer!

    Jul 12, 2011 | 8:59 pm


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