When all the other Indian states are advancing on the fronts of massive technology, the Northeastern part of our country is embracing nature. They are constantly setting an example for us regarding environment protection, water conservation and protecting flora and fauna. Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur are some of the states who have achieved such feat. It wasn’t long before when Sikkim became the country’s first organic state and set an inspiring example for all other states. Now, it has made our country even more proud by bagging the Oscar award, granted by the United Nations.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization handed the Oscar for Best Policies award to the Sikkim government for this extraordinary achievement. With the help of local volunteers, farmers, and government officials, Sikkim became the world’s first 100% organic state and bagged the award leaving behind 51 other nominees across the globe.
The Sikkim government had adopted means to embrace organic farming and encouraged communities to reject any artificial means of agriculture. They took steps to conserve forests, reduce carbon emission, educate tribal people to safeguard their biodiversity and conducted many awareness events. This benefitted the overall income of the state, the farmers, villagers and promoted the idea of sustainable development. Such a proud moment for our nation also comes with a boatload of examples that now, we need to preserve our surroundings and protect the nature around us as well.
A lot of people are confused as to which type of food is better between organic and our regular conventional foods. For a lot of people, they are of the belief that regular conventional food is healthier and more beneficial than organic food. For others, reverse is the case and there are also a handful of people who are indifferent as to which they prefer.
However, the importance of this article is to provide you with detailed information on both organic foods and conventional foods citing their benefits, shortcoming, and facts that will educate you on what to expect from both food groups.
What are organic and conventional foods?
Organic foods refer to agricultural products that are grown and processed without the use of fertilizers, growth regulators, livestock feeds, pesticides, additives, bio-engineered genes (GMOs). Organic farming is controlled by regulations which differ from country to country. The main concept of organic farming is to grow food without the use of synthetic materials or genetically modified crops.
In conventional farming, farmers utilize chemical fertilizers to enhance plant growth. Conventional foods are made using pesticides, chemical herbicides. In animal rearing, conventional farmers administer antibiotics and growth hormones to improve the growth and well being of the animals.
The difference between organic food and conventional food
Organic and conventional foods differ from one another, below are some of the major differences between organic and conventional foods.
- The main difference between organic foods and conventional foods is in the method used in growing the food on the farm. In conventional food farming, farmers utilize chemicals during production and processing of farm produce. These chemicals have a devastating effect on the environment and on human health. The fact is that foods are grown using pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, and other kind of chemicals.They may be safe for consumption as there have not been any recorded case of anyone falling ill from consuming conventional foods. However, existing doubts surrounding conventional foods is due to the fact that the long-term effect of consuming conventional foods remains unknown.In organic farming, all the chemical which are utilized in conventional farming are avoided both in the food production and processing. The fact that there is no trace of chemicals in the production of organic foods makes it environmentally friendly and good for human consumption. Reasons that all the potential contaminants from the chemicals are not incorporated into the food and environment.
- In animal farming, conventional farmers administer growth hormones, antibiotics and another form of medication to the animals to improve their growth and for disease prevention.Organic farmers allow their animals to roam about freely and feed on strictly organic foods and ensure that the animals have a balanced diet and their house remains clean to avoid disease outbreak.
- In conventional farming, farmers use pesticides to eliminate the outbreak of pests, while organic farmersrely on birds and insects or traps to get rid of pest.
- Conventional farmers use chemical herbicides to control weeds, while organic farmers engage in crop rotation, mulches or hand weeds
|Use synthetic or chemicals during production and processing of farm produce||Chemicals are avoided in production and processing of farm produce, instead, farmers use manure or compost to nourish soil and promote growth|
|Use of pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, other chemicals||Environmentally friendly and free of anti-biotics|
|Growth hormones, antibiotics and other medications to improve growth and prevent disease outbreak||Animals roam freely and feed strictly on organic foods|
|Use of insecticides to eliminate pest outbreaks||Relies on birds and insects to get rid of pesticides or pesticides from natural sources|
|Use of chemical herbicides for weed controlling||Crop rotation, use of mulch or hands to control weed|
Which one is safe for consumption?
