Image: India Organic certification mark
1. What are organic foods?
2. Why do people prefer Organic foods?
3. What is banned and what is allowed in organic industry?
4. What is the advantage of consuming Organic foods?
5. Why grow organic?
6. Organic facts
7. Why Organic food costs more?
8. Organic labeling
What are organic foods?
Organic foods are items that are produced, processed and packaged without using chemicals. This includes vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and products like cotton. On an overall basis organic food is food growing, prepared and processed without using any chemicals that is organic food production does not involve the use of chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides, chemical preservatives.
In 1939, Lord Northbourne coined the term organic farming in his book Look to the Land (1940), out of his conception of “the farm as organism,” to describe a holistic, ecologically balanced approach to farming—in contrast to what he called chemical farming, which relied on “imported fertility” and “cannot be self-sufficient nor an organic whole.
Early soil scientists also described the differences in soil composition when animal manures were used as “organic”, because they contain carbon compounds where superphosphates and harbor process nitrogen do not. Ideas that organic food could be healthier and better for the environment originated in the early days of the organic movement as a result of publications like the 1943 book, The Living Soil. Gardening and Farming for Health or Disease.
Organic farming does not mean that it follows hundred years of old methods of farming. They combine modern scientific knowledge as well as traditional method for farming purpose.
Organic farming means it is for both plants and animals (live stock)
Why do people prefer Organic foods?
At the present people prefer organic foods for the following reasons:
Organic food helps protect future generations :
The average child is exposed to carcinogenic pesticides in food more than four times the level as compared to an adult’s tolerance limits. Switching to chemical free organic food is a step taken towards preserving the health of the children and also of future generations to come
Organic food is free of artificial additives :
Organic food contains no toxins or preservatives which are believed to be responsible for heart diseases, osteoporosis, migraines and hyperactivity. Use of antibiotics, anti-microbial, hormones and other growth promoters are prohibited in organic production. Similarly use of synthetic chemicals as preservatives & coloring are prohibited in the processing of organic foods.
Chemical residues are either non-existent or are at very low levels in organically produced food :
Studies have indicated that most conventionally farmed foods have pesticide and other chemical residues. Over 400 chemicals are routinely used in conventional farming and research shows that 60% of herbicides, 30% of insecticides and 90% of fungicides are known to cause cancer. These chemicals can also lead to nervous and endocrinal problems. Organic growers do not use toxic and artificial chemicals so you can rest assured that your food is chemical free.
Organic food has lower nitrate levels :
Use of soluble chemical fertilizers has resulted in high nitrate concentration in conventionally farmed food. Not only are these nitrates carcinogenic, they have even been known to impair the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. The nitrate content of organically grown food is significantly lower than the conventionally grown produce.
Organic food is not irradiated :
Many food products, especially those that are to be sent long distance, are irradiated to kill microbes. Irradiation is believed to cause changes even at the molecular level. Organic foods are not permitted to be irradiated and are completely natural.
Organic food has high levels of nutrients :
Even though many studies suggest that there is not much difference in nutrient quantity of organic and nonorganic foods still the organic food is safer and seem to have more vitamin, mineral and nutrient content. Organic advocates claim organically grown foods are nutritionally superior because such foods contain higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. On the other hand, the mainstream scientific community disputes these claims, arguing instead that nutritional differences do not exist. “Plants can’t tell the difference between organic and chemical fertilizers” is an oft quoted statement in support of this latter viewpoint.
An examination of the literature revealed that quite a few studies have been published on this topic. A selection of references is listed in the further reading sections below. In short, the data on nutritional quality of organic produce in comparison to conventional produce are inconclusive. Some research reports point to statistical differences, while other studies do not.
