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Forget pesticides, go organic
Kanchan Maslekar
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September 22, 2006

The hue and cry about pesticides in colas isn't new. What's more frightening is the challenge we now face of eating healthy food. With reports of pesticides and chemicals in almost everything we eat, many are turning to organic food for healthier living.

What is organic food?

This is, essentially, food that has been grown and transported without the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. It must be produced without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, genetic engineering, growth hormones, irradiation or antibiotics, explains Manju Tadvalkar, Chief Executive Officer of Institute of Natural Organic Agriculture, which aims at the development and promotion of organic agriculture for the production of healthy food.

Organic food is the end product of organic farming, which uses crop rotation and other traditional methods to keep soil fertile and crops free of pests.

The difference between natural and organic

Organic food is not to be confused with natural. The term 'natural' is used for food that has been minimally processed and is preservative-free; it does not necessarily relate to growing methods or the use of preservatives. Natural foods can include organic foods, but not all natural foods are organic.

What's wrong with non-organic food?

"Almost everything," says Manisha Sheth Gutman, who works with Kalpavriksha, an NGO that promotes organic food and farming, helps some organic food producers market their products, and was instrumental in launching the concept of 'Organic on wheels' to directly sell organically grown food to consumers.

"Chemical-dependent farming is expensive," says Manisha. "It is bad for the health of farmers and their families. It produces unhealthy food and has an adverse affect on soil health as pests grow resistant to pesticides, reducing fertility." She adds that the value of nutrients is also imbalanced by excess use of chemical fertilizers.

Due to the high number of oxidants, these food products can lead to disorders of the bone marrow. Slow accumulation can further lead to cancer. There is also a rise in the number of genetic deficiencies, due to increasing residues of these chemicals in the food we eat.

The health factor

Dr Vijaya Sathe, a nutritional therapist, says that organic food is a healthier option because it contains 50 per cent more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micronutrients than intensively farm produced. She adds that, according to research, organic products have more minerals, less water and less artificial chemicals, as a result of which the taste is more natural. In addition to fewer pesticides, studies show that there are substantially more nutrients in organic food.

According to a study by Dr Virginia Worthington on the nutritional quality of organic versus conventional fruits, vegetables, and grains -- published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and available online -- organic food contained 27 per cent more vitamin C, 21 per cent more iron, 29 per cent more magnesium, and 13 per cent more phosphorous.

Another study of the mineral content of organic apples, pear, potatoes, wheat and sweet corn, compared to commercial varieties, proved that organic foods showed much higher levels of nutrients and minerals, and lower levels of heavy metals.

Sathe elaborates that studies show how the application of some pesticides significantly lower the vitamin levels in plants. The nutrients most often affected are vitamin C, beta-carotene, and the B vitamin, all of which are necessary for the body to withstand the onslaught of chemical toxins.

Organic vegetables have higher levels (between 10 per cent and 50 per cent) of secondary nutrients. These include antioxidants, which help mop up harmful free radicals implicated in cancer. Pesticide residues also seem to pose an extra hazard to our children, due to their higher metabolism, low body weight and higher relative fruit consumption.

What's available

Some of the crops currently cultivated under organic farming methods include cereals (rice, wheat, paddy, jowar, bajra, maize), pulses (pigeon pea, chickpea, green gram, black gram, chana), oilseeds (groundnut, castor, mustard, sesame), commodities (cotton, sugarcane, particularly for gur), spices (ginger, turmeric, chillies, cumin), plantation crops (tea, coffee, cardamom seasonal fruits) and almost all vegetables including tomato, brinjal, cabbage, cauliflower and leafy vegetables.

Where to get it

Organic foods were earlier found only in health foods stores, but are now available at supermarkets too. At the moment, organic and naturally grown food can be found only in large departmental stores that sell branded products. There are also small time farmers who have their own outlets and NGOs that market their produce. Manisha believes that awareness about organic food is the need of the hour, as many are not even aware of its advantages. "We need to motivate hotels, large restaurants, airlines, railways and departmental chains, in addition to door-to-door campaigns to spread its advantages," says Geeta Deshmukh, who runs a store that sells organic food in Pune.

The disadvantages

There are some challenges for organic farmers, admit Srinivas Kulkarni and Vachan Shah, initially distributors of fertilizer who have now opened a chain called Organics and Naturals. According to them:

Find it here

In Delhi look for brands like Navdhanya and Whole Foods.

Whole Foods
A-11, Greater Kailash II
Savitri Cinema Road
New Delhi -- 110 048
Phone: (011) 629 1300

Whole Foods
Shop No 11, GF
Ansal Fortune Arcade
Sector-18, NOIDA
Phone: (91) 4591324

***

Conscious Food, an organic food brand retails at the following stores in Mumbai:

Big Bazaar
R-Mall, L.BS Marg
Food Bazaar
Near Thane Check Naka
Mulund West
Mumbai  -- 400 080

D-Mart
Avenue Supermarkets (P) Ltd
Malad
Palm Court Complex
Malad Link Road
Malad West
Mumbai -- 400 084

Health Shop
1B, Doctor House
14 Peddar Road
Mumbai -- 400 026

Click here for more outlets.

***

Organic and Naturals
1, Kamaljia Apartments
1306 Shivajinagar
JM Road
Bank of Baroda Lane
Pune -- 411 005
Phone: (020) 25536835

Fab India
Plot 2 & 3,
Akshay Complex
Pushpak Park, ITI Road,
Aundh
Pune -- 411007
Phone: (020) 26010586

***

In Chennai, the following brands are available:

Future Food: Soya, dals and coffee powder
Phone: (044) 24404937

Ahumkaara: Five seed mix, buckwheat, fresh aloe vera and wheat grass
Phone: (044) 26611818

Enfield Agrobase: Mangoes, dried bananas, cashew and coconut
Phone: (044)  24420605

Naturally Auroville: Kombucha, Spaghetti, ragi, spirulina and bread
Phone: (044) 38330517

***

In Bangalore look for brands like Green Fundas and Econet.

***

Do you consume only organic foods? Is it more expensive? Are there any stores that sell organic food in your neighbourhood? Share your experiences




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Number of User Comments: 5




Sub: Trusting the Organic Food

" Compared to conventional foodstuff, this is more perishable as it doesn't use pesticides or preservatives. " <<<< This statement is always remain doubtful as ...


Posted by Dinesh Akabari





Sub: pesticides

w


Posted by Hitesh





Sub: forget pestisides, go organic

Regarding my opinion on the subject shown on the date 22/09/2006, please do not publish the same. I withdraw the same. My opinion was based ...


Posted by K N Doshi





Sub: Organic food

The product of high breed seeds though it is grown in an organic way,is not considered as healthy or organic food. Many European countries have ...


Posted by K N Doshi





Sub: organic foods

My family has tried to shift to organic foods but is daunted by the exorbitant rates of foodgrains. Even an organisation like Navdanya, which was ...


Posted by Pankaj Butalia




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