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About a year ago EarthSmiles.net's partners and the Green for Life Foundation started an experiment in Organic, at a location off Kolkata's Diamond Harbour Road.
Today, despite scepticism from local farmers and even the agriculturalists we employed, the EarthSmiles Organic Garden has blossomed, growing about 20 varieties of popular crops - totally organic - and transformed nature in the area. Sensing the lack of hazadous chemicals and pesticides, speices like the ringed parrot - last seen in the vicinity 15 years ago, have made a comeback!
Stay tuned for more on this!
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There is a staggering list of 67 harmful pesticides used in India - but banned in other countries, because of health and environment concerns. These have contaminated our food for decades leading to poisoning, diseases like cancer, birth deformities, etc.
Today, however a more health conscious population is demanding food free of these poisonous chemicals - and here’s where Organic food stores come in. Filling the need for health alternatives in urban areas, these stores provide healthy and better quality food - cereals, pulses and beans, tea and coffee, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, edible oils and much more.
So how is organic food different/better than other conventional foods? An organic food is one which is produced, processed and packaged without harming the environment and without using any harmful chemicals – commonly pesticides, and herbicides. Organic animal products - meat, eggs, etc; also must come from animals that are fed 100% organic feed, to get the tag.
Here are some common differences between Organic and Inorganic:
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|Eat natural, really natural! |
Grown by nature
By Divya Dhamija
|Expensive option? With big urban chains marketing organic as a lifestyle choice, not a healthy necessity, there is an inaccurate perception that organice has to mean expensive. |
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No pesticides are used and foods are grown with natural fertilizers (manure, compost, etc)
Pesticides are used and foods are grown with synthetic or chemical fertilizers.
Weeds are controlled naturally (crop rotation, mulching and tilling, etc)
Weeds are controlled with chemical herbicides.
|nsects are controlled naturally (birds, good insects and traps) ||Insecticides are used to manage pests and diseases. |
|Livestock are given all organic feed ||Livestock are given growth hormones for faster growth. | Sometimes, Organic foods are called Natural foods or “sustainable”. This practice encourages eating foods which are grown locally by sustainable agricultural methods: i.e., using food growing techniques that don’t harm the environment, are seasonal and preserve agricultural lands. But sustainable foods are not always organic, so be careful to enquire or read packaging!
So where is Organic food available? After all, chances are the local bazaar doesn’t know – or care - about organic. (See our story by Daphne D’Gama)
While there are quite a few smaller outlets selling “organic” products, it’s usually hard to verify their clams. Indeed, some sellers may not even know what organic really is. Some organic products are available at FabIndia outlets (http://www.fabindia.com/organics.html) across the country, and there are local stores that sell certified organic, too.
Down to Earth is one such organic food store where “products are free from any chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, toxic substances, synthetic hormones and are certified according to international standards for organic production, processing and packaging. We believe that food is the best instrument to ensure healthy lifestyle, to live in harmony with bio-rhythms, our society and our world”, said Mr. Rajeev Daga, manager of the store.
But in spite of the increasing awareness of organic food these days, most of the people don’t buy them as they are little expensive. Organic more labor intensive and organic certification and maintaining the status is expensive; feed for animals cost twice the non-organic feed and the organic farms are small and includes fixed costs high. But people shouldn’t mind that ‘little extra’ because organic foods protect from heart diseases, cancer, as they contain beneficial phenolic compounds. Moreover they are fresh and natural; and generally ensure high quality which conventional foods cannot give.
Mrs. Khaitan, a homemaker says “As organic food products are little costlier, I buy only those organic food products whose non-organic product is prone to be most adulterated, like- honey, olive oil etc”.
“It is nice to see organic products in so much variety in this world full of chemicals”, said Dr. Shelja, another organic convert.
Many people also prefer to grow organic food in their gardens because it costs 20% more than conventional foods. Giving up pesticides completely cannot be done overnight. However, the government should encourage use of pesticides in moderation and monitor their use. Along with this they must also encourage organic farming so that the price level of such produce becomes at par with inorganic foods, with increased production.
We don’t need pesticides to eradicate pests and the state of Sikkim is a splendid example of how this can be achieved. Kudos to the government of Sikkim for their efforts to save their beautiful environment and to produce healthy food for their citizens by growing only organic foods and to create a pesticide-free-state!
Until the day organic is abundantly available, Down to Earth and other organic food stores like it, will help us rediscover the genuine taste of our food, savour real flavor and take advantage of organics’ high nutritive value.
Packaged and certified organic is one of the surest ways to ensure you're getting the real deal. However, it's this same factor that adds to the cost - and makes it niche.