High on nutrition
The increasing health consciousness and awareness among consumers is compelling them to move over to organic food products, says Dr Saurabh Arora
The demand for organic foods began with fruits and vegetables when there were reports of pesticide residues in them. However, the popularity of organic foods has now extended to foodgrains, pulses, tea, spices and even oilseeds. According to a report in a leading newspaper, the organic food market in India is growing at 20-22 per cent annually. India has a rich heritage in organic farming and data shows that about 1.5 million hectares are certified as organic. In 2016-17, India exported `2,478 crore worth of organic commodities like oilseeds, cereals, millets and processed organic foods.
Organic foods have gained popularity because people have become aware of their benefits. They contain no chemical pesticides or fertilisers and are grown naturally with manure or compost along with insecticides. Children are more susceptible than adults to diseases caused by chemical pesticide residues in food and thus parents prefer organic foods. Another advantage is that organic foods do not contain growth hormones or antibiotic residues. Animals are often given growth hormones and antibiotics in animal feeds which are directly transferred into animal foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. In organic farming, these practices are banned and animals are usually fed in natural surroundings. Eating antibiotics containing foods frequently makes antibiotics ineffective in humans.
Saviour of the Eco-system
Organic farming is a lifeline not only for small farmers who receive a fair price for their produce but the environment also gets a fillip. Another area where organic farming proves useful is, it encourages the growth of varieties of natural foods and prevents loss of species. These natural varieties are tastier and nutritious as well. Today, more than natural species the hybrid varieties are dominating agricultural crops. Organic farming is carried out in harmony with nature so it helps in the preservation of the natural environment, wetlands etc. which in turn support wild life. It reduces pollution caused by chemical pesticides and fertilisers in the environment. Wildlife, insects, frogs, birds, and micro-organisms are able to play their natural roles.
Organic food products are grown under a natural system of agriculture without the use of synthetic fertilisers. Therefore, any food for sale under organic foods in India needs to comply with the provisions laid down under either the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) administered by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) or the Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India) operated by the ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. There are a number of organic brands that use the term “organic” on labels but if these products are not certified then their authenticity is suspectible to violation.
Organic FOOD REGULATIONS
According to the Delhi-based Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), foods that are labelled organic but not certified cannot be considered safe. The ICRIER also mentioned the need for a uniform standard for organic foods in its last report. Now, the Food Safety Standards and Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched the Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations 2017 along with the unified logo for organic food products, supported with the tagline Jaivik Bharat. All organic foods certified under this logo need to convey the full and accurate information on labels about the organic status of the food. The Jaivik Bharat logo will henceforth be recognised as a mark of quality assurance given by the above mentioned certification bodies in India or any other bodies recognised by FSSAI.
The people who buy organic foods in India come from all socio-economic backgrounds. However, what is common is these people are mostly health-conscious consumers who do not mind paying a bit more than conventional foods. They do not mind paying a little extra for the comfort of knowing that they and their families are safe from the perils of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and antibiotics. What these consumers must also understand is that they must not blindly buy foods labelled “organic” but must look for the certification mark ,which truly authenticates the food as being organic. This logo certifies that the organic food is indeed free from all kinds of adulterants like pesticides, heavy metals, mycotoxins, antibiotics and so on. With the regulatory framework in place, consumers can feel safer in the knowledge that the organic foods and products they are buying are indeed authentic and safe for their health and well being.
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