Dr. Joan Gussow, Professor Emeritus of Nutrition and Education at Columbia Teachers College, conducted an extensive review of this topic. In an assessment of the varied scientific research conducted to date, she concludes:
Lacking such careful studies, there is enough cumulative evidence to indicate—to those who wish to be convinced—that organic foods have a variety of qualities that should over the long term make them more healthful—including lower levels of pesticide residue, lower levels of nitrate-nitrogen, greater density, better flavor if they are properly handled, etc. But the available studies are conflicting enough to convince anyone who isn’t a fan of organic, that any differences that can be demonstrated are not worth writing home about, and are certainly not a reason to promote organic food.
To the quality and health conscious, Organic food has a very strong case even if it is slightly more expensive, as they know that the best does come at some extra cost. In summary, Organic food is a sincere attempt to improve the quality of life through the food we eat; and, this is where the benefits of Organic lifestyle outweigh the costs
What is banned and what is allowed in organic industry?
Which chemicals are banned while growing organic product?
1. Manufactured fertilizers
2. Herbicides, pesticides and fungicides
3. Synthetic plant growth regulators (hormones)
4. Genetically modified organisms and human sludge etc.
What is allowed ?
4.Biological pest control
What is the advantage of consuming Organic foods?
No Chemicals In Your Daily Diet : Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill living organisms and are harmful for humans. Organic farming makes sure you have no chemicals in your daily diet.
Tastes Great : Well-balanced soil grows strong and healthy crops that are wholesome and contain the required nutrient in the right proportions. Hence they taste great and are more nutritious.
Reduce Health Risks : Research has linked many approved pesticides with cancer and other diseases. Organic agriculture is the only way to keep them from getting into our body thus reducing health risks.
Our Tomorrow Our Children : Children are four times more susceptible than adults to cancer causing pesticides in food. Give them a wholesome life with organic.
Stringent Standards : Our products are organically certified, which means they come with an assurance that the products have been manufactured without the use of toxins and chemicals and are superior to other products.
Protect The Earth: We lose billions of tons of topsoil due to conventional agricultural practices. Organic farming brings back the health of the soil.
Prevent Water Contamination: Pesticides and chemo-synthetic fertilizers used in conventional farming are estimated to pollute the primary sources of drinking water to 60-70% of the country’s population. Organic farming prevents water contamination.
Preserve Diversity : Loss of large variety of species (biodiversity) is a result of one crop being produced on the same soil year after year. Organic farming counteracts the loss
Help The Small Farmers : Organic farming can be a lifeline for small farmers because it offers an alternative market where he can get a fair price.
Stay In Harmony With Nature : Organic practices respect the need for healthy eco-system; including forage crops, retaining fence- rows, wetlands and other natural areas, encourages wild life.
Why grow organic?
The concept of growing organic food is based on “Healthy soils equals healthy food equals healthy people” Converting a land to organic status takes minimum 3 years.
Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.
Organic farming is sustainable – this means food can be produced indefinitely, without causing irreversible damage to ecosystem health. Two key issues are biophysical (the long-term effects of various practices on soil properties and processes essential for crop productivity) and socio-economic (the long-term ability of farmers to obtain inputs and manage resources such as labor).
Chemical cultivation methods, pesticide residues from crop spraying, the presence of veterinary drugs in meat products, and the entirely unknown impact of genetically modified varieties of grains make inorganically grown food grains unsafe in the long run.
Organic food is more nutritious. Increased soil quality, greater attention to quality, and selection of crop varieties for nutrition and taste instead of size, appearance, and shipping characteristics are reasons for higher nutrient density of organic foods.
Every food purchase supports the system that delivers it, and if large-scale chemical production methods are damaging to the environment, then purchasing these foods supports this damage. A main goal of organic farming is minimizing impact to the environment.
‘Conventional’ or un-organic farming is unsustainable, because it relies on artificial inputs (synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals, machinery, etc.) that ultimately requires energy in the form of fossil fuels. Also the land is degraded through soil erosion, salinization, and other processes that eventually become infertile.
