With so much being made of organic foods, do we really understand what it means and how we benefit from it? So, first things first. Organic refers to the way the farmer has grown and processed the agricultural product, without using toxic, persistent pesticides and fertilisers which are known to contaminate soil, air, water and the food, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products.
Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce do not use fertilisers, weedicides, genetically modified organisms and such. For example, rather than using chemical herbicides, organic farmers may opt for crop rotation and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay. Synthetic fertilisers and pesticides are banned in organic farming. Instead, the reliance is on natural manure, neem and other bio-pesticides.
THe organic lifestyle
More than just a label, organic is a lifestyle and it starts from the moment food products are grown. There has been a major shift in consumer preferences for organic foods with purchases notching a hike of 95 per cent in the past five years, a survey by ASSOCHAM said. In India, agriculture plays a vital role in the growth of the economy. The government of India now offers strong support and is promoting organic farming as it will increase the contribution of the agricultural sector to the GDP of the country. Across the globe, consumers now have become more health conscious. There has been a growing awareness amongst the Indian consumers about the importance of nutrition, health, and quality of food they eat, thereby resulting in an increasing adoption of organic food since it is free from any harmful pesticides and chemicals. It is rich in antioxidants and serves for better nutrition, better taste and better ecology.
It is a common misconception that the conventional food that we eat when washed thoroughly, removes all harmful pesticides and chemicals and the food becomes completely safe and edible. Fact is pesticide residues and heavy metals accumulate inside the plant produce and get into our system when we consume it. Water does not necessarily wash away the chemical residues.
Daily intake of pesticides ranges from 147% to 7218% for adults and for kids it is estimated to be 214% to 7218%, and that’s so called safe, in India. Studies at Agency for Toxic Substances and disease registry, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services prove that organic foods have 27% more vitamin C, 21.1% more iron, 29.3% more magnesium, and 13.6% more phosphorus, than any of the conventional food items. Pesticide residues in conventional food suppress body’s immune system, normal growth of nervous system and cognitive development. Also, a steady deterioration in male reproductive health has been reported with the regular use of conventional agricultural products. Many state governments have woken up to the importance of organic farming and have announced several incentives for farmers to go organic.
Re-energise from organic
Organic foods have higher nutritional value than conventional food, according to multiple researcher's reports. Some studies have linked pesticides in our food to everything from headaches to cancer to birth defects. A few experts maintain that the residue levels in conventional food are safe for most healthy adults. But even low-level pesticide exposure, however, can be significantly more toxic for fetuses and children, due to *their less-developed immune systems. For pregnant women, chemical residue laden food can put added strain on their already taxed organs. Prolonged and continuous use of organic products will result in the human body developing a natural immune system to fight disease.
“Consumers who wish to minimise their dietary pesticide exposure can consume organically grown food. Even when it is about processed food, processed organic foods are better than processed conventional foods. Most of the harmful food additives like artificial flavorings, synthetic colours, and hydrogenated fats are banned under organic standards. The organic cold pressed oils are just expelled, pressed and filtered and hold all the essential nutrients like lecithin, natural Vitamin E and photochemical. On the other hand, conventional refined oils are solvent extracted, bleached and de-waxed stripping them of all naturally present nutrients," says Nirupama Raghavan, who manages the research and development cell at bio-products company, speaking to City Express.
In the wake of alarms over poor diet, junk food and rising obesity levels, the acceptance of organic food provides a welcome relief. Going organic and consuming pesticide-free food will eventually lead to a better health for us and for our families.