In my previous article, I tried to differentiate between Natural and Organic foods. Now that we have established that organic is better, lets take this up a notch to identify, in the Indian context, what are the key indicators of an authentic, organic product, and how as a consumer you can find out more about a product’s claims of being organic.
The India Organic logo, launched by the Government of India, is granted only upon the compliance with National Standards for Organic Production (NSOP). The government has also accredited private bodies under NPOP (National Programme for Organic Production) to evaluate and certify producers or exporters with the logo under the guidelines laid out by the government. It is to be noted that a product can only be exported as an organic product with this logo if it is produced, processed, packed and labelled under the India Organic trademark issued by the National Accreditation Body, constituted under the NPOP.
At present, there are 28 Accredited Certification Bodies under NPOP and 562 Regional Councils under PGS-India who can provide such certification. NPOP and PGS (Participatory Gurantee Systems) for India can certify and make sure companies and producers comply with the set of standards laid out. Whereas the NPOP provides an India Organic logo, the PGS provides a PGS-India Organic logo after necessary certification.
To remove the confusion, the Government of India introduced a Jaivik Bharat Logo to differentiate between an organic and a non-organic product irrespective of whether it has been certified through PGS or NPOP. It is a unified logo.
Simply translating to ‘Organic India’, the logo is a symbol of authenticity and trust, a unified logo for Organic Foods as per the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India).
According to the FSSAI, “Organic foods are products of holistic agricultural practices focusing on bio-diversity, soil health, chemical free inputs etc. with an environmentally and socially responsible approach that have been produced in accordance with organic production standards.”
The consumer should look for a FSSAI logo with a license number and one of the aforementioned logos underneath it on the package to identify the product as organic.
The portal helps consumers verify the authenticity of organic foods. Through this Portal, the consumers can access all information with respect to the producer, the certification system and the availability of certified organic products in specific markets along with the necessary information about organic food standards, certification processes, etc.
Here, the license validity and the certifying body of a specific company can be found out to make sure that companies aren’t using the logo without having the proper certification.
USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Organic is used to certify products as 100% organic under strict rules and regulations.
According to their website, The National Organic Program (NOP) develops the rules & regulations for the production, handling, labelling, and enforcement of all USDA organic products. This process, referred to as rulemaking, involves input from the National Organic Standards Board and the public. The NOP also maintains a Handbook that includes guidance, instructions, policy memos, and other documents that communicate the organic standards.
NPOP has equivalence with organic food regulations of European Union and Switzerland and a recognition agreement on conformity assessment with USDA, hence any certification from the two can be used.
I hope this article shed some light on the obscure world of organic certification in India. Now I can safely say that you have all the tools to make an informed decision.
Organic. You might have heard it from your neighbor, your woke cousin or that aunt who doesn’t stop talking about how fit she is, but I assure you, they don’t have the faintest clue what they’re talking about. In this article, I want to talk about the benefits that you could give the world and yourself if you choose to consume organic food products.
The difference between Natural and Organic
"Natural foods" are often assumed to be foods that are minimally processed and do not contain any hormones, antibiotics or artificial flavors. While “natural” assures you of little, “organic” tells you are buying food made without the use of toxic pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics, artificial growth hormones in animals, sewage sludge or irradiation.
Organic food is healthy
Now that we have cleared the air, you might have guessed that it is not sufficient for food products to be labelled natural for them to be healthy. Even natural products use toxic pesticides and herbicides to kill weeds or bugs. Instead of rotating crops and biological pest control (such as pheromones, bacteria, or good pests that kill harmful pests) or pulling weeds out or tilling the land, they use cancer causing pesticides and herbicides only because it requires less work with sustainable practices. These farmers might use synthetic chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth where organic farmers would apply natural fertilizers such as manure or fertilizers.
In contrast to the conventional farmers who give animals growth hormones and antibiotics to prevent disease, organic meat and dairy producers use preventative measures such as rotational grazing, a wholesome diet, clean housing and access to the outdoors for an overall healthy animal. By some measures, these humane, “free range” practices that keep the animal happy are linked to more nutritious and tastier food that comes from them.
It is higher in Nutrition
Adding on, special studies have shown that organic foods have higher nutrition levels than non-organic foods. One of them was a study conducted by Newcastle University, UK, which determined that the level of antioxidants is 69% higher in organic foods than in non-organic foods. So, when you eat a meal of organic food, it is like you have consumed one or two additional portions of fruits and vegetables. The antioxidants that come from this food play a crucial role in cleaning your body cells, and thus not making your body susceptible to disease.
According to Mayo Clinic, Organic farming practices are designed to meet the following goals:
Enhance soil and water quality
Provide safe, healthy livestock habitats
Enable natural livestock behavior
Promote a self-sustaining cycle of resources on a farm
Organic farming saves land from degradation through sustainable practices like crop rotations, inter-cropping, etc. which promote the natural flora and fauna, improving soil formation and enhancing nutrients which compensate for the non-use of mineral fertilizers. This formation of a stable ecosystem also prevents excessive soil erosion.
Pollution of groundwater courses with fertilizers and pesticides remains a major problem in many agriculture areas. Well-managed organic systems greatly reduce the risk of groundwater pollution and the health risks associated with it.
Agrochemicals like pesticides or herbicides require high quantities of fossil fuels to be produced. Organic farming decreases this need, hence reducing the use of non-renewable energy. Also, many management practices used by organic agriculture increase the return of carbon to the soil, raising productivity and favoring carbon storage. This goes on to mitigate the effects of global warming and climate change by hiding the carbon from the atmosphere.
About 29% or about 96.4 million hectares of land in India are considered degraded because of these conventional practices and rapid industrialization. Organic farming also helps in maintaining the soil quality through sustainable practices, hence reducing degradation of land.
Death by pesticide
Pesticides enter the body through the skin (contact), the lungs (inhalation) and the mouth (ingestion). Inhalation of pesticide fumes results in serious damage to the nose, throat, and lung tissues. Symptoms include dizziness, breathlessness and vomiting. This leads to the deaths of hundreds of farmers each year in India. Disturbingly, many of these deaths have been attributed to suicide by pesticide poisoning.
The elephant in the room
When you talk about advantages like serious health benefits, gains to the farmer, the soil and the environment, in most cases, there sometimes comes a trade-off with price. This is why many consumers prefer to eat food made through conventional practices which ultimately discourage farmers from putting in the time and effort to produce organic goods. But by consuming organic products, you can change that.
Often organic food is cheaper because of reduced water use, lower expenses on fertilizer and energy and increase in the preservation of topsoil. The use of organic farming reduces the usage of energy requirements on average by 28-30%.
The myth of organic being expensive is so widespread that organic food is associated with only the elite. And even when organic food is somewhat a little more expensive, the typical consumer prefers his precious “affordability” more than his long-term health. Yet he spends Rs. 800 a month on Netflix, Rs. 1700 a meal on KFC, and Rs. 60 on an Uber pass which he uses to get discounts on his 5-minute ride to office when he could have simply used a bicycle. Customer is king, but he is also a hypocrite.
Consumers these days satiate their desire of healthy living by buying “that one natural fruit juice” which is ultimately created through the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, genetically modified ingredients, preservatives and processed sugars.
Image is everything. And the advertisers behind the word “Natural” really know how to build it.