Organic Food!! The New kid on the Block!! In recent years the trend of organic food has been fast catching up among the rich and the upper middle class alike. Over the past decade there has been a steady growth in the sales of organic food manufacturers, even though the price of organic food is naturally (Pun Intended) higher. In fact, on an average, a household has to shell out anything between 1500-2000 INR extra cost for the usage of organic products.
What is Organic Food?
Food produced by means of organic farming is a holistic, ecologically balanced approach to farming and generally have the following features:
- Organic farming strives towards cycling resources, promoting ecological balance and conserving biodiversity.
- The usage of certain pesticides and fertilisers which are considered harmful for health is restricted.
- Organic food is not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents or synthetic food additives.
Since time immemorial, food that was produced was organic, i.e. grown naturally. It was only after the industrialisation of agriculture in the 1940s that food grown included different kinds of chemicals that helped in protecting as well as accelerating the growth of the food produced, but in the long run, had negative impact on the health of the individual consuming such food.
Organic food is more expensive because of simple economics; supply is lesser than demand because in this kind of farming growth of food cannot be accelerated. There are other reasons which include:
- More workers have to be hired for tasks that require some extra help in the absence of strong synthetic chemicals.
- Hand weeding is done
- Regeneration of soil using irrigation, compost, and crop rotations is practiced.
- Polluted water is regularly cleaned-up.
- The remediation of pesticide contamination is done along with many other processes.
But Is Organic Food Really Worth It?
Majority of the consumers who are particular about consuming organic food when asked the reason state that they buying organics to avoid pesticides. However, the concept of organic farming has been oversimplified for potential consumers. This kind of farming uses pesticides and fungicides too.
Organic farming does not use synthetic pesticides. But that does not mean it does not necessarily use pesticides. They do use natural pesticides.
Organic, or natural, pesticides are made by other organisms. But natural does not necessarily mean safe. Nicotine and rotenone, or derris dust ( controversial pesticide) for eg are natural pesticides but harmful for health and more toxic than synthetic pesticides.
However organic pesticides in most cases are not as bad as conventional pesticides. In most cases they are safer and eco-friendly. Some of them include:
- Neem oil used as an repellent for insects.
- Insecticidal Soap used against a wide variety of small, soft-bodied pests like aphids, spider mites and scale crawlers
- Spinosad used against a broad range of pests
- Boric acid used against termites, carpenter ants and beetles
- And various other plant-based oils
There are no claims, and very little research regarding the safety, health benefits and nutrition of organic food. However, when compared to food produced with the help of synthetic pesticides, organic food grown through organic farming poses a much lower risk to the soil, atmosphere, ground water, as well as all kinds of waterbodies including lakes and rivers. Also research shows that in case of children whose immune system is not yet fully developed, they are more prone to diseases from food grown with the help of synthetic pesticides.
There is no doubt that if one can afford, organic food is indeed a safer option in the present times when diseases like cancer have become rampant because of food containing synthetic pesticides. However, the question remains, what about the health of the lower income group. How can they protect themselves when they cannot afford organic food.
If you can afford to buy organic food here are a few things you should know:
- Food labelled “100% organic” has no synthetic ingredients.
- Food labelled “organic” has a minimum of 95% organic ingredients.
- Food labelled “made with organic ingredients” generally contains at least 70% organic ingredients.
- Meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy labelled “organic” normally come from animals that have never received antibiotics or growth hormones.
A Checklist of food items that are better when organic include Peaches, Apples, Sweet bell peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Pears, Grapes (imported), Spinach, Lettuce, and Potatoes.