Without cheap fossil fuels and government subsidies, conventional agriculture would not be possible, and that despite technological advancements, and eventually this leads to an agricultural crisis as a result of depleted soil. This is precisely what has happened in Anantapur district.
The cultivation of monocultures, many acres planted with the same crop year after year, increases susceptibility to pests and diseases and depletes the soil, while eliminating most native flora and fauna.
In contrast, organic farming often utilizes intercropping, crop rotation, fallow periods, and integrated pest management to promote biodiversity and preserve the health of the soil while minimizing the risk of diseases.
Modern agricultural practices often result in large amounts of nitrogen runoff from the heavy use of fertilizer, which pollutes watersheds. In addition to posing a threat to human health and disrupting aquatic ecosystems, this sometimes results in algal blooms which deplete the water of oxygen resulting in fish kills. Pesticide runoff also causes many problems.
1. The average non organic fruit contains more than 20 pesticides.
2. Organic food is richer in vitamins, minerals and fibre and retains the levels of nutrients for much longer.
3. Your body will be more resistant to disease as it will have higher levels of the essential nutrients it needs to fight off infection.
4. You will have more energy through consuming lower levels of toxins and chemicals that slow your body down.
5. Organic food producers must meet stringent standards.
6. Organic farms respect our water resources and do not leach nitrogens and other pollutants from their soil.
7. Organic food just tastes so much better.
Why Organic food costs more?
Organic food production is generally labor intensive and involves usage of fertilizers, pesticides and preservatives that are all organic which are expensive than chemical based fertilizers and pesticides. This is one reason that tells us why organic food costs more. Other facts are organic crop yield -which is usually less and farmers want to compensate for the loss of fertilizers subsidy benefit that is available for nonorganic farmers. Organic farming also need certification for the yield and food from certifying agency that costs the farmers.
If you have a small garden you can grow your organic vegetables without much of cost.
ORGANIC LABELING :
Image: National Program for Organic Production, India
Symbolizing the rhythm of cosmic and earth forces represented by the blue and brown waves of force and energy, ‘India Organic’ logo celebrates the essence of nature. These forces work in harmony upon the earth’s environment and this rhythm is reinforced and supported by the green plant growth. The colours used have a special significance in the logo concept. The cosmic force in blue symbolizes universal purity. Richness of soil, nourished with natural ingredients in organic farming, is symbolized by the earth forces in golden brown. The plant in green uses the colour of nature and natural products untouched by chemicals. The blue background is symbolic of earth’s environment that is congenial for life to thrive in and is also free of pollution and harmful chemicals India Organic etched over I the surface authenticates the carrier as “Organic” and also establishes the Indian connection for all the carriers of the mark. Beautifully synthesizing all the elements of our environment, the logo also communicates total ad’herence to t’he Natlonal Organic Standards.
A trademark – “India Organic” will be granted on the basis of compliance with the National Standards for Organic Production (NSOP). Communicating the genuineness as well as the origin of the product, this trademark will be owned by the Government of India. Only such exporters, manufacturers and processors whose products are duly certified by the accredited inspection and certification agencies, will be granted the license to use of the logo which would be governed by a set of regulations
The Indian Organic Logo must comprise of the color specifications listed below :
Currently, India ranks 10th among the top ten countries in terms of cultivable land under organic certification. The certified area includes 15% cultivable area with 0.72 million Hectare and rest 85% (3.99 million Hectare) is forest and wild area for collection of minor forest produces. The total area under organic certification is 4.72 million Hectare (2013-14).
India produced around 1.24 million MT of certified organic products which includes all varieties of food products namely Sugarcane, Cotton, Oil Seeds, Basmati rice, Pulses, Spices, Tea, Fruits, Dry fruits, Vegetables, Coffee and their value added products. The production is not limited to the edible sector but also produces organic cotton fiber, functional food products etc.
Among all the states, Madhya Pradesh has covered largest area under organic certification followed by Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.
