In recent years, awareness of the harmful effect of chemical-based fertilisers and pesticides on our health is on a rise. Conventional agriculture relies heavily on chemical fertilisers and toxic pesticides etc., which enter the food supply, penetrate the water sources, harm the livestock, deplete the soil and devastate natural ecosystems. Efforts in evolving technologies which are eco-friendly are essential for sustainable development and one such technology which is eco-friendly is organic farming. In short, organic agriculture is a whole system of farming that restores, maintains and enhances the ecological balance. There is an increasing demand for organically grown food to enhance food safety throughout the world.
Organic food is growing in popularity across the world. Many countries have around 10 per cent of their food system under organic farming. There are many retail chains and supermarkets which are accorded with green status to sell organic food. Moreover, organic foods command higher prices of around 10-100 per cent than conventional ones.
Benefits Of Organic Farming
- Organic agriculture offers a means to substitute costlier agricultural inputs (such as HYV seeds, chemical fertilisers, pesticides etc.) with locally produced organic inputs that are cheaper and thereby generate good returns on investment.
- Organic agriculture also generates incomes through international exports as the demand for organically grown crops is on a rise.
- Studies across countries have shown that organically grown food has more nutritional value than chemical farming thus providing us with healthy foods.
- Since organic farming requires more labour input than conventional farming, India will find organic farming an attractive proposition.
- Finally, the produce is pesticide-free and produced in an environmentally sustainable way.
Popularising organic farming requires awareness and willingness on the part of farmers to adapt to new technology. Inadequate infrastructure and the problem of marketing the products are major concerns which need to be addressed apart from an appropriate agriculture policy to promote organic farming. It has been observed that the yields from organic farming are less than modern agricultural farming in the initial years. Therefore, small and marginal farmers may find it difficult to adapt to large-scale production. Organic produce may also have more blemishes and a shorter shelf life than sprayed produce. Moreover choice in production of off-season crops is quite limited in organic farming. Nevertheless, organic farming helps in sustainable development of agriculture and India has a clear advantage in producing organic products for both domestic and international markets.
Organically Produced Cotton In Maharashtra
In 1995, when Kisan Mehta of Prakruti (an NGO) first suggested that cotton, the biggest user of chemical pesticides, could be grown organically, the then Director of the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur, famously remarked, “Do you want India to go naked?” At present, as many as 130 farmers have committed 1,200 hectares of land to grow cotton organically on the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement’s standards. The produce was later tested by the German Accredited Agency, AGRECO, and found to be of high quality. Kisan Mehta feels that about 78 per cent of Indian farmers are marginal farmers owning about less than 0.8 hectare but accounting for 20 per cent of India’s cultivable land. Therefore, organic agriculture is more profitable in terms of money and soil conservation in the long run.
Source: Lyla Bavadam, A Green Alternative, Frontline, 29 July 2005.
Bibliography : NCERT – Indian Economic Development