Organic farming is a tool to connect with the nature

Searching for organic food?
In the quest of conquering the nature, man has inadvertently divided the environment into natural environment that consists of all naturally occurring living and non-living things and a built environment, the one which has been carved by man in order to fulfil his wants. Man has been successful in transforming natural landscapes into urban settings and agricultural land has been tested time and again against ever increasing hunger index. This built environment, which was supposed to fulfil man’s needs as well as wants, however fails to do so. And then you find people, who want to go back to nature! You find people, who want to get back to subsistence economy, who want to ‘live life’ in wild- people who want to adopt ‘organic living’. 

Organic has certainly become a catchphrase in today’s world. You all have been to the supermarket many a times. You have seen that one section donning a tag - ‘Organic Vegetables’, then there are packets of organic tea, coffee, ghee, cereals, vegetables, pulses, milk, honey, fruits and jaggery with ‘organic certified’ tag on it. All these food items are also available in the regular section, however, the organic food stuff are premium priced. 

As you have often heard the word ‘organic’ relating to healthy eating and environment friendly, you opt for the organic items. But, when you pony up that extra Rupee to buy that organic tag are we actually supporting the environment? You also see number of start-ups that are exploring and exploiting offline and online platforms to reach to consumers with their own set of organic products. Are they too bridging the gap between natural and our build environment? Well, let’s dive in to find the answer.

Simply put, organic product is any product that has been produced in such a way that does not harm the environment. In farming context, organic food is “the produce that is grown with nil or minimal use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and in its processing no chemical, artificial colour, flavour or additive has been added. Often, they are produced using organic manures, biofertilisers and biopesticides”. 

We have addicted our lands
The synthetic fertilisers, undoubtedly have proven to be helpful in increasing the production per unit of land while chemical pesticides help contain infestation within hours of spraying and of course, synthetic growth enhancers give us fruits in whatever size and texture (Ah! See those shining apples!) and as and when we wish (what is a seasonal-fruit?). However, such chemicals not only deplete the soil off its nutrients by destroying the natural organic contents but these chemical do remain in the residual form in the harvested crops as well as some part of it migrate to the water bodies contaminating them and enter the food chain. And the sad part is that now our lands require more and more quantities of these synthetic agrochemicals. 

Arrests the environmental exposure of chemicals
Sujit Jain, CMD, Netsurf Communications
The focal point of organic farming is soil. Farm in such a way that your soil stays healthy- intact and enrich with its natural organic content and microbial fauna. Farmers do employ lots of techniques to make their soil healthy - they use compost and manure, crop rotation techniques. They also use pesticides, but only certain non-synthetic ones, to control and contain pest incidences and usually that’s as a last resort. Hence, organic farming technique does prevent the exposure of many chemicals-fertilisers vis-a-vis pesticides - to the environment. In addition, whatever pesticides and fertilisers which are being used are easily biodegradable and pose no harm to the surrounding environment. 

Reduced the risk of soil erosion
In the words of David Pimentel, professor of ecology at Cornell, “Soil erosion is second only to population growth as the biggest environmental problem the world faces.” The practices used in organic farming such as conservation tillage practices, crop rotation, use of compost, strip cropping and protection of existing grassland from conversion to cropland, have been attested for reducing the soil erosion. 

Water conservation
Organic farming techniques do not pollute the surrounding water bodies as it checks the use of synthetic chemicals in farm land. In addition, techniques such as mulching used in organic farming prevent the use of excess water in farming. 

Biodiversity restoration and enhancement
Farm’s natural biodiversity defines the resilience of crops towards stressful conditions like bad weather, disease and pest attacks. Use of biofertilisers and manures ensure that the soil biodiversity is not harmed, in fact it is replenished. On the other hand, the use of biopesticides ensures the specificity of action against only those that destroy crop. 

Organic farming for climate change adaptation
The world is boiling - it has been predicted that there will be temperature rise of 1o to 2.5o by 2030, which will have devastating impact overall. Thanks to greenhouse gases (GHGs). Farming is responsible for approximately one-third of global GHGs when we consider use of livestock, fertilisers, machinery and equipment as well as soil degradation and land use. Organic farming techniques, on the other hand, not only stores carbon beneath the soil but it also enhances the soil carbon sequestration. This way organic farming has considerable benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation. 

Hence, going back to the initial question, if you are being prodigal in buying the ‘genuine’ organic products, you are being thrifty in using the environmental resources. In the words of Masanobu Fukuoka, a farmer, philosopher and writer of One Straw Revolution, ‘To the extent that people separate themselves from nature, they spin out further and further from the centre. At the same time, a centripetal effect asserts itself and the desire to return to nature arises.’ Organic farming is that centripetal force, which has potential to connect future generations with nature. 
Sujit Jain is chairman & managing director of Netsurf Communications Pvt Ltd