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The Value of Organic Farming

This blog is at the core of our values, and one of the reasons for this venture.

I have long been a promoter of healthy eating, but it goes without saying that besides healthy eating you need healthy food.  

This blog and the next one ‘Why Origin of Food is Important’ will offer a broad view of why the quality of food is primordial to get the maximum nutrients including vitamins and minerals. 

This blog is about the importance of responsible farming, the next one will be the importance of the origin of the food we eat.

One of the issues in the spice world is the name of the spices. For example, the name herbes de Provence is generic and does not have Protected Geographical Status, there is no guarantee that any herb mixture on the market comes from Provence; indeed, the vast majority of these blends come from central and eastern Europe, North Africa, and China (1).

We buy our herbes de Provence in the heart of the Provence region in the south of France where we have very strict regulations on organic production and labelling.

We need to obey to traceability rules and date of expiration on all products.

Organic farmers in the EU responsibly use energy and natural resources, promote animal health and contribute to maintaining biodiversity, ecological balance and water/soil quality.

Organic farming practices in the EU include:

  • Crop rotation for efficient use of resources
  • A ban on the use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers
  • Very strict limits on livestock antibiotics
  • Ban of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
  • Use of on-site resources for natural fertilisers and animal feed
  • Raising livestock in a free-range, open-air environment and the use of organic fodder
  • Tailored animal husbandry practices

The problem is that still, some of the specific restrictions on pesticide use, that are imposed in Europe or America by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other organizations, are not present in another part of the world. This means that some of the pesticides that are used in the rest of the world on herbs are not permitted in the EU or US for those crops (even if permitted for other crops).

For example, there is presently no reliable mechanism for certifying herb farms in China as "organic" and the emphasis on organic farming that exists in the EU is not currently present in China, and may not be practical under current conditions.

Sometimes, when large batches of herbs are stored in warehouses in China before being distributed to their final markets, if there is a delay in distributing them, fumigants might be used to assure that the entire supply is not endangered by a rapidly-multiplying insect pest. Heiner Fruehauf, PhD, a frequent visitor to China who provides information for ITM, has reported on seeing such fumigation carried out in China (2).

Even more worrisome is that traditional Chinese herbs are being contaminated with a toxic cocktail of pesticides that poses a threat to consumer health and the environment, according to a campaign group Greenpeace.

Some residue levels were hundreds of times higher than European Union food safety standards, according to tests carried out for a Greenpeace report "Chinese herbs: an elixir of health or pesticides cocktail?", the latest to focus on the harmful effects of China's large-scale farming industry.

"These test results expose the cracks in the current industrial agriculture system that is heavily reliant on toxic chemicals at the expense of human and environmental health," said Greenpeace ecological farming campaigner Jing Wang.

Exposure to pesticide residue causes toxic chemicals to accumulate inside the body, leading to learning difficulties, hormone disruption and reproductive abnormalities, according to Greenpeace. The group sampled 65 herb products, finding 51 different types of pesticide residues. Twenty-six of the samples contained pesticides that are illegal in China. Some pesticides were found in "extremely high concentration", with residues on the san qi flower 500 times over safety limits and on the honeysuckle more than 100 times over.

The report follows an investigation by Greenpeace in April which revealed mountains of hazardous waste left from China's huge phosphate fertiliser industry are polluting nearby communities and waters.

China, the world's top maker of phosphate fertiliser, has seen production more than double over the past decade to 20 million tons last year, leaving 300 million tons of a byproduct called phosphogypsum that can contain harmful substances. China's agricultural sector has expanded rapidly in recent years, and "intense" farming methods have been blamed by state media for recent food scares (3).

The use of plant protection products in agriculture results in economic benefits but can be hazardous to the environment, in particular to people and animals (Diez et al. 2006; Łozowicka 2009). Pesticides belong to substances which are the most toxic and are persistent; they do not break down easily, have ability to bio-accumulate, and can be mobile in the environment. They can also become mutagenic, carcinogenic, teratogenic, and allergenic. Pesticides can enter an organism through the digestive system, and even small amounts can be harmful if their intake lasts longer (Kroes et al. 2000; Gorrido et al. 2003). Human food and livestock feed should not contain pesticide residues over the maximum residue limits.

That is why it is imperative to choose wisely where your source your food supply from and always know where your product come from even if label as organic, as the label organic does not have the same value in every country.


  1. Jacques Marseille, ed. (2002). Dictionnaire de la Provence et de la Côte d'Azur. Paris: Éd. Larousse. p. 382. ISBN 2035751055.
  2. How Clean and Pure are Chinese Herbs? by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon
  3. Bangkok Post, Chinese Herbs ‘Tainted by Pesticide’