by Shannon McCullough
Rafael del Cid is the owner of Organica, a unique market stocked with organic and natural food, supplements, lactose free products, gluten free products, beauty and personal care, ecological products and much more.
When did you open Organica Guatemala?
The first store opened in 2008 in zone 10, Guatemala City. The high demand for our products led us to open four more stores (Carretera a El Salvador, Antigua Guatemala, Río Dulce and recently in Vía Majadas zone 11, Guatemala City).
Why buy organic?
For example, when we say an animal product is organic, it means it is not given antibiotics or growth hormones, both proven to have toxic effects in the human body. When we talk about other products such as beverages, chips, pasta, rice, sauces or baby food and those products are certified organic, it means they do not contain anything toxic. Brands such as Field Day Organic, Bob’s Red Mill, Peter Rabbit, Arrowhead Mills and Steaz among others, avoid the usage of corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, sodium benzoate or any artificially produced ingredient. So organic is synonymous with good health, great taste and great value.
Can you explain the difference between food labeled organic or natural?
Food can be labeled in three ways: 1) 100% Organic; 2) Organic; and 3) Natural. One hundred percent organic means every ingredient is organic and free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic means it contains 70 to 95 percent organic ingredients. The natural label only certifies there are no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or sweeteners but does not indicate anything about the raising and feeding of animals, neither about the cultivation or harvesting of fruits and vegetables.
In the United States, organic is the most heavily regulated food system. Are there any regulations in place, here in Guatemala, in regard to labeling a product?
There are no regulations. Anybody can label a product as “organic,” but in most cases these items are not. However, there are entities such as Mayacert (www.mayacert.com) entitled to certify an item is NOP-USDA Organic (National Organic Program – USDA Organic). The NOP-USDA Organic certificate has the exact same quality standards as the USDA Organic certificate.
To your knowledge, are there Guatemalan farms using GMOs and why should we avoid GMOs?
Yes they are. In fact, Monsanto has two facilities in Guatemala. We should definitely avoid GMOs. There are several kinds of potential health threats such as allergies, increase of toxins, decrease of nutritional value and antibiotic resistance among others.
How does buying organic help the environment?
Conventional farming methods slowly destroy soil quality and properties, and pollute water with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In Guatemala the excessive use of such products has caused severe damage to water sources. On the other hand, organic food is grown using sustainable agricultural methods avoiding unnecessary pollution.
Why is organic food here higher in cost and why is it worth the extra money?
To produce organic products is more expensive. For example, production of organic vegetables and fruits is lower because of the lack of chemical fertilizers. Plague control has to be more sophisticated because the use of chemical pesticides is not an option. All these factors increase the prices. However, in conventional products, there are hidden costs such as medicines and medical fees that are transferred to consumers. An organic diet helps the body in many ways. The immune system strengthens and all organs work optimally thus preventing disease. In other words, an individual who eats only organic goods will feel better, look better, live better and will hardly ever get sick.
When you cannot afford to buy 100% organic food when shopping for groceries, what is the best way to keep chemicals off of you plate?
There are reasonably good quality products in supermarkets. Consumers have to learn to read nutritional facts, again to avoid dangerous ingredients such as monosodium glutamate, sodium benzoate and corn syrup.