India exported 135 products last year (2013-14) with the total volume of 194088 MT including 16322 MT organic textiles. The organic agri export realization was around 403 million US $ including 183 US $ organic textiles registering a 7.73% growth over the previous year. Organic products are exported to US, European Union, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, South East Asian countries, Middle East, South Africa etc..
Oil seeds – Soybean (70%) lead among the products exported followed by Cereals & Millets other than Basmati (6%), Processed food products (5%), Basmati Rice (4%), Sugar (3%), Tea (2%), Pulses and Lentils (1%), Dry fruits (1%), Spices (1%) and others.
There are four different levels or categories for organic labeling. 1)‘100%’ Organic: This means that all ingredients are produced organically. It also may have the USDA seal. 2)‘Organic’: At least 95% or more of the ingredients are organic. 3)’Made With Organic Ingredients': Contains at least 70% organic ingredients. 4)‘Less Than 70. Organic Ingredients’: Three of the organic ingredients must be listed under the ingredient section of the label. To be certified organic, products must be grown and manufactured in a manner that adheres to standards set by the country they are sold in :
• Australia: NASAA Organic Standard
• European Union: EU-Eco-regulation
• Sweden: KRAV
• United Kingdom: DEFRA
• Poland: Association of Polish Ecology
• Norway: Debio Organic certification
• India: NPOP, (National Program for Organic Production)
• Indonesia: BIOCert, run by Agricultural Ministry of Indonesia.
• Japan: JAS Standards
• United States: National Organic Program (NOP) Standards
ORGANIC LABELLING INSTRUCTION IN INDIA
How do you know the product you buy is organic ?
Though not a norm in India yet, sometimes fruits and vegetables meant for exports do land up in the local market and have a sticker on them that can be checked. (4 digit PLU — price look up code — the sticker basically means grown with pesticides; 5 digit codes starting with 8 means GM grown, 5 digit codes starting with 9 means organically grown. In India, we basically have the regular 4 digit PLU which indicates that it is grown with pesticides).
If it is naturally and organically grown, no two items will look identical… ever! It’s just not possible to find two things that look absolutely alike in nature. No two leaves of the same mango tree will ever look 100% alike. Similarly, each apple, mango or even grain will always look different from another. Their colour, shape, structure will never be uniform. There will, for instance, be different shades of yellow in your moong dal instead of the uniformly bleached yellow of the regular packaged dal.
Fruits, vegetables and grains won’t be huge in size. So while it is okay to go “ooh aah!” over huge potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, eggplants, cauliflower, capsicum and the humblelauki, or bottle gourd, it is better not to transfer them to your plate. There are, of course, special cases in which people do grow large-sized fruits and vegetables organically as well, but they are not the norm and are difficult to find.
Your Insect Friends
Keedas (worms) in your grains are actually good news. Naturally grown sabut daals (likemoong sabut, or urad sabut), atta, maida, brown rice, white rice and other grains will getkeedas after two-three months and especially in the rains… because keedas too know that non-organic food is just not edible. So don’t jump up and down when you see the worms; all you need to do is wash the grain or sun them out like our grandmothers would and still live on to a 100 years. Keedas don’t contaminate your food, pesticides do. Similarly, if you see a few holes in the leaves of the greens you are buying, pick up the bunch; it means it is not heavily ‘pesticided’. And one rule of thumb to follow with greens is this: after washing them well, give a final rinse of salt water for two-three minutes. This helps remove germs and residue.
Natural is just tastier. When you cook organic vegetables, you will realise that you need less spices as there is so much natural flavor. Similarly, organic fruits are juicier as they are allowed to ripen on the tree. Otherwise, fruits are usually plucked when green and then gassed to ripen and increase shelf life. In the case of a banana, your taste buds will speak up because the pesticide fruit has more water due to the spraying of acetylene gas. Unfortunately, most mangoes today are artificially ripened and apples have the maximum pesticides. The adage ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is actually only for organic apples.
