Organic farming - alternative for clean sustainable future

In the quest for safer food, the demand for organically grown foods has increased in the last decades due to their probable health benefits and food safety concerns.

BySanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Updated on 31 Aug 2021, 4:45 am



Agriculture has been one of the biggest innovations in human history, with the first domestication of food crops occurring over 10,000 years ago. This domestication of food allowed for communities to base themselves in one area, growing tending and harvesting foods to sustain larger populations. Simple manual agriculture dominated for the first 8,000 years- focusing on the sowing and harvesting of grain crops, husbandry of animals and planting orchards of nut and fruit trees. The next 2,000 years brought massive technology changes that moved from mostly manual labour (both human and animal labour) to the manufacture of farming implements that allowed larger areas to be farmed with less labour. Coupled with the sharing of food crops around the world, this again boosted the ability of humans to farm and feed larger populations with agriculture. What started as the simple understanding of plant biology (that is the planting of seeds to grow a replica) grew into the most important and largest industry in the world as well as the fuel for massive population growth. Food was grown with what was naturally available and if modern standards were applied to ancient agriculture, it would most definitely be ORGANIC. The 1900s brought massive change that not only modified how humans produced food but also much food humans could produce.

In the space of less than 150 years, humans discovered how to artificially create fertilizers as well as build machines that could do the work of many humans. It was revolutionary as it allowed for significant yield increases in labour. Interestingly one could easily correlate this change with the acceleration of the human population, suddenly humans were able to produce more with less, allowing massive growth in population (from 1.5 billion in 1900 to more than 7 billion today). The 1940s brought what has been called “The Green Revolution”, which is the loose description given to the discovery of more artificial fertilisers and their distribution; creation of chemical herbicides and pesticides and genetic modification of plants and animals. This shifted food production into mass production that continues today. Driven by the artificial boosting of soil nutrients and application of poisons that reduced the impact of pests, genetic modification of plants has led to plants producing more yield than they would naturally produce and insertion of other animal and plant genomes to modify the properties of the plant. Again, the boom of food production in this time could be linked with the increase in human population. “The Green Revolution" brought more food to the World and with it brought huge volumes of artificial inputs to agriculture. In Australia alone, there are approximately 1.7 million tonnes of artificial fertilisers applied to farming (which has increased from 0.7 million tonnes in 1983). Pesticides use in Australia has also grown rapidly with over 5,000 tonnes of herbicides. 5,000 tonnes of insecticides and 3,000 tonnes of fungicides sprayed every year and growing rapidly. This awareness and the toxicity of many of these inputs has led to the (re)emergence of organic agriculture combining modern agriculture methods with natural inputs and pest’s management. There has been a focus in the past twenty years plus on the food we eat and how it is grown. Many people are asking questions about the inputs that are applied to their foods and the impact that it could be having on the earth as well as their bodies. 1987 saw the emergence of biological farmers of Australia, a group of farmers who advocated and championed the natural farming approach that worked with nature rather than against. They championed and adopted farming techniques that now form organic certification, a process that is incredibly stringent and bound by consumer Law.

Food quality and safety are the two important factors that have gained ever-increasing attention in general consumers. Conventionally (inorganically) grown foods have immense health effects due to the presence of high pesticide residue, more nitrate, heavy metals, hormones, antibiotic residue and also genetically modified organisms. Moreover, conventionally grown foods are less nutritious and contain lesser amounts of protective antioxidants. In the quest for safer food, the demand for organically grown foods has increased in the last decades due to their probable health benefits and food safety concerns. Organic food production is defined as cultivation without the application of chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides or genetically modified organisms, growth hormones and antibiotics. Organic agriculture is a production system that regenerates the health of soils, ecosystem and people. Organic farmers rely on natural processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions rather than the use of synthetic inputs like chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. GMOs are not allowed in organic. On the other hand, conventional (Inorganic) farming relies on chemical intervention to fight pests and weeds and provide plant nutrition i.e., synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers. Organic farming relies on natural principles like biodiversity and composting instead to produce healthy, abundant food. Importantly, “Organic production “is not simply the avoidance of conventional inputs, nor is it the substitution of natural inputs for synthetic ones. Organic farmers apply techniques, first used thousands of years ago, such as crop rotations and use of composed animal manures and green manure crops, in ways that are economically sustainable in today’s world. In organic production, the overall health system is emphasized and the interaction is of primary concern. Organic producers implement a wide range of strategies to develop and maintain biological diversity and replenish soil. Conventional (Inorganic) and organic farming methods have different consequences on the environment and People.

Conventional (Inorganic) agriculture causes increased greenhouse gas emission, soil erosion, water pollution and threatens human health. Organic farming has a smaller carbon footprint, conserves and builds soil health, replenishes natural ecosystem for cleaner water and air without toxic pesticide residue. The popularity of organically grown foods is increasing day by day owing to their nutritional and health benefits. Organic farming also protects the environment and has a greater socio-economic impact on a nation. India is a country that is bestowed with indigenous skills and potentiality for growth in organic agriculture. Manipur falls under the eastern Himalayan agro-climatic zone with two broad topographic divisions- plains and hills. Manipur is within the monsoon belt of the country with sub-tropical to semi-temperate climate in the valley and semi-temperate to temperate climate in the higher altitudes most suitable for organic farming. So, farmers in Manipur have been practising organic farming religiously and for many this has become a sustainable source of income. But Manipur is one place where the farmers are still using different varieties of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in spite of the blanket ban imposed on use of these harmful chemicals all over India since 1998 making hue and cry between the farmers and state government for the chemical fertilizers as reported in the head line stories of local print and electronic media. This is in contradiction to the government's (MOMA) campaign “’Go Organic’’. Although India was far behind in the adoption of organic farming due to several reasons, presently it has achieved rapid growth in organic agriculture and now becomes one of the largest organic producers in the world. Therefore, organic farming has a great impact on the health of a nation like India by ensuring sustainable development. So organic farming is the sole alternative for our clean and sustainable future.

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Faculty, JCRE Global College, Imphal, Manipur. The writer can be reached at sjugeshwor7@gmail.com

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