Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Organic Food: Why do we need it more than ever?

In our rush to regulate the way we eat, we are all looking for the ultimate nutrition fix. We want a final solution to our bodily ills and are always looking for a way to make our meals more nourishing and wholesome. It’s not surprising, that ‘organic food’ is the new buzzword in India’s urban centres, with supermarket aisles stacking boxes of ‘organic’ cereals on top of bottles of ‘organic’ honey and cold pressed ‘organic’ oils. After all, the very idea of organic food-grown, produced and packaged without any chemical intervention, such as pesticides and fertilisers is appealing to those who are increasingly horrified by all chemicals we unknowingly ingest every day.

What is organic food?

  • Organic crops are grown in chemical-free soil, and farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bio-engineered genes and chemical or petroleum-based fertilisers. Organic livestock is reared without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones and any animal by-products; they must also have access to the outdoors and should only be given organic feed.
  • In organic farming, the yield is lower, although the crops grown in this way are tastier, more nutritious and also harm the environment a lot less. Moreover, in traditional agriculture, the farmer understands that there will be 10-20 percent wastage of his food. This fraction will usually be consumed by birds and insects. This explains how organic food turns out to be so expensive.
  • What we put into our body determines how healthy we are. If we are eating chemical-laden food, it is obviously harmful in the long run. That is why; it is beneficial to switch to organic food. 
  • According to organic retailers, there is a 70 percent increase every year in the demand for organic food. If this trend persists, in about 10 years from now, organic food will compete with conventionally-produced food as a category by itself. 

Why buying organic food is a costly affair?

Organic food is produced in strict adherence to set rules making it more expensive than food produced through conventional agriculture. Besides, the yield from an organic farm, unaided by chemical fertilisers and pesticides, is much lower than that produced on a farm that uses these chemicals.

Vishalakshi Padmanabhan of Buffalo Back Organic in Bangalore quotes, “The issue is our voracity. We have taken to using chemicals in our fields because this ensures more yield. In organic farming, the yield is lower, although the crops grown in this way are tastier, more nutritious and also harm the environment a lot less.”

However, committing to the consumption of organic food is really about committing to a certain lifestyle that benefits not just the individual, but also society. We think nothing of spending a few hundred rupees on fast food, but when it comes to eating wholesome organic food, we fuss about spending a little more. Most farmers are selling their crops at a loss; they are not counting the hours of labour that they put in when they sell their produce. By buying organic and agreeing to pay a little more, we are supporting the farmers. Organic farming was practised in our country for centuries before we introduced chemicals and farmers have perfected organic practices. Now, all the wisdom that was collected over centuries is being lost; indigenous varieties of coarse grains and certain vegetables are slowly going extinct. 

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