Organic feels healthier, is far lighter on the digestive system and also helps reduce acidity and gas related GI issues. You will feel a perceptible difference soon enough.
The Smell Test
The aroma and texture of organic food is totally different — very potent, in fact. Organic spices, for instance, will have a strong aroma and flavour as they retain their oil content. In non-organic spices, the oils have been extracted and sold separately so they are devoid of any oil. Plus they are usually adulterated, so you need to use more to get the same result. Try ajwain/laung/zeera… just eat it raw and you’ll know the difference. Your tongue will have a strong sensation after half a teaspoon of organic ajwain. Similarly, organic apples have a divine fragrance; keep a crate of organic apples in the house to find out. One problem though is that industries now do a good job of recreating the original smell. The smell of pure ghee, for example, is added in the lab. Some just add the fragrance to make you think you are buying pure ghee, whereas you could actually be buying something totally nutritionless and worthless. So be careful.
Organically grown food always cooks much faster; in fact if you are a multi-tasker, be careful as you might just burn the dish if you go out to peep in the garden while it is cooking. Food with pesticides needs to be cooked for much longer periods.
Please read the label and check for any preservatives present in the product; most preservatives are petroleum based — you surely don’t want to be consuming those!
It is a myth that organic fruits and vegetables spoil faster; stored in a refrigerator they last for a long time.
Organic livestock labeling :
Organic standards put animal welfare first. As well as requiring that animals are genuinely free range, organic standards cover living conditions, food quality, the use of antibiotics and hormones, as well as transport and slaughter. These standards mean that animals raised in organic systems enjoy the very highest welfare standards of farmed animals.
A healthy animal is better able to resist disease than a stressed one. Organic livestock farming aims to prevent disease from occurring by promoting health. This is achieved through appropriate diet, high welfare standards for housing, amount of housing space for each animal, and taking measures to reduce stress.
Organic farm animals :
- Must have access to fields (when weather and ground conditions permit) and are truly free range
- Must have plenty of space – which helps to reduce stress and disease
- Must be fed a diet that is as natural as possible and free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Must only be given drugs to treat an illness – the routine use of antibioticsis prohibited
- Cannot be given hormones which make them grow more quickly or make them more productive
- Must not be produced from cloned animals
Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones.
- Products labeled “100 percent organic” must contain only organically produced materials
- Products labeled simply “organic” must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients, whereas
- The label “made with organic ingredients” can contain anywhere between 70 to 95 percent organic ingredients
Organic products cannot be irradiated, are not allowed to contain preservatives or flavor enhancing chemicals, nor can they contain traces of heavy metals or other contaminants in excess of tolerances.
Organic Certification in India :
India Organic is a certification mark for organically farmed food products manufactured in India. The certification mark certifies that an organic food product conforms to the National Standards for Organic Products established in 2000.
Those standards ensures that the product or the raw materials used in the product were grown through organic farming, without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or induced hormones. The certification is issued by testing centers accredited by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). under the National Program for Organic Production of the Government of India.
Even though the standards are in effect since 2000, the certification scheme and hence the certification mark came into existence in 2002. In India, APEDA regulates the certification of organic products as per National Standards for Organic Production. “The NPOP standards for production and accreditation system have been recognized by European Commission and Switzerland as equivalent to their country standards. Similarly, USDA has recognized NPOP conformity assessment procedures of accreditation as equivalent to that of US. With these recognitions, Indian organic products duly certified by the accredited certification bodies of India are accepted by the importing countries.” Organic food products manufactured and exported from India are marked with the India Organic certification mark issued by the APEDA. APEDA has recognized 11 inspection certification bodies, some of which are branches of foreign certification bodies, others are local certification bodies. (wikipedia, 2014)
For more organic processing handling, labeling and certification please refer to below links provided by APEDA.gov.in
Where do you get organic food in India?