Grabbing the bull by the horns in the name of profit is something that many Pakistanis are extremely good at, but honesty has developed the bad habit of falling by the wayside in the process. Take, for example, the beautifully packed, in none-biodegradable plastic and poisonous Styrofoam trays, increasing number of high priced, supposedly ‘organic’ salad ingredients and other fresh fruit and vegetables, which have appeared in up-market outlets over the past two or three years and which - if the truth be known as it should - are predominantly not, going by internationally recognised rules and regulations, remotely organic at all.

For such produce to be legitimately certified organic, the ground on which it was grown must have been totally chemical free for a period of five years: a period during which regular soil testing takes place to ensure that any previous chemical contamination has been eradicated and that growers are not quietly sneaking around applying noxious chemical concoctions - either above or below ground - when no one is looking. But this stringent monitoring, needless to say, is not taking place in Pakistan; so unscrupulous growers with an eye on the main chance, simply do as they please.

It is, to be fair, not the growers fault that the necessary monitoring system is not yet in place and is, according to sources in the agricultural world, unlikely to be so any time soon. But this is no excuse for selling produce as organic when it is most certainly not.

There are, it must also be said, a few serious organic growers around and their number is expanding. However even they, in the absence of legitimate surveillance, have no legal right to sell their produce under an organic label.......but.......this being the ‘land of do as you please and to hell with the consequences’ they are not going to stop now. That they have learnt, to their financial benefit, that they can get a larger profit through customer exploitation than if they played it by the book.

It is sad that such misrepresentation of the organic movement is happening here unchecked. But as people who have, after educating themselves about the pros and cons of organic versus chemical food production, made a conscious decision to purchase only organic food for the good of their own and their family’s health, become aware of the farce they are an unwitting party too, the game is going to be well and truly up!

The only way, it seems, to ensure that food is 100 percent organic is to produce it yourself, which, unfortunately, comparatively few people are currently able to do and, sadly if long-term predictions are correct, this already tiny percentage of the population is set to shrink even further as economic conditions and rapidly encroaching climate change adversely affect this part of the world and Pakistan in particular.

The fake organic growers currently so merrily profiteering from other people’s unwitting ignorance, will eventually, one hopes, be made to pay the price of their wrongdoing when those they have so blatantly taken advantage of force organic food issues into the open where, again one hopes, issues will be resolved and strict measures to ensure honestly organic production enforced, but that does nothing about the supposedly organic imported goods offered on the shelves of stores be these goods edible or not.

Cosmetics branded as ‘organic’ are a prime illustration of how the world at large views the mass market of consumerism that it so thoughtlessly feeds: the laws governing the use of the term ‘organic’ are very different in relation to edible and none edible goods. Items such as cosmetics can legally be less than one percent organic to qualify to call themselves by this very marketable, therefore, profitable name and, all one has to do is to study the list of ingredients on something like a bottle of shampoo to discover the truth of this.

Then, of course, there is the exact opposite in regard to that emotive subject of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), which are being pumped into the food market in, if suppliers and manufacturers can get away with it, absolute silence as ‘they’ – meaning the corporate world of big business - are fully aware that the vast majority of the global human population do not want to eat GMO’s in any shape or form and that livestock and poultry producers do not want their potential end-chain customers to know exactly what kind of chemical gunk the meat, chicken, eggs and other dairy produce, generated as a result of GMO presence in fodder and grain, may actively contain.

Processed, tinned and packaged foods are not, in a growing number of cases, GMO free either. But in the current absence of a global law demanding that food containing even a miniscule particle of GMO’s be clearly labelled as such, it is extremely difficult, if not downright impossible, to discover if the tin or packet or bottle of ‘stuff’ purchased on the understanding that the contents are fit for human consumption is actually so. And those under the impression that GMO’s have not yet made it this far, meaning to Pakistan, please think again!

The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban.

Email: zahrahnasir@hotmail.com