By Amarpreet Kaur:
The concept of organic farming is not new in India. It is something that has been practiced since ancient times. As per the definition of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study team on organic farming, “organic farming is a system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc.) and to the maximum extent rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection”. (Source)
Let us try and understand the whole process of agricultural production and how the food ultimately reaches us; human beings, in a little detail. A farmer prepares his land, ploughs it well, adds manure and fertilizers to it, and finally sows the seeds of the required food commodity to be produced. The land is watered and the new plant that grows up is regularly monitored to ensure that everything is going fine. We all know that the one thing which harms these crops is the innumerable insects and pests that eat them up. And when that happens, the agricultural produce goes down, causing financial losses to the farmers. In India, some of these losses have been so prominent that the farmers had to resort to measures as drastic as committing suicide.
To overcome this problem, the farmers in our country are educated about the advantages of using insecticides and pesticides. These chemicals and additives, which when sprayed, kill the pests and insects. But unfortunately, this poison that kills them, also slowly but gradually enters into our food chain and ultimately it is we the consumers, who are ingesting these harmful chemicals inside our bodies (a process called Biomagnification). The outcome? Increase in the occurrences of breast cancer in women, more and more infants being born with defects such as underdeveloped brains and paralysis of lower body parts, to name a few.
As that one episode of Satyamev Jayate in the middle of the month of June on Star Plus highlighted, there are about 67 different types of pesticides whose usage is totally banned across countries of the world but they are still used openly in India. The average daily consumption of pesticides by a normal human being in India is about 400 percent more than the safe permissible limits that have been prescribed. This is highly disturbing to say the least. Then there is no authority or organization that can keep a tab on the levels of pesticides present in the pulses, vegetables and fruits which are supplied to our vendors in the markets.
To overcome this disturbing trend, one cannot help but applaud the efforts made by the Government of Sikkim to make the state totally free of this menace of pesticides. The state has embraced organic farming by imposing a ban on the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers to enhance the crop production. Emphasis is being laid on the use of cheaper and safer methods of protecting the crops from pests. These methods can be employed effectively at low costs and are as effective as using a pesticide or an insecticide. The biggest benefit of course being that no harmful chemical enters into the food that we eat.
The central government needs to look into the seriousness of the issue. If we keep on ignoring the matter and let things continue the way they are going, it will have an adverse impact on the health of our population in the long run. The lead taken by Sikkim is something the other states should try and emulate. We cannot lay the blame on the farmers as well. What the need of the hour is that awareness be created amongst them about the effective techniques and practices to be used for organic farming. They ought to know that the careless use of pesticides that they are involved in is having a negative impact on so many people.
There is no doubt that in the world we live in today, everything is solely driven by one motive, and that is to make money. The pesticide business is a huge one in India; it’s worth being estimated to be around 18,000 crores. The havoc they wreck with the human lives is the last thing on the minds of the people who manufacture pesticides. They put forward the explanation that they have to use them because there is no other way they can ensure quality and quantity of crop production.
But organic farming, as the state of Sikkim has shown, is a very effective alternative. It reduces the cost of production for the farmers and at the same time, ensures quality and harmless food for the consumer to have. All in all, it is a win-win situation for everybody involved. The sooner the organic farming model spreads itself all across the country, the better it will be; for it will ensure a healthier nation. And a healthy India means healthy manpower that can help the nation realize its goal of being recognized as a global superpower.
(Inputs from “Satyamev Jayate” episode )