ORGANIC FOOD

Future food of the world

M.R. CHAUDHRY
Nov 20 - 26, 2006

Organic food is that which is grown, harvested and stored without the use of synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, chemical sprays, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, etc. The number of organic food consumers is rapidly increasing in the West. Farmers are earning much more money in some countries, where demand for organic food is much higher than its production and supply. Awareness in the West is increasing for nutritional food, which is available in the form of organic vegetables, fruit, grains, milk, butter, mutton and beef. People in the West are willing to pay extra cost for what they believe as a healthy food and more environment-friendly diet.

According to a study made in China, foreign buyers pay 3050 percent more for organic food. Organic food has innumerable benefits for the upkeep of health. It saves the users from heart attack, stroke, helps control blood pressure, reduces cholesterol, prevents some types of cancer and relieves painful intestinal ailments. It is a cure against macular degeneration and common causes of vision losses, including cataract.

Governments of China, India and several other countries are supporting organic crop farmers to enable them procure inputs required for this type of farming, by providing them with service extension, necessary certification and an easy access to the local and foreign markets.

Expectedly organic food would be the food for our future generations and it would serve to safeguard their health as it contains more vitamins and essential nutrients than conventionally produced food.

In the West, organic way of life is becoming much more popular as organic food regulates and prohibits hydro-generated fat, which is a common cause of heart diseases, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Organic food is a genuinely natural and beneficial way of intake into our bodies. It is tastier and does not contain antioxidants and does not cause food poisoning.

Conventionally grown apple has been found to have 2030 artificial poisons on its skin even after rinsing. Thus the old and popular saying: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" remains no more valid unless it is produced by using organic methods of agriculture. Not only organic fruit and vegetables taste better, they also stay fresh longer and organic pulses cook faster. Going organic may result in the rise of domestic food bill to the extent of 2530 percent, nobody should grudge as it is a small price to pay for better health of the family.

With the introduction and production of organic food and adopting organic way of life, we can minimize damage of chemical pollution to the future of humanity, animals, bio-diversity, wildlife and environment. As discussed above, naturally grown, ripened and harvested crops contain all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Likewise, animals being reared organically, i.e. on organic food and fodder, without even using drugs for their medical treatment, are healthier than those brought up conventionally. The organic livestock contain less artery clogging saturated fats in their muscle tissues. Mutton, beef, milk, butter and cheese obtained from the former type of animals are a hazard free food rather they are useful for the health of the users. Organically reared animals have more fertility and productivity. Their easy and fast reproduction and multiplication pays back handsomely to the farmers. Logically this would increase the scope of cattle farming on organic basis.

Eating organic food and drinking pure water have profound effects on the health and longevity of human beings and animals. In the interest of our health and for our economic uplift, we must support our local and traditional agricultural system, which is environmentally sustainable, involving crop rotation, animal manure, growing leguminous crops and then burying them in the soil before ripening and harvesting for increasing the organic matter, which is known as green manure. These organic methods, no doubt, improve the quality and health of the soil, promote and multiply earth worms, fungi and other micro-organisms, which are friendly to farmers and farming. These also help in maintaining eco-system, protect the land from erosion and deterioration, increase porosity of the land, facilitate maintaining the land structure, conserving moisture, which is useful when the irrigation of water is in short supply and during the drought-like weather.

A simple and wise suggestion to get purely organic fruit and vegetables is to grow your own vegetables and fruit in your lawns and compounds, instead of buying from the market or farmers, by applying organic farming methods and using old wisdom with new technology. It is the simplest, safest and fool proof way to get the requisite and ideal food from your own kitchen gardens. This would also serve as a useful pastime and hobby to beneficially utilize your spare time. The scope of organic farming in Pakistan is very high but there are many difficulties and problems in adopting organic farming.

The first and the foremost is the lack of political will. Almost no research work is in progress practically in our research centres, agricultural universities and colleges. The need of the hour is to allocate sufficient funds in the provincial and federal budgets for popularizing organic farming and research work in collaboration with other international agricultural institutions and progressive farmers. Necessary extension service and laboratories for certification are needed to boost this farming.

Farmers should be given "Qarz-e-Hasna" (interest-free loans) repayable in easy installments to enable them procure suitable inputs for organic farming, besides exploring suitable markets within the country and abroad for sale of their products. Vast areas of virgin lands in Balochistan, some areas of Sindh and Punjab, as in Cholistan are available with great potentials, as this virgin land has all the ingredients to get high yields of organic crops. The problem of water scarcity cannot be skipped over, which can be solved partially by constructing seasonal canals, small water reservoirs and water tanks/tobas.

Permanent solution of this problem lies in constructing big dams. It would be worthwhile to mention that a lot of surplus water goes waste every year during the rainy season, which can be utilized usefully with proper planning. Some educated and influential organic farmers, taking an initiative, have been successfully producing organic crops, vegetables and fruit in Pakistan and selling their products to affluent people and foreigners living in Pakistan, who prefer to buy this food for personal consumption at reasonable prices. However, the government has not yet shown any interest and will to boost this system of farming. Besides animal manure, rotation of crops, green manure, compositing etc., inoculation of soil with suitable bacterial induction like Azobacter and Azospirillum (which are nitrogen fixing bacteria) has been tried and experimented most effectively. Some free lance agricultural scientists like Mobin Agriculture, Anarkali/Nila Gumbad, Lahore, have developed such inoculations without using any synthetic chemicals for treating the brackish water, controlling salinity of the soil, increasing its organic matter by nitrogen fixing medicines and rationalizing the pH of the land. Such ventures need encouragement and patronization.

The writer is a senior journalist and veteran contributor to media on diversified subjects.