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Why Organic Food?

Cheap Food at Great Cost’ is the title of the Prince of Wales article where he points out about how the commercialised, mono-cultured cropping of the green revolution days has destroyed our food production and consumption as it was known then.

In India, the diversity of food consumption pattern largely dependent on the local food available, hence people were happy when they visited far off places – Nagpur was known for oranges and kashmir for apples. When people visited these parts, procurement of these fruits (similarly mangoes during the season in different parts of south India) and gifting them would be very important and much valued. However, with the mass production of fruits, today, it is possible for us to get Apples grown in America and Oranges grown in Australia at prices lesser than those that are grown in India. This is largely due to the intense chemical production coupled with aggressive marketing by these trading countries to make our consumption increasingly away from our own locality. One would have had an opportunity to look at orange trees from a train while passing by Nagpur or seen Apples in plently on television programmes on Kashmir, but, these fruits from America and Australia, we hardly know where they come from. Hence, they are often brightly coloured through artificial methods, even flavoured, heavily scented and neatly presented to us.

The consequences are many:
1.We buy these fruits in preference for the local fruits because often these are thrust into the market at lesser prices (the governments of these countries provide more subsidies to their farmers than our government).

2.Once we buy and get used to the shape, colour and added tastes, we are unable to get accostomed to local fruits which do not look like they are made to specifications in shape, colour, size and scent.

3.We often complain that there is hardly any taste in any of these fruits from abroad, and, over a period of time loose the sense of real taste of these fruits. ‘Cheap food at great cost’ indeed.

4.Through the competitive trading pursued by agents of these countries, the local farmer’s produce doesn’t find enough buyers. He is forced to sell at very low prices in the local markets or pursue similar method by adopting such artificial means of producing these fruits, which makes them dependent on large multi-national companies which control everything from seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides to influencing media and getting financial assistence. The local varieties are slowly wiped out from the farmers, depleting the bio-diversity in edible crops, eroding the food security of the nation.

5.The control of the market from the hands of the local producers and consumers, slowly moves to multi-national agencies. The money we pay for these cheap products is the money that leaves this country as payment made towards a non-qualitative product. Poor trading practice that makes least national sense.

6.The marketing of many of these products are done through local intermediaries which eliminate the chances of any complaint ever by a disgruntling consumer directly reaching to the producer or even having an impact on their continued sale in this country.

7.Ultimately the consumer is reduced to one of the components in the conveyor belt of consumerism. Where is takes what he is offered, in which ever way it is offered, believe that he is free to make a choice (as long as it is only between the choices that are presented) and continue to buy the product.

People who support organic farming and food movement do so for various reasons, the primary being that consumption of organic food is good for the health of their children and future generations.

They are worried about the chemical inflow into the soil and its consequent impact on the soil fertility, whereby, unless increasing amount of chemicals are added or some other remidial measure adopted, the soil looses it fertility.

The diversity of the cropping is maintained. The small organic farmer in India is traditionally does mixed farming, he cultivates many kinds of crops in a small area and is in a sense the care-taker of the crop diversity of the nation.

Many believe that the traditional organic farming methods involving the farmer, the cattle and the natural elements are fundamental tenets of the Indian civilisation. That there is an urgent need to conserve the traditional link between the three and their role in the production of food is obvious; that unless these are preserved the culture and tradition of this land are put at risk.

There are many reasons to eat organic food:

1.Protect Future Generations' Health
2.Protect Water Quality
3.Preserve Topsoil
4.Eliminate Health Risks
5.Preserve Biodiversity
6.Keep Rural Communities Health
7.Provide a Safer, healthier Habitat
8.Support a 'True' Economy
9.Make Food Taste Great

One popular reason is that it should be eaten for our health, that our bodies are temples to be protected. We also must be reminded of the interconnectedness of our bodies with all that surrounds us. What happens to the health of the animals, plants, microorganisms, soil, oceans, and atmosphere, happens to all humans as well. There is no person on Earth who is immune to the effects of an unhealthy environment, no matter how much technology or wealth they may possess. When the food we eat is polluted, we carry that pollution in our bodies, some of it remains there and accumulates. It is passed along from generation to generation, from mother and father to children in various forms. This has been confirmed by most scientists. The most vulnerable are those children yet to be born, the embryo, as well as the young among us now.

Household tip: Cultivating of plants such as castor or lemon grass around the house. They repel mosquitoes.
More such tips on natural way to keep pests away from home are available in a publication by CIKS, “Keep your Home Pesticide Free!” - Safer ways to keep pests at bay

Pesticides enter the human body in very many ways, through skin, lungs, digestive system, etc. Though in the cases of direct contact there could be some health effects, the ingestion of the pesticides, unless in cases of high toxic chemicals, can be long term and much after the actual chemical has been ingested, in such cases, it is difficult to look at the effect on the health of the human and pin-point the cause to a single chemical. This has been amply proved by the argument adopted by chemical pesticide manufacturing companies whenever there has been cases of pesticide poisoning. Most often than not, they have pointed out that the same illness could be cause due to many chemicals in the air and as there cannot be a definite proof that a specific chemical causes the problem, the chemical cannot be blamed.

Much of the short term symptoms of chemical pesticide exposure are day to day occurances that they have stopped surprising many of us – headache, vision deficiency, nausea, generel body weakness and respiratory problems. Chronic low-level pesticide exposure can lead to cancer, nervous system disorders, liver and kidney damage, respiratory problems and reproductive problems. Pesticides can also affect reproduction by harming the foetus, causing miscarriage, birth defects, impotency or by altering genetic material so that mutation is carried on to the next generation. Endocrine disruptor, as it is called, is a disorder through which the male sperm count is reduced and makes them incapable of fusion with ovum.