Organic foods are those that are grown or processed with use of all natural methods and techniques and minimal harm to the ecosystem. Well, this is what it is supposed to be; but we are not sure how many so-called organic foods are truly organic. While we expect that all foods should be grown in such a way so as to ensure that it is safe for human consumption and has positive impact on health, the introduction of organic foods has rather challenged our faith in the conventionally available foods. We are left wondering whether whatever we have been consuming so far is contaminated with harmful chemicals unsuitable for humans?
Going by the current verdict, organic foods are not nutritionally superior than the regular foods. So, you can relax a bit. But, are they safer ..yes !
So what’s the big deal about organic
Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce don’t use conventional methods to fertilize and control weeds.
The green revolution followed by organic evolution ?!
In the 1960’s there was a major scarcity of food in India leading to gross malnutrition and increased mortality. That is when the green revolution kicked-in whereby the yield of crops was improved dramatically using modern farming techniques.
Modern– we are highly skeptical about his term as it secretly implies adapting the easier way out for commercial benefits.
Modern farming techniques make use of high yielding varieties of seeds (developing selective strains) , chemical fertilizers and irrigation system that increase crop yield and overcome deficit faster. One can see it as application of science and technology to overcome a natural problem. But finding solution for nature-related phenomena in the lab instead of nature itself has its own drawbacks.
The use of mono-cropping to ensure bulk-production of certain grains and facilitate their export has led to large scale destruction of land. Most of the land in India is now infertile, depleted of essential nutrients and cannot support biodiversity. The global warming has added to the woes with unpredictable water supply and harsh climates.
More recently, the National Programme for organic production has been instituted in India mainly to encourage the development of organic farming and organic processing.
Indian National Standards for Organic Production & India Organic Logo is governed by APEDA ( Agricultural and Processed food product Export Development Authority), which provides national standards for organic products (See image-Organic certified foods in India).
In 2015-16, India produced around 1.35 million MT of certified organic products which includes all varieties of food products namely Sugarcane, Oil Seeds, Cereals & Millets, Cotton, Pulses, Medicinal Plants, Tea, Fruits, Spices, Dry Fruits, Vegetables, Coffee etc.
Among all the states, Madhya Pradesh has covered largest area under organic certification followed by Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Seeing the increased demand for organic produce in the West, government is also supporting the organic farming initiatives. Several political and social barriers exist in the adaptation to organic foods.
Slowly the focus is shifting back to the traditional farming methods and allowing nature to control the course of health for mankind. While going organic may seem like more of a fashion statement than a conscious healthful decision, sooner or later we all have to understand its importance and benefits. Simply put, organic symbolizes going back to the roots and adapting natural ways and means to cultivate food.
Read more on benefits of organic foods in our next blog.
Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.