Organic Food – An Ancient Culture in India
Organic food is grown without the use of synthetic chemicals, such as human-made pesticides, fertilizers and does not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Organic foods include fresh produce, meats, and dairy products as well as processed foods such as crackers, drinks, and frozen meals.
So, a food can’t be qualified as Organic if any of below is used:
- synthetic chemicals
- non-GMO (genetically modified organisms)
- growth hormones
- feed made from animal parts
Compared with inorganically grown produce, organically grown produce has lower detectable levels of pesticide residue. Organic produce may have residue because of pesticides approved for organic farming or because of airborne pesticides from nearby farms.
Organic food is Conventionally grown in India:
For world term ‘conventional farming’ means crops grown or food produced using synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, pesticides etc. but for India conventionally grown means using the techniques which our forefathers were using i.e. 100% organically, by using natural fertilizers & pesticides (Neem Oil, Neem Khali, Wood Ash Spray and water diluted butter milk spray etc.).
Even, I remember that my father was using manure made up of cow dung, fireplace wood ash and kitchen waste; we were used to shuffle the crops to improve the fertility and to fulfill need of nitrogen and other micro-organisms.
Organic food was a Culture in India:
India is a country known for its wisdom in traditional agriculture, which was essentially organic and its farmers are 40 century farmers with large pool of traditional wisdom on best practices in organic agriculture, the modern standards based organic agriculture started only recently with the growing demand for organic food and fiber in the western world.
As per Vedas our agriculture was based on
- The principle of health
- The principle of ecology
- The principle of fairness
- The principle of care
I remember when we were children our father was used to grow at least 1 acre wheat, Millet and seasonal vegetables for our family use and was not using any chemical fertilizer and pesticides, even we were not using hybrid seeds, 306 wheat(Indian ‘Deshi’ variety) and Deshi variety small seeds millet we were growing.
That was Organic food grown and was around 30 to 40 years ago when no one was talking about Organic Food. So, this was our culture and we were used to this.
India’s vast geographical spread, fertile soil, bio diversity and historical traditions of organic farming are perfect fit– so, you will realize why we are well on our way to becoming an organic superpower.
Organic farming is sustainable because it respects, preserves and sustains the great ecological cycles of nature, while integrating their biological processes into the processes of food production.
For organic farmers, everything right from soil bacteria, deep-rooted weeds to pests, earthworms and animals are essential to the complex ecosystem. All these elements are interdependent and combine to provide the nourishment that sustains life on earth.
Organic farming is evolving from being just a grass-roots movement to slowly becoming a commercial opportunity in India.
Organic farming methods have the potential to increase production and offer a wide range of ecological benefits and also empower farmers. In India, organic farming is allowing small and marginal farmers to reduce their dependence on chemicals, which means reducing production costs thereby making their livelihoods sustainable and secure.
Organic farming practices:
These are designed to meet the following goals:
- To get pure and healthy food
- Enhance soil and water quality
- Reduce pollution
- Provide safe, healthy livestock habitats
- Enable natural livestock behavior
- Promote a self-sustaining cycle of resources on a farm
Materials or practices not permitted in organic farming include:
- Synthetic fertilizers to add nutrients to the soil
- Sewage sludge as fertilizer
- Most synthetic pesticides for pest control
- Irradiation to preserve food or to eliminate disease or pests
- Genetically modified seeds, used to improve disease or pest resistance or to improve crop yields
- Antibiotics or growth hormones for livestock
Organic farming materials or practices may include:
- Plant waste left on fields (green manure), livestock manure(cow dung manure) or compost made from kitchen waste to improve soil quality
- Crop rotation to preserve & enhance soil quality and to interrupt cycles of pests or disease
- Cover crops that prevent soil erosion when parcels of land are not in use and to plow into soil for improving soil quality
- Use Mulching techniques to control weeds
- Sow more than one crops i.e. multi-crop system to enhance soil fertility
- Predatory insects or insect traps to control pests
- Certain natural pesticides like Neem Oil, Neela Thotha, Garlic & Chilli mixture and buttermilk mixed with turmeric etc. can be used to control the pests.
Organic farming practices for livestock include:
- Healthy living conditions and access to the outdoors / open fields
- Pasture feeding for at least 30% of livestock’s nutritional needs during grazing season
- Organic foods for animals
Why we need Organic Foods?
As we know that inorganic agriculture practices are using lot of synthetic/chemical fertilizer and pesticides. So crops, veggies & fruits grown using this practice are having high chemical and pesticides residues and hence transferred to our food cooked using these. So, to avoid this we should use Organic products which are healthy and free from chemicals & pesticides.
Various studies are done on this and it’s proved that these chemical substances present in food chain are dangerous for our health and are reason of various health problems like cancer, reproduction system, and immune or nervous system etc.
