Organic Food: A Fad or a Revolution?

Let’s face it! The world is changing. The weekdays are getting short while the weekends are getting even shorter. Trying to lead a life, in a metropolitan, especially in a developing country is very difficult, which is exactly my case. There are a lot of things which you feel are out of your control, most importantly – your health. Ever since I moved in search of a job, life has been one hell of a roller-coaster ride.

Sleeping late, waking up early, travelling in heavy traffic to work and back, and hogging on junk food had become my routine. A few months in and my unhealthy habits started taking a toll my body. I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t really control the pollution or my sleep (sometimes my job demanded that I work longer hours). So I did the one thing I could do – manage what I ate. This was a tricky business because once I told my peers that I was starting a healthy diet, advice and tips started pouring in. Although all the suggestions were different, the theme was same – ‘organic’.

At the time, and as a matter of fact even now, I don’t really know if I should take up an organic diet or not. There are arguments for and against it which have put me in bit of a dilemma. So far, I have stuck to conventional food (although my diet now contains more fruits and vegetables and less of junk) only because of the cost factor. Since many people have the same doubts as I do, I decided to put forth the arguments of both the sides in the hope that everyone makes an educated decision.

Organic food – The Saviour

Over the past decade, the consumption of organic food has been steadily on the rise. In many South East Asian countries, especially India, the reason seems to be the health factor. As of 2016, there were 400,000 – 500,000 organic consumers in India, a number which is growing by the day.

For years we’ve been consuming food that has been treated with synthetic chemicals which are unfit for the human body. The chemicals also have a negative impact on nature. It pollutes both land and water. In comparison, organic food is a much better option or so people claim.

In 2007, the INDEPENDENT published an article about the then researches carried out by scientists across Europe. Organic tomatoes, which were the subject of research, contained more vitamin C, beta-carotene and flavonoids compared to conventional tomatoes. The latter two compounds in particular help fight cancer and heart diseases.

Research by one, Prof Carlo Leifert at Newcastle University substantiated this. He showed that organically grown plants contain more antioxidants which are potent in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers.

In 2006, the NCBI, published an article about the pesticide content in children’s blood. They conducted a study comparing children who consumed organic food and children who consumed conventional food. Results showed that the pesticide content in the blood reduced drastically in case of the former.

Even in case of poultry, birds are injected with antibiotics to help them grow better. But these antibiotics gradually help in the creation of superbugs which, if consumed, are extremely harmful to humans. On the other hand, organic meat doesn’t contain any kind of superbugs whatsoever.

With many scientists claiming that organic products are healthier than their conventional counterparts, people are actually concerned. A lot of people are genuinely worried about their health and the environment. Healthy eating and avoiding pesticide residues seem to be the main reasons for people buying organic food.

Organic Food – Oh it’s just a Sham!

Although the reasons as to why organic is better sound convincing, there are equally significant arguments which may make us think otherwise.

According to Biomedical scientist and former US FDA regulator, Henry I. Miller, organic pesticides can be toxic. Miller contributed an article to the Forbes in mid-2015. The article mentions a study conducted by UC Berkeley biochemist Bruce Ames. He found that almost 99.99% of pesticides in food are chemicals produced by the plants to defend themselves. This means that in case of both organic and inorganic food, the chemical composition would be almost identical.

While Dr Ian Musgrave, senior lecturer in Farm Ecology, University of Adelaide claims that synthetic chemicals are better for the land than many organic certified chemicals.

One of the most noteworthy points in their argument are the fertilizers. In case of organic food, no synthetic chemicals are used. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that organically synthesized or naturally occurring fertilizers are harmless. Another major drawback is that there are no studies which prove organic food is more nutritious.

Conclusion – Sham or not, it’s Your Money, Your Health & Your Decision

There are valid arguments on both sides, but the grass isn’t really green on either side. People need to do a lot of research as to what they are getting into. Even today, many people who point to health as the reason for going organic, base their facts on hearsay. Which means, in a way, choosing organic products still seems to be only a fad.

One can only hope that this attitude changes and people start researching and understanding about their food habits before taking any rash decision.

Natural, Organic and Herbal – The Difference

In recent times, I have noticed a rather larger number of people talking about organic or natural or herbal products. The terms are so misleading that I thought they were one and the same. I wasn’t one for checking the ingredients of a product. If someone I knew told me it was natural and good, I blindly went for it.

Now, if there is one good habit I possess, it has got to be reading. I love reading Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Fredrick Forsyth, John Grisham and the list goes on. What I also like is stumbling upon random, interesting articles when I am aimlessly surfing.

It so happens that the other day, while on my online adventure, I landed on an article which spoke about the difference between organic, natural and herbal. Me, being the misinformed genius that I am thought, “Is there a difference?” I started reading and blimey! Not only are they different from each other, they are so different, I wonder how many people notice it. So I decided it was time I took matters into my own hand to educate my fellow ‘lovers of the natural’ about the obvious differences.

First up – natural. As the name suggests, products in this category are supposed to be fruit-basket-391414_960_720.jpgmade from completely natural products like flowers, vegetables and fruits. None of the ingredients are supposed to be synthesised in labs. The catch is, the raw materials can be subject to synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals. But in reality, not all natural products comprise of completely natural ingredients. Since there is no regulation on the word ‘natural’, even products that contain just 1% of natural ingredients can be termed as natural. I sincerely advice you to check the ingredients before a purchase. As you can see, names can be deceiving.

Moving on to organic. “Organic” is the buzzword of the century. Organic products are similar to natural products in many ways. Many argue that they are the best of the rest, since no chemicals, not even synthetic fertilizers can be used to manufacture organic products. The
y simply can’t contain any chemical additives. Companies are required to follow stringent rules and regulations to get an organic certificate for their products. To gain the ‘organic label’, a product must comprise of at least 70% organic ingredients. Certifying agencies, be it government or private, are very particular about this number. Organic farming encourages soil and water conservation and reduces pollution.

Finally, there is herbal. The term ‘herbal’, is usually associated with medicine. These are products that are made from herbs and plant extracts which have specific medicinal properties. In countries like India, China and Egypt, herbal medicines have existed for many millennia. Herbal products can be chemical free, but more often than not, they aren’t. There are no rules dictating the percentage of herbs an herbal product should contain. Most of the herbal products in existence comprise of a large number synthetic chemicals and just a handful of herbs. Again, it is highly essential that you go through the ingredients of any herbal product before you purchase. It is always better to research about such products rather than walking into a shop and picking one up, without really knowing what you are buying.

So that’s the difference between the much coveted organic, natural and herbal products. Hope you find it informative, and make responsible and sustainable choices henceforth.

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.