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  • Writer's pictureVaishnavi Srinivas

So Just Because You Are Eating Organic, Are You Being Sustainable?

Updated: Jul 2, 2022

Buying organic is more than just a supermarket option for many of my friends and our society. It's a symbol of morality. It's a way for them to demonstrate how superior they are to everyone else. They announce, "I only buy organic," with the same pride they display as if their child cleared the IAS exam. If you are not buying organic are you ok? The audacity to not buy organic? It causes you to question your social standing. As I follow in their footsteps, I can't help but wonder if organic foods have as much of an impact on the environment as they do on my wallet.

Organic farming has witnessed rapid growth as a consequence of this environmental awareness and expanding demand, with global sales of organic foods and beverages sky-rocketing by more than fourfold to $89.7 billion between 2001 and 2016. The current market value of India's organic food business is expected to be USD 6 billion, with a predicted increase to USD 15 billion by 2025. Organic food produced in India is gaining global recognition and adoption, as evidenced by exports worth around 757 million USD in 2018–2019, a 49% increase from 2017 to 2018. One common thread running through all of these industries is that younger consumers continue to drive demand. They believe in the organic label and associate it with being free of pesticides, chemicals, additives, and hormones, and they frequently attribute "cleaner" and "healthier" attributes to organic products. Being organic, on the other hand, is no longer enough for new generation clients, who expect more. They are primarily concerned with supply chain transparency (from farm to table), human and animal welfare issues, and environmental accountability, particularly as it relates to climate change and sustainability. Consumers are asking for additional certifications such as 'Fair-Trade' or 'B-Corp' to be matched with the organic label to add an extra level of confirmation that businesses are doing the right thing for people and ultimately the earth and the environment.

The Green Revolution was hostile to environmental sustainability from its inception. It aimed to significantly expand the scale and efficiency of production while paying little consideration to the human bottom line. Two-thirds of the world has turned into a strained machine operating at full throttles, like an overworked steam engine with gauges in the red and rivets coming out. Smallholder farmers were pushed out in favour of large-scale businesses that benefited the landowners and rich. This implies that the primary bottom line was profit rather than social and natural well-being. I don't know what more to say if this isn't a cry for rescue. This is where organic farming comes in.

Organic food is produced without the use of synthetic inputs such as pesticides or fertilisers. Organic farms use natural pest, disease, and weed control methods fertilisers, and manure. This reduces pesticide exposure to farmworkers, consumers, and the environment as a whole. Organic producers place a premium on animal welfare and environmental sustainability. Organic farming is also concerned with environmental preservation and operating in harmony with existing ecosystems, including the conservation of water, soil, and energy, as well as the use of renewable resources and natural farming cycles. Organic foods promote a healthier and more environmentally friendly use of natural resources. Chemicals are used excessively in modern conventional farming, and often just one crop is planted several times (monocropping) in one go. Over many years, these practices have resulted in a reduction in soil fertility, an increase in salinity, and an increase in blue-green algae in waterways. Non-target species such as birds, fish, and plants can be poisoned as a result of these chemical pesticides, as can organisms of specific ecological importance such as bees and algae. Pesticides frequently pollute soil, as well as surface and groundwater. Organic farmers make every effort to minimise this environmental damage. Despite comparatively lower yields, organic sites exhibited more biodiversity (34%), and revenues (50%), than conventional sites (18%). Biodiversity gains increased as the average crop field area increased in the landscape, implying that organic farms provide a "refuge" in dense environments. Organic systems showed higher biotic abundance and richness than conventional systems.

So is organic farming worth it? Organic agriculture is more profitable (by 22–35%) for farmers despite lower yields since customers are ready to pay extra. These higher prices essentially pay farmers for keeping their land in good condition. Nonetheless, organic farming has been demonstrated to provide more jobs while also reducing farm workers' exposure to pesticides and other toxins. Organic farming can contribute to feeding the globe while also preserving wild land.

Should you buy organic? That is a decision that only you can make depending on your family's requirements and wishes, as well as your budget. So it turns out that there is no clear answer to my question. When the costs and benefits of organic and conventional agriculture are considered, experts suggest that the most sustainable diet should ideally include both organic and conventional agriculture, depending on the type of food. Fruits and vegetables should be grown organically if nutritional value is a top goal. Grains and other staple crops with a high-calorie density should be cultivated conventionally. In the end, sustainable food production involves a balance between yield optimization and environmental preservation. A sustainable diet is about more than just how food is produced; it is also about the things we choose to eat. An environmentally low-impact diet is one that is plant-based and consists of locally grown, seasonal foods. There is no doubt that organic farming is comparatively better for the environment. There is also no doubt that it may be less productive and virtually certainly significantly more expensive in many settings. Believe it or not, industrial agriculture can be just as sustainable as organic agriculture. Simple measures like eliminating waste, paying a premium for sustainably produced food, diversifying one's diet, and lowering meat consumption. Most importantly, be aware of how ecologically and socially complicated food and its production is.

In an era of rising population, climate change, and environmental degradation, we require agricultural systems that provide a more balanced portfolio of sustainability benefits. Organic farming is one of the healthiest and strongest sectors today, and it will continue to grow and play a larger role in feeding the globe.


Author: Nayeisha Puri

Editor: Khushi Jaiswal

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