Renuka Eapen, a mother of two, switched to eating organic food because “it would be better for my children and the environment”. Arkaja Singh made the move because organic food “often tastes much better”.
Thousands like them are driving the demand for organic food, which is now a Rs.5.6 billion market in India, according to the International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA) in Bangalore. “Organic food is now more accessible in India, with more shops coming up and more information available to those who want it,” said Eapen. With growing awareness of nature and number of dangerous chemicals being used in modern agriculture, more consumers are turning towards food grown organically. On World Environment Day, we explore the ‘organic’ revolution sweeping India…
Assocham says that only one out of 30 people in India‘s metros ask consciously for organic food today. It reports that organic produce costs about 35 to 40 percent more “due to scarcity of organic products”.
While the higher price may deter many consumers from buying organic, others like Eapen say benefits outweigh the higher expenditure. For her, she added, it’s a choice to support the organic movement. “You’re paying because you believe.”
But eating organic can be made to fit into everyone’s budget, said Jayashree Joshi Eashwar of Dubdengreen, an organic retail store here. “If people were to make a conscious decision to eat organic, they can easily afford the price difference by eating out just one time less than they do,” she said.
Recent studies in the US and Britain have found that the nutritional levels in organic produce are much higher. One actually gets the benefits ascribed to a certain fruit, vegetable or grain.
A study conducted at the University of California found the amount of the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol was respectively 79 percent and 97 percent higher in organic tomatoes. Flavonoids reduce haemorrhoids, aid blood circulation, lower cholesterol, prevent and treat cataracts and even combat cancer.
Research at Britain‘s Newcastle University found the levels of antioxidants in milk from cattle raised on organic feed to be 50-80 percent higher than in milk from other cattle.
Why go organic?
Just a few of the reasons to go for organic food:
• Safer – for all living things;
• Healthier due to higher nutritive value and no bad effects from pesticides;
• Pro-environment as it replenishes soil, creates less pollution (from production as well as the use of chemical fertiliser and pesticides) and maintains the ecological balance.
Three kinds of organic food
• Traditionally organic – farms that follow traditional agricultural practices and have never used chemical pesticides or fertiliser. These include small farms whose owners are organic farmers by default, as they cannot afford synthetic fertiliser or pesticides.
• In-convergence organic – farms that have recently switched to organic farming and are in the process of acquiring certification; they are under the purview of certifying agencies.
• Certified organic – farms that are certified organic by agencies such as SGS, Skal, Ecocert or Indocert; certification is fairly new in India, and has developed with an eye to exports. However, with greater awareness, even the Indian consumer is seeking certified organic products.