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REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 202-205

Come sunshine or rain; organic foods always on tract: A futurist perspective


Department of Public Health Dentistry, Swami Devi Dyal Hospital and Dental College, Panchkula, Haryana, India

Date of Submission13-Apr-2013
Date of Acceptance19-May-2013
Date of Web Publication10-Jul-2013

Correspondence Address:
Amandeep Chopra
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Swami Devi Dyal Hospital and Dental College, Golpura, Barwala, Panchkula, Haryana
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/2231-0738.114834

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   Abstract 

Organic production can be defined as "an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony." Organic foods form a key component in consumer trend known as a whole health solution - diet that promote health and well-being, prevent disease, help to cure illness and protect the environment. The complete information about organic foods has been collected from various journals, books, online databases and various reports from international conferences for time period of 1974-2013. This article will give an overview of organic foods and its perspective in India.

Keywords: Environmental perspective, health, organic farming, organic food


How to cite this article:
Chopra A, Rao N C, Gupta N, Vashisth S. Come sunshine or rain; organic foods always on tract: A futurist perspective. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2013;3:202-5

How to cite this URL:
Chopra A, Rao N C, Gupta N, Vashisth S. Come sunshine or rain; organic foods always on tract: A futurist perspective. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis [serial online] 2013 [cited 2019 Sep 20];3:202-5. Available from: http://www.ijnpnd.com/text.asp?2013/3/3/202/114834


   Introduction Top

"You are what you eat" is an age old saying. The present food chain is mainly based on food scarcity, genetically modified organisms, use of pesticides and antibiotics, and industrialization of the agricultural system. [1] This new era of so called development has come up with various threats to our minutely balanced life on the mother planet. [2] So it has become important to know what we are eating - or what might be eating us. The amount and type of food consumed is the fundamental detriment of human health. [3],[4] Both in India and in the technically advanced countries, there is a call for a "return to nature" in foods, drugs and even cosmetics. [5] In this way, working with nature will not only help sustain planet but mankind as well.

In the world of many choices, organic food is one of the best options for many consumers and farmers. It is part of so called green life-style. When one hears organic; the person associates it with anything that is good, green and healthy. But, what actually is organic food?

The term "organic" was 1 st used in relation to farming by Northbourne (1940) in his book Look to the Land. According to him, "the farm itself should have a biological completeness; it must be a living entity; it must be a unit which has within itself a balanced organic life." [6]

Organic production can be defined as "an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony." [7]

Although the cost of organic foods is high; these form a key component in consumer trend known as a whole health solution - diet that promote health and well-being, prevent disease, help cure illness and protects the environment. [8]

In this review, the literature was searched for various effects of organic foods on environment, socio-economic impact, food quality and its perspective in India. The complete information about organic foods has been collected from various journals, books, online databases and various reports from international conferences for time period of 1974-2013. Finally the future of organic food industry in India was concluded.


   Environmental Perspectives Top


The environmental benefit forms the strengths of organic foods. It also forms one of the key reasons among consumers for buying organic foods. These benefits include:

  • Reduced Pollution - The pollution level of air and water are found to be reduced in organic farms; soil health is also found to improved; also the number and variety of wild species (plants, butterflies and spiders) are also found to be increased. [9] It has also been found that there is a reduced risk of Escherichia coli infection
  • Organically produced foods have lower level of pesticide and veterinary drug residues and in many cases lower level of nitrate is found [10]
  • The biological and physical properties of soil are improved; these include higher organic matter content, higher biomass, higher enzyme activities, better aggregate stability, improved water infiltration and retention capacities and less water and wind erosion in organically managed soils when compared with conventionally managed one [11],[12],[13]
  • The water use is likely to be more sustainable in organic farms due to better rain infiltration and higher water retention rates [13],[14]
  • Reduced CO 2 emission is found because of ban on nitrogen from fossil fuels and its replacement by leguminous and organic nitrogen [15]
  • The energy used is organic farms is lower as-agro-diesel derived from anaerobic fermentation of organic waste can be used for operation of field machinery and also for transportation; secondly, inorganic fertilizers and pesticides are not used which require lot of energy in their manufacturing. [13]