Organic foods and conventional foods are both safe for consumption. However, it is advisable that when selecting your fruits and vegetables, make sure that you stick to products from organic farms. This is essential to avoid consuming foods that contain chemical residues from farms that utilize conventional methods of food production and processing.
As earlier stated, conventional farmers incorporate chemicals in foods production and these chemicals can easily be transferred into fruits and vegetables. Since most fruits and vegetables are consumed fresh from the farm without boiling or cooking, which can help to reduce the chemical effect in the food, beware of what you put inside of you. A lot of debate is ongoing on the safety of consuming conventional foods in the long term but when it comes to eating fruits and vegetable, endeavor to select products from an organic market.
Even as conventional foods seems to possess chemical residues from pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals used in the cultivation of these plants, conventional foods are still considered safe for consumption. Fruits such as apple, banana, and citrus produced using conventional farming methods can be consumed without fear of side effects. Conventional foods are both safe for kids and adults. Animal products such as pork, beef, chicken, and others reared with the use of antibiotics and growth stimulants are also considered safe for consumption and do not pose any health risk as countless study and evaluation of people who ate conventional animal demonstrate no posed health risk.
Impact on the environment
A major concern of conventional farming is its effect on the environment. While conventional food producers believe that there is not enough science based evidence to prove that conventional foods production affect the environment negatively, there are a lot of facts which counters their claims. The points below are backed by scientific finding on the effect of organic and conventional farming on the environment:
- In organic production, the contamination of soil and water does not exist since there is no use of synthetic chemicals in organic farming whereas conventional farming relies heavily on the use of synthetic chemicals which poses as a threat to soil and underwater contamination.
- Organic farming helps protect the local wildlife through the avoidance of toxic chemicals which helps to provide a safe haven for local wide life to thrive such as insects and rodents rather than contaminating it like in the case of conventional farming.
- Organic farming has helped to preserve biodiversity as the avoidance of synthetic chemicals in food farming helps to promote a natural balance in the ecosystem which prevents an abundance of particular species over the others.
- Organic farming reduces the effect of erosion as there is no elimination of vegetation which allows for more soil to be covered with vegetation which prevents erosion.
Although critics of organic farming may be quick to note that conventional farming does not require land use like organic farming but that does not provide enough evidence to counter the benefits of organic farming. The fact that organic food production utilizes methods that protect and preserve the ecosystem which comprises of both wildlife and vegetation is enough reasons to say that it is of greater benefit to the environment than the conventional method.
You might think organic food would cost less than conventional food since the production is spared the cost of the chemicals, synthetic pesticides, and antibiotics. Yet organic products typically cost 20 percent to 100 percent more than their conventionally produced equivalents.
In an economy that is sluggishly recovering from a recession, that’s a price tag many Americans can’t afford, even though the majority of them would prefer to buy organic. If you’re part of that majority, you’ve probably wondered what’s behind that cost. Here are the top 10 factors contributing to the high price of organic food:
1. No chemicals = more labor
Conventional farmers use all of those chemicals and synthetic pesticides because they end up reducing the cost of production by getting the job done faster and more efficiently. Without them, organic farmers have to hire more workers for tasks like hand-weeding, cleanup of polluted water, and the remediation of pesticide contamination.
The Organic Farming Research Foundation explained it well: “The organic price tag more closely reflects the true cost of growing the food: substituting labor and intensive management for chemicals, the health and environmental costs of which are borne by society.”
2. Demand overwhelms supply
Retail sales of organic food rose from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $21.1 billion in 2008, according to the USDA, and 58 percent of Americans claim they prefer to eat organic over non-organic food. However, organic farmland only accounts for 0.9 percent of total worldwide farmland, and organic farms tend to produce less than conventional farms. Conventional farms have the farmland and the supply to keep costs down since manufacturers are able to reduce costs when producing a product in larger quantities.
3. Higher cost of fertilizer for organic crops
Sewage sludge and chemical fertilizers might not be something you want in your food, but conventional farmers use them because they don’t cost much and are cheap to transport. Organic farmers eschew these inexpensive solutions in order to keep their crops natural and instead use compost and animal manure, which is more expensive to ship.
4. Crop rotation
Instead of using chemical weed-killers, organic farmers conduct sophisticated crop rotations to keep their soil healthy and prevent weed growth. After harvesting a crop, an organic farmer may use that area to grow “cover crops,” which add nitrogen to the soil to benefit succeeding crops.
