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Why Organic?



Q.What is Organic Agriculture?

International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) lays down the following definition:

“Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic Agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved."

Q. Isn’t organic farming just an old-fashioned way of doing things?

The answer to this is ‘yes and no’. Organic farming draws on thousands of years of farming knowledge and experience, instead of relying on chemicals created in the last fifty years or so. However, it also draws upon the state of the art agricultural research.

Q.What’s wrong with the produce I purchase at street side mandi?

What you purchase at mandi is most likely grown using, what is now called, conventional farming. However, this way of input- intensive (think, fertilizer and pesticide) farming has become conventional only in the last 50 years.

It is a well-known fact that the excessive use of pesticides has created resistant organisms and even harmful mutated ones. This in addition to, ‘the more, the better’ attitude, leads to the farmer spraying more & more pesticides every year to keep the pests at bay.

Q. Ok, so the conventional produce uses more pesticides. So what?

These chemicals persist and contaminate air, ground water and food. Most importantly, these carcinogenic chemicals end up causing cancer to the farmers and the consumers. When the effects of these chemicals are not as extreme, they cause allergies and eating disorders.

The build-up of seemingly small amounts of harmful pesticides and chemicals in our daily food significantly increases the risk of infertility, birth defects and damage to nervous system. Modern research has proven this time and again.

Research indicates eating food, which contains fertilizer residues makes kids vulnerable to the risks of brain damage, childhood cancers, and developmental disorders. Three studies in 2011 showed that pregnant women exposed to higher amounts of organophosphate pesticides, which are used in conventional farming, ended up having children with lower IQs than those of their peers.

Q. Ok, I understand that pesticides and other chemicals used in conventional farming are dangerous. But surely, there must be some regulation to control it, right?

Yes, there are laws regulating the amount that can be used. But like many things in India, the enforcement fails. Also, think of it this way: the allowed limit of chemical residue on tomato and onion may be below the stipulated limit individually but when combined, might exceed the daily dose. Think of how many meals in the day contain them both?

Think of this limit next time you eat those green grapes that are practically white from sprayed chemicals. It’s not just grapes, a conventionally grown apple may be sprayed up to 16 times with over 30 different chemicals.

Q. How come I don’t hear much about this on media?

The coverage on effects of pesticides and benefits of organic farming has been growing steadily in print media, Television and Social media. The issue has been covered on a national stage in the following Satyameva Jayate episode:

Q. Is organic food really healthier?

As per the nutritional content, some studies say ‘yes’, others say ‘not necessarily’, but the evidence is growing in favor of organic all the time. However, by consuming organic, think of all the harmful chemicals you are not ingesting. Organic regulations strictly prohibit the use of synthetic, toxic, persistent pesticides.

Q. Does organic food actually taste better?

Anecdotally, most people will say a resounding ‘yes’. It’s a point that is hard for scientists to prove though, because it’s so subjective. You have to decide for yourself. However, we all can agree that fresh produce tastes better. At Advaita Organics, we source our produce from local farmers and minimize the time between the harvest and your fridge. By this virtue, our organic produce does taste better.

Q. Healthy for humans, is that all? Are there any other benefits of Organic Farming?

The conventional farming methods, despite high yields are of highly destructive nature, as they strip the soil of all its fertility and render it useless in a matter of a few years. Over time, this leads to imbalance in ecosystem. Also, fertilizers contribute to about 90% of Nitrous Oxide (a green house gas) emissions in the country.

Organic farming uses less intensive methods to produce food and encourages diversity of wildlife. Reports have shown that, for instance, certain types of bird are starting to flourish around organic farms. Strict controls on the types of pesticides, and when they can be used, drastically reduces the leaching of harmful elements into water courses and damage to wildlife (insects, for example). Organic farms promote biodiversity and healthy interactions between different elements of the ecosystem.

So, the organic farming is also great for environment.

Q. Why is organic food not cheap?

Many would argue that the organic cost of food reflects the true cost of food, when socio-economic and environmental factors of food production are taken into account.

Organic farming is more labor intensive as the inputs have to manually made as compared to readily available fertilizers. Government’s support also changes the equation. Fertiliser accounts for large fiscal subsidies of about 73,000 crore or 0.5 percent of GDP. Also, production costs may be inflated relative to conventional counterparts because often the economies of scale restrict reduced costs. The careful controls placed on organic production including the licensing system add to the costs of production.

Q. I understand. But still, it costs more…

Per person, say you save Rs. 100 a week by purchasing conventional produce. True, you can save a grand total of 5,200/- by the end of the year. But how much did you spend on that new smartphone again?

Think of the cost to your health. Your yearly savings won’t even pay for a night at the hospital. Due to the failure of our regulatory system, we have a two-tier system, where unless you pay more, you don’t get guaranteed safe food.

Q. Ok, I am convinced. But how can I be sure that farmers are sticking to organic standards? Can’t anyone just claim to be an organic producer?

Definitely not. The standards for organic production in India are laid out by the GOI under the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP). The NPOP standards for production and accreditation system are on par with international systems and are recognized by European Commission, Switzerland and USDA.

We work with farmers who are being guided by non-profit organizations such as Center for Sustainable Agriculture(CSA) which promote organic farming. In addition, we conduct a field survey and randomly send samples to the laboratory to check for any pesticide residue