Socio-economic aspects

  • Due to higher demand of labor in organic farms; more jobs are generated per farm [16]
  • As organic food is normally priced 20-30% higher than conventional food, it helps in fetching higher premium
  • Low capital investment is involved in organic farming as compared to chemical farming as organic fertilizers and pesticides can be produced locally, the yearly costs incurred by the farmer are also low [17]
  • Occupational health may be improved in labors working in organic farms due to reduced exposure to agricultural chemicals [18]
  • Organic produce when compared to conventional produce tends to store better and has longer shelf-life. This can be attributed to lower levels of nitrates and higher average levels of antioxidants. The former can accelerate food spoilage, while antioxidants help preserve the integrity of cells and some are natural antibiotics. [19]


Food quality and safety aspects

  • Some organic foods like corn, strawberries and marionberries have significantly higher (around 30%) levels of cancer fighting antioxidants. [8] Antioxidants are protective agents. They inactivate the reactive oxygen species thereby significantly delays or prevents oxidative damage [20]
  • Physiological nutritional value of organic food is enhanced as it contains fewer value reducing constituents such as nitrates, pesticides
  • The more intense flavors are found in organic fruits and vegetables. This can be due to: Somewhat higher average levels of antioxidants and somewhat lower average crop yields [19]
  • Safer than conventional food in regards to pathogenic microorganisms (such as mycotoxins, coli bacteria)
  • Higher content of health-promoting secondary plant compounds are found in organic foods [21]
  • Nutritionally desirable products such as cogulative linoleic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and carotenoids were increased in milk from organic farms [22]
  • Organic vegetable soups contain almost 6 times as much salicylic acid as non-organic vegetable soups which are produced naturally in plants as a protective compound against stress and disease. It is responsible for the anti-inflammatory action of aspirin and helps combat hardening of the arteries and bowel cancer [23]
  • Minerals and vitamins - organic foods have higher % of ascorbic acid, iron, magnesium, phosphoric acid than non-organic foods. [24]


Changing scenario of organic farming in India

In India, 67% population and 55% of the total work force depends on agriculture and other allied activities, agriculture meets the basic needs of India's growing population and also accounts for 30% of national income. The need for organic farming in India arises from the un-sustainability of agriculture production and the damage caused to ecology through the conventional farming practices.

Current status: [2],[18],[25]

  • The progress of organic agriculture in India is very slow. We are able to convert only 41,000 ha of area so far, which is a mere 0.03 per cent of the cultivated area
  • The production of organic farms came to about 14,000 tones in India during 2002 and 85 per cent of it was exported
  • Domestic consumption is marginal and is concentrated in the metropolitan cities in the country
  • Regulations - The implementation of National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) is ensured by the formulation of the National Accreditation Policy and Programme. The regulations make it mandatory that all organic certification bodies should be accredited by an Accreditation Agency. The agencies accredited are the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority, Coffee Board, Tea Board and the Spices Board
  • According to the Indian Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture, the global market for organically produced foods is $26 billion and is estimated to increase to $102 billion by 2020
  • India ranks 33 rd in terms of total land below organic cultivation and 88 th in terms of the ratio of agricultural land under organic crops to total agricultural area, as per statistics available with APEDA.


States involved in organic farming in India are as follows

Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Uttaranchal, Sikkim, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh. [18]

Organic food products exported from India include the following:

  • Cereals: Wheat, rice, maize or corn
  • Pulses: Red gram, black gram
  • Fruits : Banana, mango, orange, pineapple, passion fruit, cashew nut, walnut
  • Oil seeds and oils: Soybean, sunflower, mustard, cotton seed, groundnut, castor
  • Vegetables: Brinjal, garlic, potato, tomato, onion.
  • Herbs and spices: Chilli, peppermint, cardamom, turmeric, black pepper, white pepper, amla, tamarind, ginger, vanilla, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace
  • Others: Jaggery, sugar, tea, coffee, cotton, textiles.


