Organic Food


27-Feb-2013
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In the rapid pace of development we have inflicted serious damage to our natural resources and consequently to ourselves. Pesticides once used to promote & protect crop yield are now being used indiscriminately- harming both, the environment & human life. Over the years these chemicals accumulate in the environment and poison us slowly. When consumed on a regular basis in our food they form deposits in our tissues and vital organs, particularly liver, kidney, and brain. As years progress, they lead to life threatening diseases and even cancer- a reason why they are "cumulative poisons". In fact studies over the last few years have proved that as polluting chemicals have built up in the environment they have even invaded the most natural and safest of all sources of nourishment- mother’s milk. More than 350 man-made pollutants have been identified in the breast milk of women in UK (WorldWide fund For Nature). Pesticide residues, poison mother’s milk and have adverse effects on the baby’s immune system. 

The plight is that besides bans on harmful pesticides, they are still used extensively by farmers and agriculturists; consumed by us unnoticed. India is the largest manufacturer of chemical pesticides among South Asian and African nations.  A number of research studies have found higher instances of brain cancer, leukemia and birth defects in children with early exposure to pesticides, according to National Resources Defense Council. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, discovered a 70% increase in the risk of developing Parkinson's disease for people exposed to even low levels of pesticides. WHO estimates over a million pesticide-poisoning cases and 20,000 deaths every year globally. 

The indiscriminate use of fertilizers and plant protective chemicals to increase yields and save crops from pests and diseases, no doubt, has escalated food production, created food security but has also resulted in a number of health hazards. Further, it has deteriorated the agro-ecosystem badly. This situation has spelled the need to switch over to organic farming to cultivate valuable crops for healthy and safer foods. 

Organic food is grown without pesticides and chemical inputs. Organic is not a "Product" rather it is a "Process". Organic farming significantly reduces external inputs by avoiding the use of chemo-synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and pharmaceuticals. Instead it works with nature and natural systems to increase both agricultural yields and disease resistance. It builds healthy soil and prevents chemicals from entering into earth and water. It helps in protecting top soil, water and air. 

Organic foods can be either fresh or processed, based on production methods. Processed organic food usually contains only (or at least a specified percentage of) organic ingredients and no artificial food additives and is often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions (eg: no chemical ripening, no food irradiation). Almost all food items barring a few exceptions can be produced organically including chocolates, eggs, milk, meat, poultry and even wine. 

Growing food organically doesn't alter the nutritional content but avoids the synthetic pesticidal and insecticidal residues. Besides the fact that these foods contain fewer chemical residues, they also retain phenolic compounds- chemicals that act as a plant's natural defense and also happen to be good for our health. These plant compounds are lost or significantly reduced in conventional farming.

There are hundreds of different pesticides used commonly in farms. A list of damages caused by common pesticides is presented in table below: 

Pesticide

Harmful Effects

Lindane

·         Damages liver, kidney, cardio-circulatory, neural and
     immune systems

·         Induces birth defects

·         Adverse effect on the reproductive system and lowering
     sperm count.

·         Potent carcinogen

 

DDT  & its Metabolites

(dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane)

·         Increases Cancer risk especially Breast Cancer.

·         Reduce Bone Density

·         Increase birth defects and neonatal deaths.

Chlorpyrifos

Affects the nervous system, especially the immature brain.

 

Malathion

·         Weakens the immune system

·         birth defects,

·         genetic damage,

·         accelerated aging of certain body organs,

·         increased neurological damage to the elderly

 

Toxicity of pesticides may vary. Individuals with poor nutritional, antioxidant status or poor immunity are more "at risk" for suffering the adverse effects of these chemicals. Also, children are far more vulnerable to toxicity than adults, owing to their smaller body mass.

Besides, saving ourselves the onslaught of slow poisoning, promoting better health, there are other spin-offs. According to most reports, organic produce including fruits and vegetables, taste far better than those grown with chemicals. With the gaining popularity of organic food, there are many who find opportunities to exploit. Products claiming to be natural/ healthy/ preservative free may not be organic. Therefore, consumers should seek certified organic produce. Certification is done through Internationally accredited bodies. They are granted by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). Farms that are affiliated to the IFOAM have their soil, produce and facilities regularly inspected by a certifying agency. They also have elaborate internal control systems and documentation processes. It is important for consumers to check for any of these certifications to distinguish between "truly organic" or those simply claiming to be. In many countries, including the United States, Japan, and the European Union, certification is a matter of legislation and commercial use of the word "Organic", outside of the certification framework, is illegal.  

Growing your own produce in your garden or farm is the best way to ensure that the fruits and vegetables you eat are pesticide free. Although not many posses the land require to provide a varied year round supply, can still produce satisfying yield. Understanding soils along with good natural farm or kitchen yard manure should ensure the plants get all the nutrients they need. 

It's about time we understand the far-reaching consequences of "chemical poisoning" to ourselves, our future generations and our environment. We need to support healthy farming practices and GO ORGANIC !