Use of synthetic/chemical fertilizer and pesticides is not recommended and for producing Organic certified products it’s not allowed. Still, FSSAI has already put in place safety guidelines.
Why to prefer Organic food over inorganically produced food?
Below factors play a major role in choosing Organic food or inorganic:
As this food are having no chemical or pesticides residue, so are safe to eat and having more nutritional value.
Children and pregnant women are most vulnerable groups, going organic whenever possible mainly for fruits and vegetables that carry the heaviest pesticide load make sense.
Children who eat organic foods have lower levels of pesticides in their bodies than those fed industrial foods.
A few studies show that organic foods are higher in minerals and some vitamins, but the increments are small. The real point of organics is better production methods so fewer chemicals will be polluting the soil and water. Benefits can be summarized as below:
- Organic foods can reduce our exposure to chemicals.
- Organic foods can lead to more nutritious or vitamin-enriched fruits and vegetables.
- Organic dairy and meat can be healthier than non-organic varieties.
- Organic foods may have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Organic foods are GMO-free.
- Organic foods might be better for the environment.
Organic production methods prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, thus reducing chemical runoff and the pollution of soils and watersheds.
This often translates into unequal access of organic food to different groups of society. Research indicates that greater wealth and education levels are correlated with organic food purchases.
Some lower income countries produce certified organic produce solely for export to wealthier countries.
This sometimes generates a situation in which the farmers themselves cannot afford to buy the organic foods they are producing. While this strategy may bring economic gain in the short term, it is a concern when farmers are forced out of producing food that feed their local communities, thus increasing food insecurity.
Overall, organic food has grown in popularity, as consumers have increasingly sought and purchased foods that they think is healthier and grown in ways that benefit the environment.
Consumers buy organic food to reduce their exposure to pesticide residues and GMOs.
Some research shows that organically produced food/produce have higher nutritional content than comparable non-organic food, and some people find organic foods to be tastier.
The question remains, however, whether organic food shipped in from across the globe is truly a sustainable method of food production.
Certainly organically produced food from a local farmer who employs an integrated whole-farm approach is fairly environmentally sustainable, though the economic sustainability of such an attempt can be challenging.
Who can afford Organic food?
Of course, cost is a disadvantage to go organic and only high income or who are aware about health benefits associated with Organic food can afford it. Though, Organic food prices are coming down in market and more and more growers showing their interest in adopting Organic Agriculture practices.
As Organic foods are pure, pesticides free and health benefits associated with them, so, it’s obvious and logical to be costly. If we keep in mind the benefits then it’s not costly. Awareness is needed to understand that there are lot of benefits associated and hence due to this this food is affordable.
Why does Organic food cost more?
Along with the rules of supply and demand, we must remember that prices fluctuate in our economy. Organic food prices are coming down, on the whole and are expected to continue as supply grows.
Organic farming is also more time and labor-intensive than, and usually takes place on a smaller scale than the so-called “chemical agri-business” factory farms which impacts cost.
The organic certification process is costly and difficult which impacts cost.
Commercial/industrial farming has often been subsidized by taxpayer funds through the government but there are no as such special schemes or benefits which can help Organic growers to keep their costs in check.
So, due to this the price of conventional food seems low but they are not actually, as not reflecting the true cost of bringing food to market.
Also, if we consider the price of conventional farming, in terms of the damage to our soil, ground water, farm-workers’ and children’s health, and the loss of a family farm lifestyle, is great.
We also pay costs during environmental clean-up or as health care costs. This must be taken into account when measuring the costs and benefits of buying organic.
Spotting organic products in a market:
Organic food certification labels and logo can help you identify the Organic product.
The GOI maintains the voluntary national logo “India Organic”, which is used by exporters, processors and manufacturers. India’s National Organic Labels are:
FSSAI introduced a Jaivik Bharat logo in December 2017 to help customers identify authentic organic food, see below logo if it’s there on product then it’s FSSAI Certified Organic product:
In US, The National Organic Program (run by the USDA) is in charge of labeling foods organic. In order for a food to be labelled “organic” it must meet the USDA’s organic standards. Logo for certified organic products in US is:
Different countries are having different logo for its Organic Certified Products, refer:
Organic food growers and product names can be seen on Jaivik Bhart FSSAI site.
World is really crazy behind Organic food?
Earlier people were converting from Non-veg. to veg., but in vegetarian option also there is so much of courage of Organic food that world is converting to Organic food now.
Simple reason behind it is health benefits associated with it. People are ready to give even more price for Organic food due to it is pure, chemical free and pesticides free.
So, everyone is talking about Organic food now, even many gardening lovers started their own Kitchen & Terrace Veggie gardens.
Even people are now talk a lot about Vegan (only plant based vegetarian non fried food).
Organic Food demand & Industry Growth:
The global organic food and beverages market expected to reach $327,600 million by 2022 from $115,984 million in 2015 at a CAGR (compound annual Growth Rate) of 16.4% from 2014 to 2022. Organic foods and beverages are manufactured from products those are grown using organic farming techniques.