Organic products are mainly exported to Europe (Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, etc.), USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Japan, Singapore, Australia and South Africa.

Problems and constrains associated with organic farming in India includes:

  • Inability of the government policy making level to take a firm decision to promote organic agriculture
  • Lack of awareness among farmers about organic farming and its advantages as against the conventional farming methods
  • Output marketing problem
  • Difficulties in getting the organic manures compared to the chemical fertilizers, which can be bought easily, of course if cultivators have the financial ability
  • Inadequate supporting agencies - There are only 4 agencies for accreditation and their expertise is limited to fruits and vegetables, tea, coffee and spices
  • Costs of the organic inputs are higher than those of industrially produced chemical fertilizers and pesticides including other inputs used in the conventional farming system
  • Lack of marketing and distribution network of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides because the retailers are not interested to deal in these products, as the demand is low
  • The cost of certification, a major component of which is the periodical inspections carried out by the certifying agencies, which have freedom to fix the timings, type and number of such inspections appears to be burdensome for the small and marginal farmers
  • Inability to meet the export demand
  • Lack of quality standards for bio-manures
  • Inappropriateness of the cost and return accounting methods adopted to find out the economics of the organic farming. [26]


Identifying organic foods

In order to identify organic foods there is need to understand where it comes from, how it is produced and consider entire life cycle of the produce. Some of the ways are:

  • Carefully read the label. Those foodstuffs carrying "natural tag" are not to be confused with organic food as it doesn't mean that food was prepared using organic farming methods
  • Organic foods are certified by various agencies (such as indocert) under NPOP
  • Try to trace the source from where food produced by asking from local vendors. Even if they don't know if it's organic, it is good to know where the food you eat comes from
  • Try to buy locally produced and seasonal food. [27]



   Conclusion Top


The popularity of organic foods continues to grow dramatically as consumers seeks foods perceived as healthier (greater nutritional value and fewer toxic chemicals). India is far lagging behind in the adoption of organic farming. The major weakness of organic agriculture in the country is absence of linkages between the farmers and markets and absence of financial support from the governments. Due to abundant and relatively cheap labor in India, organic farming is seen as a good cost-effective solution to the increasing costs involved in chemical farming. Increasing demand for organic food products in international market is going to push forward Indian Organic Food Industry.

 
   References Top

1.Davis A, Titterington AJ, Cochrane C. Who buys organic food? A profile of the purchasers of organic food in Northern Ireland. Br Food J 1995;97:17-23.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.Padiya J, Vala N. Profiling of organic food buyers in Ahmedabad city: An empirical study. Pac Bus Rev Int 2012;5:19-26.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.Asif M. The role of fruits, vegetables, and spices in diabetes. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2011;1:27-35.  Back to cited text no. 3
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5.Keswani NK. The Science of Medicine and Physiological Concepts in Ancient and Medieval India. New Delhi: XXVI International Congress of Physiological Sciences; 1974.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.Northbourne L. Look to the Land, 2nd Ed, Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2003.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.Winter C, Davis SF. Organic foods. J Food Sci 2006;71:117-24.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.Food Marketing Institute (FMI). Natural and Organic Foods. 2008. Available from: http://www.fmi.org/docs/media-backgrounder/natural_organic_foods.pdf?sfvrsn=2. [Last accessed on 2013 March 10].  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.ESRC Global Environmental Change Programme (1999) The Politics of GM Food: Risk, Science and Public Trust, Special Briefing No. 5,University of Sussex. Avaiable from: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Users/prfh0/adams_et_al_briefing_on_uncertainty.pdf [Last accessed on 2013 Mar 17].  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.Food and Agriculture Organization. Food Safety and Quality as Affected by Organic Farming, Report of the 22nd regional conference for Europe, Portugal, 24-28 July 2000. Available from: www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/X4983e.htm. [Last accessed on 2013 Mar 17].  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.Fließbach A, Oberholzer HR, Gunst L, Mäder P. Soil organic matter and biological soil quality indicators after 21 years of organic and conventional farming. Agric Ecosyst Environ 2007;118:273-84.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.Edwards S. The impact of compost use on crop yields in Tigray, Ethiopia. Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD). Proceedings of the International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security. FAO, Rom. Obtainable under. 2007. Available from: http//www.ftp.fao.org/paia/organicag/ofs/02-Edwards.pdf. [Last accessed on 2013 Mar 20].  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.Fliessbach A, Mäder P. Microbial biomass and size-density fractions differ between soils of organic and conventional agricultural systems. Soil Biol Biochem 2000;32:757-68.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
14.International Society of Organic Agriculture Research. Vision for an Organic Food and Farming Research Agenda to 2025. 2008. Available from: http://www.tporganics.eu/upload/TPOrganics_VisionResearchAgenda.pdf. [Last accessed on 2013 Mar 17].  Back to cited text no. 14
    
