Organic labels and systems are in the early stages in Thailand — and face challenges related to regulation and enforcement.  In light of this, we work with our suppliers to ensure agents from our ‘do not use’ list is followed.  The ‘do not use’ list is modeled after the USDA Organic program.


Reform Kafé, our in-house restaurant, is committed to sourcing healthy, high quality ingredients for the dishes we serve you. Yet, like all who try to source pesticide-safe produce in Thailand, we face challenges.


Of all the aspects of organic farming, I have found this is the one that most people — including people who buy mostly or exclusively organic food — know the least about.  I have spoken to people who imagined government inspectors present at the farm on a daily basis, testing every tomato and leaf of kale to make sure that no prohibited pesticides were present.  The reality is far less dramatic, actually bordering on boring.


The organizations that certify organic farmers are not federal or state government agencies.  Instead, they are usually private third-party groups and less often, local government agencies such as county agricultural commissioners.  In either case, they are approved as certifiers by the National Organic Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and must follow the standards and rules established by federal law governing organic agriculture.


Backing up for a minute:  before certified organic farming existed, it was already a violation of federal law for farmers to use pesticides on crops without reporting their use to the state.  Organic certifiers have full access to “Pesticide Use Reports” filed with the state.  So the likelihood of any organic farmer getting away with intentionally spraying their crops with prohibited materials is very slim.

In Japan and the European Union, excessive chemical residues are only found in 4% of samples. In Thailand, this number is an alarming 56%.

Further reason to be alarmed, include the following:

  • Thailand does not have a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) law and there are no reports on toxic substances discharged from individual factories. With wind and stormwater runoff, many of these substances end up in agriculture.
  • The Thailand Pesticide Alert Network (Thai-PAN), a non-governmental organization, conducted a survey on nine vegetables and six types of fruit in Thailand, and found 64% of 13 were not safe to eat as they contained harmful chemicals exceeding the maximum residue limit (MRL).
  • Notably, 57.1% of fruits and vegetables granted the “Q mark” by the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards, were contaminated at unsafe levels.
  • 25% of the products certified organic, and claimed to be free of chemicals, had chemical residues exceeding the accepted standards.