The organic food and beverages market forecast estimated notable growth in the near future, due to the unique advantages of the organic food and beverages such as chemical and pesticide-free, Eco-friendly, and very healthier compared to inorganic food.
Rise in awareness regarding the advantages of organic food and beverages industry intake is expected to fuel the market growth in the near future.
Moreover, increase in income levels, improvement in standards of living, growth in environmental concerns, increase in health problems & diseases due to inorganic foods are some other reasons of growth in this market. The impact of these drivers is expected to increase significantly due to growth in health concerns among the consumers.
We can summarize reasons of Organic food market growth and popularity:
- Awareness about Organic Food health benefits
- Easy reach through E-commerce portals
- Insignificant price difference if compare with health benefits
- Indian government is supporting organic food growers & processing industry though various schemes
- Huge demand in west and hence increase in export
Difficulty faced by Organic food producers | farmers?
- Paste control
- Plant nutrition demand fulfillment
- Low produce
- Markets & Export hubs not easily accessible and no proper guidance available
- Tough certification and maintenance process
- No special financial help/subsidy for Organic producers
- Farmers need to buy technological tools and services through Govt. affiliated Pvt. firms or agencies which sell products and services on high prices, so farmers are not opting these schemes
- Non-available of marketplace where Organic products are promoted
- Cold storage either not available or are costly hence produce can’t be retained for long time.
Organic food certification | Certified Organic foods?
National Program for Organic Production (NPOP) launched during 2001 laid the foundation for systematic development of organic agriculture sector in the country. NPOP, which provides for an institutional framework for accreditation and certification of various facets of organic agriculture processes has earned international recognition and enjoys recognition agreements with European Union, Switzerland and USDA – NOP.
NPOP is being managed and operated by the APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) under Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.
The organic food offered or promoted for sale shall also comply with all the applicable provisions of one of the following systems, namely:-
- National Program for Organic Production (NPOP);
- Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India).
- FSSAI’s Jaivik Bharat program to certify Organic products
- Any other system or standards as may be notified by the Food Authority from time to time.
The Organic food which is marketed through direct sales by the small original producer or producer organization, as determined by the Food Authority from time to time, to the end consumer shall be exempted from the provisions of the systems referred above.
Need to simplify process of Organic Certifications:
As we know most of farmers who grow Organic products are either less educated or not educated, for them it’s not possible to follow such a complicated process of certification for their farms or products. Hiring a consultant or service providing firm is costly for them.
Certification process involves below formalities:
- Lot of documentation required
- Written annual production plan
- Audit trails required
- Written, day-to-day farming and marketing records, covering all activities must be available for inspection at any time.
- Inspection agencies
How to boost Organic food and make affordable and sustainable?
- Shop at farmers’ markets.
- Buy a share in a community-supported agriculture program.
- Join a co-op.
- Join a buying club.
- Buy in bulk.
- Buy big in-season.
- Grow your own.
- Form Organic food grower’s groups for sustainable produce.
Why Financial help & technological assistance a must?
- Fee free certification should be introduced
- Third party inspection should be funded by govt. subsidy
- Equipment and tech help should be funded
- Food processing units should be installed or financial help should be provided
- Cold storage units should be provided or funded
- Cold storage container should be made available for easy and loss free transport
Government’s role in promotion & marketing Organic foods?
Though, Govt. is already playing an important & appreciable role but still they need to ease various processes. Lot of scope of improvement and awareness of consumers and farmers required. Few suggestions which can help improve situation are:
- Marketing agencies should be made available to market the farmer’s produce
- Organic Mandi or Market place stalls should be provided free of cost or with minimum fee.
- Export opportunities should be explained and provide an export friendly environment.
- Periodic seminars should be organized for Certification, Marketing, processing and export
- Subsidy can help farmers to survive and to keep costs in check.
- Availability of cold storage should be improved
- Cheap or subsidized transportation should be provided
- Insurance cover to save farmers, if crops is destroyed by natural calamity, pest or disease attack
- Awareness between consumers about cost, health benefits
- Awareness between farmers that crops grown industrially are degrading soil & polluting ground water.
- Save farmers from ‘Red Tape’ and corrupt practices of Govt. officials
- Implement schemes which provide direct benefits to farmers, currently schemes are implemented through private firms which are charging high escalated costs from farmers for their services and equipment bought through them.
Few schemes run by Indian Govt. are:
- Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana / परम्परागत कृषि विकास योजना (PKVY)
- National Project on Organic Farming (NPOF)
- National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA)
- Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana / राष्ट्रीय कृषि विकास योजना (RKVY)
- National Food Security Mission (NFSM)
- National Horticulture Mission (NHM) & Horticulture Mission for North East and Himalayan State