Organic Food: Going Back a Full Circle

What started off as a fad almost a decade back, is today a necessity. We are, of course, talking about the “Organic”. Back in the day, the so-called elites, that creamy layer at the very top, picked up a trend from their western counterparts. They started consuming Organic Food. At the time not many realised its importance, it was considered more of a rich lifestyle.

Obviously, over the years, people have become more health conscious and a select few among them, also nature conscious. We have now reached a point where organic farming is slowly, but surely, replacing conventional farming methods.
Ecologically_grown_vegetables.jpgWhat exactly is organic farming? Let’s travel back in time to find out. In 1939, one Walter John James, the 3rd Baron Northbourne of England, used the term for the first time in his book ‘Look to the Land’. An agriculturist, Lord Northbourne explained that an organic farm is holistic in nature. It is dependent on the organisms that live on and in it, unlike its chemical counterpart, which relies largely on the newly found, lab synthesized fertilizers.

When we talk about organic farming, one should realise that it is not a new solution. Rather, we are connecting with our roots. Before the emergence of modern techniques, organic farming was the only known and practiced method of agriculture. The approaches may have differed depending on the geography, but the primary sources used were almost always the same, especially cattle manure.

In India, agriculture dates back to the Vedic period, with hymns in Rigveda describing ploughing, irrigation and other farming practices. These accounts, in one of the oldest existing scriptures no less, shows the depth of knowledge about farming in India. It was a time when people depended on natural materials unlike their synthetic substitutes today.  For years and years, Indians have practiced organic farming and tracing back to those traditions and putting them to use again only seems natural.

The advent of fertilizers transformed both the Indian and the global farming scenario. Using fertilizers increased the farm yield, encouraging the farmers to give up their traditional methods and migrate to chemical farming. Not many farmers at the time were aware of the effects of using these synthetic chemicals. Gradually, the fertility of the soil reduced, which saw scores of underground organisms disappear, organisms which played a big part in the old farming method.

As the soil fertility reduced, so did the productivity and to tackle this, GMOs were developed. GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms are a hybrid species created by infusing genes of one organism into a completely different organism. The GMOs are herbicide resistant and can grow in harsh conditions. But GMOs come with their own drawbacks. They create super-weeds, which like the GMOs themselves, are highly resistant to herbicides and are difficult to clear out. They also cross-pollinate, contaminating the gene pool, leading to the complete elimination of certain species. Since independent research on GMOs is banned or suppressed in many countries, the complete extent of their effects is yet to be determined.

All of this brings us back to organic farming. This traditional method is not only dependent on, but also enhances the ecology. This farming technique is a far cry from present-day, conventional farming methods since no synthetic chemicals are used. It is the most natural way of producing food which is both healthy and delectable.



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