The National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) standards in India have been recognized by USDA (US), European Commission and FOAG, Switzerland as equivalent to their country standards. Isn’t it an achievement for India? I don’t think so! Cow dung & urine has been mentioned as fertilizers in our vedas thousands of years back.
There is no single global certification body or a common set of standards that organic farmers or producers can follow. As awareness about organic food increases, exporters are facing issues of standardization in regulations. For example, you purchase a piece of land for farming, which was previously being sprayed with chemical pesticides regularly. You start organic farming. After how many years can your produce be marked as organic? There are no clear answers. It has been proven that the use of chemical pesticides has resulted in :
- Multiple health issues for humans consuming the produce
- Impacted birds, honeybees, etc in strange ways, including infertility
- Insects, bacteria, etc developing pesticide resistance
- Rendering the soil barren after a few years of chemical pesticide usage
- A polluted environment
India should take the lead to establish benchmarks for global organic certification. If you are sceptical about the idea, I don’t blame you. 318 chemicals widely used by farmers in India are part of the WHO/FAO list of chemicals that have been banned. Some of them are poisonous enough to kill a person if sprayed directly or inhaled and some cause cancer and damage the reproductive system. Why should the world take notice if India comes up with standards for organic farming? Here are two reasons:
- Ayurveda has provided a well-documented list of natural pesticides. Government organizations have tested some of these formulas and have published a report here http://nopr.niscair.res.in/bitstream/123456789/19367/1/IJTK%201%28Inaugural%29%2040-50.pdf There’s a lot more research left to be done to confirm the Ayurvedic texts, but the ancient knowledge is still far advanced than that of current agricultural science.
- Some Indian farmers possess the know how of ancient organic farming, passed on to them from earlier generations. They understand practical applications and can solve real world problems in the farm, unlike scientists in a lab.
Organic Food Can Be Bad For You
If you the kind of person who never compromises on the quality of food and exclusively consumes organic food, you can drop your guard a bit. Here is why organic products may not always be healthy:
There are certain foods that are not good for health, organic or not. Take tea for example. Drinking the highest grade organic tea can still be harmful for you. Organic certification does not translate to healthy food. It simply means that there are no harmful chemicals like pesticides or insecticides in it.
Not In It’s Natural Form
It’s organic, but is it in the form it’s supposed to be? Take jaggery for instance. Organic jaggery is now available either as a powder or as a block as hard as stone. Original jaggery is blackish brown in color, is a thick liquid with granules and has a slightly pungent aftertaste. The organic jaggery available in stores has none of these properties, hence does not have the health benefits associated with jaggery.
Organic products can be adulterated, just as their neighboring products on the store shelves. An organic certification just checks for chemical usage. Contaminating finger millet flour with mud is a common trick that goes unnoticed in organic testing. When you cook the ragi flour to a thick consistency, pure raagi behaves like thick kheer. It’s almost jelly like and the water separates from it if you stir it with a spoon. This will not happen if there are impurities.
Having a tasty organic pineapple in the middle of winter? Although pineapples are available throughout the year, it’s a seasonal fruit. The pineapples you eat should be fresh and harvested between March to May. They have a sweet taste. If the winter pineapple you are having is canned, it has spent more than 6 months in cold storage. Although modern science may think it’s still edible, ayurveda does not think so. If it’s a whole fruit, you have been cheated. It’s not organic. Organic off season cauliflower is worse for your health than an in season cauliflower grown using hydroponics
Organic Testing Hacks
You may have the resources and the willingness to eat organic, but do you have the knowledge of handling organic food? If you are separated from organic food by two generations, all hope is lost. I remember my mom buying desi eggs. When the vendor rang the doorbell, mom would take a bowl and collect the eggs in it. However, it never used to be empty. She filled it with water before collecting the eggs. The vendor took back eggs that floated in the water. Not knowing this trick, a young mom fed her kid rotten country eggs, resulting in food poisoning. Ayurveda recommends consuming ghee that is at least 6 months old. If you can wait, store it for a year. Most
The organic packet of wheat flour that you bought could be free of chemicals, but is it maida free? Mixing maida with atta does not affect its organic certification, but it’s certainly bad for your health. A packet claiming to be a certain variety of rice could actually be a cheaper alternative. Your swanky package of desi cow ghee could be jersey ghee or worse, dalda. If you have had the original stuff and have a distinct memory of the taste (& smell), you can easily know the difference.
What’s Better Than Organic?
Follow the Ayurveda way of life. Eat local food even if the can of tuna from US or the Japanese mushrooms at the superstore seem tempting. Even if the exotic vegetables are grown right here in India, they are not good for your health. Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables. Ignore the watermelon and pineapple in winter season & apples in summer. Remember, fertilizers and pesticides may be harmful, but they still have a price tag attached to them. No farmer will use them if they are absolutely not required. If you are eating local & seasonal produce, it’s most probably organic, even if it’s being sold by a roadside vendor without organic certification.