Conventional farmers, on the other hand, can use every acre to grow the most profitable crops. Because crop rotation reduces the frequency in which organic farmers can grow profitable crops, they’re unable to produce the larger quantities that are most cost-effective for conventional farmers.
5. Post-harvest handling cost
In order to avoid cross-contamination, organic produce must be separated from conventional produce after being harvested. Conventional crops are shipped in larger quantities since conventional farms are able to produce more. Organic crops, however, are handled and shipped in smaller quantities since organic farms tend to produce less, and this results in higher costs. Additionally, organic farms are usually located farther from major cities, increasing the shipping cost.
6. Organic certification
Acquiring USDA organic certification is no easy — or cheap — task. In addition to the usual farming operations, farm facilities and production methods must comply with certain standards, which may require the modification of facilities. Employees must be hired to maintain strict daily record-keeping that must be available for inspection at any time. And organic farms must pay an annual inspection/certification fee, which starts at $400 to $2,000 a year, depending on the agency and the size of the operation.
7. Cost of covering higher loss
Conventional farmers use certain chemicals to reduce their loss of crops. For example, synthetic pesticides repel insects and antibiotics maintain the health of the livestock. Since organic farmers don’t use these, their losses are higher, which costs the farmer more and increases the cost to the consumer. Additionally, without all the chemical preservatives added to conventional foods, organic foods face a shorter storage time and shelf life.
8. Better living conditions for livestock
Higher standards for animal welfare also means more costs for organic farms. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, organic feed for cattle and other livestock can cost twice as much as conventional feed.
9. Organic food grows more slowly
Time is money. Not only are organic farms typically smaller than conventional ones, but they also, on average, take more time to produce crops because they refrain from using the chemicals and growth hormones used by conventional farmers.
Production-oriented government subsidies reduce the overall cost of crops. In 2008, mandatory spending on farm subsidies was $7.5 billion while programs for organic and local foods only received $15 million, according to the House Appropriations Committee.
The Benefits and Basics of Organic Food and How to Keep It Affordable
Organic food has become very popular. But navigating the maze of organic food labels, benefits, and claims can be confusing. Is organic food really better for your mental and physical health? Do GMOs and pesticides cause cancer and other diseases? What do all the labels mean? This guide can help you make better choices about shopping organic, including what to focus on and how to make eating organic more affordable.
What does “organic” mean?
The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. While the regulations vary from country to country, organic crops must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
The benefits of organic food
How your food is grown or raised can have a major impact on your mental and emotional health as well as the environment. Organic foods often have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally-grown counterparts and people with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives often find their symptoms lessen or go away when they eat only organic foods.
Organic produce contains fewer pesticides. Chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides are widely used in conventional agriculture and residues remain on (and in) the food we eat.
Organic food is often fresher because it doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer. Organic produce is often (but not always, so watch where it is from) produced on smaller farms near where it is sold.
Organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Farming without pesticides is also better for nearby birds and animals as well as people who live close to farms.
Organic milk are richer in certain nutrients. Results of a 2016 European study show that levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 percent higher in organic milk than in conventionally raised versions.
Organic food is GMO-free. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) foods are plants whose DNA has been altered in ways that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding, most commonly in order to be resistant to pesticides or produce an insecticide.
Organic food vs. locally-grown food
Unlike organic standards, there is no specific definition for “local food”. It could be grown in your local community, your state, your region, or your country. During large portions of the year it is usually possible to find food grown close to home at places such as a farmer’s market.
The benefits of locally grown food
Financial: Money stays within the local economy. More money goes directly to the farmer, instead of to things like marketing and distribution.
Transportation: In the U.S., for example, the average distance a meal travels from the farm to the dinner plate is over 1,500 miles. Produce must be picked while still unripe and then gassed to “ripen” it after transport. Or the food is highly processed in factories using preservatives, irradiation, and other means to keep it stable for transport.
Freshness: Local food is harvested when ripe and thus fresher and full of flavor.
Small local farmers often use organic methods but sometimes cannot afford to become certified organic. Visit a farmer’s market and talk with the farmers to find out what methods they use.