A produce market in Sidon, Lebanon. Photo by lux & pixel via Flickr.
A lack of food-safety laws in Lebanon has created a pesticide scare that may drive more consumers to seek out organic produce. Locally grown fruits and vegetables, including grapes, strawberries, potatoes, and apples, have been shown to have up to 25 times more pesticides than internationally accepted levels, Agence France-Presse reports.Some of the country's organic producers say they are struggling to keep up with demand for their products, which have thus far generally been a niche market for the rich. "People have really gone hysterical -- our clientele has doubled since the pesticides scare," said Kamal Mouzawak, who founded Lebanon's first farmers' market five years ago. "Before we used to sell out by closing time at 2:00 pm, but now people line up before opening time to get first dibs."
But not everyone agrees on the solution to the problem.
Pesticide Use Poorly Regulated
"There is definitely a problem with pesticides in Lebanon," Salem Hayyar, a professor at the state-run Lebanese University, told the news agency. "But the answer is not organic. It's teaching farmers how to use the right pesticides at the right time."
Pesticides in Lebanon are sometimes not labeled, and farmers do not always wait long enough to harvest after spraying. The Agriculture Ministry says it does not enough enough funding or staff to address the issue.
Consumers are thus taking the matter into their own hands, starting to patronize organic-only grocery stores, "healthy basket" delivery services, and restaurants with organic menus in greater numbers than before. Whether the change in habits will last once the pesticide scare drops off the front pages is an open question, however.
"Unfortunately I think it is a temporary craze, like so many other crazes," Mouzawak said. "We can only hope this hysterical reaction will turn into permanent action." Via: "Food scare engulfs Lebanon," Agence France-Presse
More about environmental issues in Lebanon:
100 Places: Lebanon, The Forest of the Cedars of God: Video
Cleaning Up the Olive Oil Business in Syria
Fortunes Fade for Fishermen, Marine Life in Lebanon
Israel's New Natural Gas Bonanza Could Ignite Conflict With Lebanon
Eco-Tourism Takes Root in Lebanon
Let Bygones Be Bygones Already, for the Environment's Sake