Organic farming is not a ‘new’ concept and was marginalized against the large-scale inorganic based farming practices that have steadily dominated food production around the world for years. Organic farming relies on natural processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions and thus is environment friendly, sustainable and healthy, in contrast to the inorganic farming which is based on use of synthetic inputs like chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and is harmful to not only the environment but to us humans as well.
Need and Benefits of Organic Farming
According to NABARD “The need for organic farming in India arises from the unsustainability of agriculture production and the damage caused to ecology through the conventional farming practices. The present system of agriculture which we call 'conventional' and practiced the world over evolved in the western nations as a product of their socio-economic environment which promoted an overriding quest for accumulation of wealth. This method of farming adopted by other countries is inherently self destructive and unsustainable.
Therefore, organic farming is becoming increasingly popular not only in India, but all over the world as food safety is receiving more and more attention than ever before by governments and policy makers, the biomedical community, the food industry, health professionals, and last but not least, the public. Multiple factors have been associated with the preference for organic food that which indicate an increased interest towards personal health, animal welfare and environmental protection. The most important fundamentals for going organic seem to be health-related issues and the notions about food safety. The good taste and nutritional value of organic food also attracts a wide consumer base.
Effects of Conventional Farming
Inorganic agriculture uses wide ranges of synthetic chemicals that inevitably leave residue in the produce and can enter the food chain via on-farm pesticide use, post-harvest pesticides use, pesticide use on imported food and cancelled pesticides that persist in the environment.
According to WHO estimate approximately one million people in India are taken ill every year with pesticides poisoning and up to 20,000 of them die in agony. Increased incidence of miscarriage, still births, delayed pregnancies etc have been found among women agricultural workers and wives of men employed in pesticide spraying and mixing. The toxic residues that enters the body also poisons it slowly, causing heart disease, kidney and liver damage and even cancer, limb deformities and poor eyesight. Thus, the extensive use of chemicals and antibiotics in inorganic food production technology has compelled the health conscious people to explore and support organic farming.
Use of pesticides also results in damage to environment and increases resistance of insects to them. Pesticides harm useful organisms in the soil and the monoculture of high yielding seeds require external inputs of chemical fertilizers which also destroy soil organisms. They damage the rhizobia and other micro organisms that fix nitrogen and make phosphates available to plants. The long term effect is reduction of crop yields and the damaged soil also gets easily eroded by wind and water.
A study based on data collected by the US government found pesticide residues on 23 percent of organic fruits and vegetables and on nearly 75 percent of conventionally grown produce. Another study of three apple production system (organic, integrated and conventional) in Washington State assessed their impact on some factors in all three dimensions of sustainability. They concluded that organic production systems were more profitable, had a lower environmental impact and produced sweeter and less tart apples.
It is evident that the present widespread pattern of conventional farming, which ignores the ecology and environment, cannot sustain without substantial erosion of the factors that support the life system of all living things on the Earth. The ill effects of such a development are well documented and thus the need for switching to organic ways of farming becomes all the more important due to its environmental friendly methods and growing consumer awareness of food safety.