15.Lotter D, Seidel R, Liebhardt W. The Performance of organic and conventional cropping systems in an extreme climate year. Am J Altern Agric 2003;18:146-54.  Back to cited text no. 15
    
16.Halberg N. Energy use and green house gas emission in organic agriculture. Proceedings International conference Organic Agriculture and Climate change, Enita of Clermont, France, April 2008;17-18.  Back to cited text no. 16
    
17.Lobley M, Reed M, Butler A, Courtney P, Warren M. The Impact of Organic Farming on the Rural Economy in England.Exeter: Centre for Rural Research, Lafrowda House, University of Exeter, St. Germanís Road, Exeter; 2005.  Back to cited text no. 17
    
18.Chandrashekar HM. Changing scenario of organic farming in India: An overview. Int NGO J 2010;5:34-9.  Back to cited text no. 18
    
19.Shreck A, Getz C, Feenstra G. Social sustainability, farm labor, and organic agriculture: Findings from an exploratory analysis. Agric Human Values 2006;23:439-9.  Back to cited text no. 19
    
20.The Organic Centre. Do organic fruits and vegetables taste better than conventional produce? Available from: http://www.organic-center.org. [Last accessed on 2013 Mar 13].  Back to cited text no. 20
    
21.Johary A, Jain V, Misra S. Role of lycopene in the prevention of cancer. Int J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis 2012;2:167-70.  Back to cited text no. 21
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22.Bourn D, Prescott J. A comparison of the nutritional value, sensory qualities and food safety of organically and conventionally produced foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2002;42:1-34.  Back to cited text no. 22
    
23.Butler G, Nielsen JH, Slots T, Seal Ch, Eyre MD, Sanderson R, et al. Fatty acid and fat-soluble antioxidant concentrations in milk from highand low-input conventional and organic systems: Seasonal variation. J Sci Food Agric 2008;88:1431-41.  Back to cited text no. 23
    
24.Leu A. A growing body of scientific evidence. The Benefits of Organic Food. ACRES, USA 2004. p. 34.  Back to cited text no. 24
    
25.Crinnion WJ. Organic foods contain higher levels of certain nutrients, lower levels of pesticides, and may provide health benefits for the consumer. Altern Med Rev 2010;15:4-12.  Back to cited text no. 25
    
26.Department of economic analysis and Research. National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development. Organic Farming in India: Relevance, Problems and Constraints. 2005. Available from: http://www.nabard.org/fileupload/databank/occasionalpapers/oc%2038.pdf. [Last accessed on 2013 Mar 17].  Back to cited text no. 26
    
27.Meili K. You are what you eat. Jet Wings 2013;13:58.  Back to cited text no. 27
    




 

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