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Besides the obvious benefits, very little has been said of organic food. It's often questioned over its nutritional superiority and accused of being a costlier option. So, what do we know about organic food - besides the fact that it's free of pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones, of course? Is there a proven way of knowing that eating organic food makes you healthier?
Let's take the example of organic and industrial milk. Industrial milk is known to be laced with antibiotics and stress hormones which are things organic milk (from trusted sources) is free of. Apparently, this goes back to the kind of cows and how they're being bred. The cows are often cross-bred, kept in sub-standard living conditions, are given unclean water and have limited room to move around. On the other hand, organic milk is sourced from cows that are native to places like Punjab, Gujarat and Rajasthan (aren't cross-bred), have good living conditions and produce milk that's richer in Omega 3 and other essential fatty acids. Isn't this the kind of food you'd like to get for yourself and your family?
The term 'organic' can be traced back to the 1940s in ""Look to the Land"", a book on farming by Lord Northbourne. He says - ""The farm itself should have a biological completeness, it must be a living entity, it must be a unit which has within itself, a balanced organic life"".
Codex Alimentarius in association with IFOAM (International Foundation for Organic Agriculture) and FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) defines organic culture as ""a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It emphasizes the use of management practices in reference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfill any specific function within the system.""
In simpler words, organic farming is that which uses natural methods and sources of fertilization instead of relying on chemicals which change the composition of the soil.
Organic Farming in India
India and China have been practicing organic farming for centuries but this started to go off balance with the mechanization of farming for better yields. With a tractor, one farmer could till a large land area. With the help of ammonium nitrite, he could give more nitrogen and DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, known for its insecticidal properties) kept the pests away.
Both of these alternatives were abundant and cheap, but their rampant use destroyed not only the soil but also had a detrimental effect on the end consumer's health. Sir Albert Howard, often referred to as the father of Organic farming, along with his wife Gabrielle, worked at PUSA, a government estate in Calcutta, dedicated to researching the agriculture industry, from 1905-1924. They studied the traditional farming practices and realized that our traditional farming practices were much better than other places. Other environmentalists across the world started studying and documenting the effects of pesticides on the environment and this in turn started a silent movement across the globe. With the sector seeing immense growth, agribusinesses are also coming on board.
India has also seen a boom in this sector. The Ministry of Commerce & Industry puts the area under Organic certification at 4.72 million hectares. It identifies the global food markets at 6.8 billion USD and India's total export of Organic Agriculture products at 220.37 million USD.
Stamp of Organic in India
In India, a trademark 'India Organic' is issued on the basis of compliance with the regulations laid down by National Standards for Organic Production. Certification is given to manufactures after due inspection.
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