What is Organic?
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (UK) states that ‘Organic food is the product of a farming system which avoids the use of man-made fertilizers, pesticides; growth regulators and livestock feed additives. Irradiation and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or products produced from or by GMOs are generally prohibited by organic legislation. Organic agriculture is a systems approach to production that is working towards environmentally, socially and economically sustainable production. Instead, the agriculture systems rely on crop rotation, animal and plant manures, some hand weeding and biological pest control’.
Organic food and our perception
Organic term is now widely discussed in the world. In Bangladesh, there is a lot of interest in organic food. But what is the meaning of organic? We have no clear idea about this. The main importance of organic food is its safety, which does not result in an increased health risk. Organic food nutritional value is relatively high, which is needed for good health. Almost all of the chain shops around us have a corner of organic products. Are there all vegetables, fish, rice, pulses etc. being sold as organic, is it really organic? Are we not being deceived in the name of organic? We are looking at all the products that are available in organic market, which we are selling at relatively high prices. In our country, there is a sense of organic farming that can be organic only when using organic fertilizers or dung fertilizers without using synthetic fertilizers. In fact, organic farming is a well planned farm management and production process that produces high quality food through sustainable agriculture. In this system the arrangement of the environment, people, plants and animals are well-coordinated with the world that ultimately brings welfare of the whole world.
Way to know the real organic food
To be organic, it must be organic certified by any organization and the Organic of that organization will be printed on the product label. By seeing Seal /Logo, it can be ensured that the product is cultivated by following the organic standards of any country. Most advanced countries now have their own organizations for organic certification. The name with logos of some organic certification bodies are mentioned below:
United State Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Japan Agricultural Standard (JAS)
European Union (EU)
In order to achieve organic certificates, the brief description of the conditions for the Food Chain to be fulfilled from farm to table are as follows:
1) Soil In relation to cultivation, the soil fertility and usefulness will come first. Before starting organic farming, be sure that the elements of the soil, the organic matter, and the existing organisms on the soil are according to the standard. Is there any scope of contaminated substances coming from the surrounding land, from the wind or through storm rain? Is there a minimum level of harmful heavy metals such as Lead, Arsenic, and Mercury etc. on the ground? In addition, the previous history of cultivation of land in written form is essential condition for organic farming. It is possible to produce organic yield on the land by following these conditions.
2) Seed Seed is the main step of the improved yield. The reason for the subsequent health risks lies in the quality of the seeds. Recent studies have shown that food products produced from genetically modified seeds may be the causes for weak immune system, early aging, and increasing the risk of serious health hazards. In the field of organic farming, the seed must be non-GMO. In addition to, it is forbidden to use seeds stored in radiation. It is possible to get better yields through better pollution free seed.
3) Artificial fertilizer Due to the use of synthetic fertilizers, the small residues of fertilizers left in the crop may increase the risk of various types health risks in the body. In organic farming almost all types of synthetic fertilizers are prohibited. Instead, uses organic fertilizers.
4) Pesticides and Herbicides The unplanned use of chemical pesticides/herbicides reduces the health benefits of food and causes toxicity. There are also strict rules for the use of pesticides and herbicides in organic farming.
5) Radiation Due to the radiation, the nutrient quality may decrease in food grains; which serves as a hindrance to our long-term health. Seed, food grains/products cannot be stored through radiation in organic farming.
6) Management of farming Without proper planning, real organic farming is not possible. What kind of agricultural machinery was used during the cultivation? What kind of oil/net used in the equipment? How many workers worked at a date? Whether they have complied with the health rules? How was the crop stored in a wrap? etc. all organic farming has to be considered in accordance with the rules and all the information is to be recorded / stored.
Organic system for process facility
There is also a set of USDA's eligibility rules for acquiring organic certificates of any processed foods, which are to be followed thoroughly. The brief description of this is mentioned below:
1) Material: All ingredients must be organic certified. The details of the sources, transport and preservation methods, standards etc. should be in written form.
2) Food additives/preservatives: There are also solid rules to use preservatives or food additives in organic method.
3) Processing equipment: The processing equipment should be of such quality, so that no harmful substances from the equipment can enter in food. There are also specific regulations regarding other food item manufacturing using non-organic materials. Equipment and equipment used should be properly cleaned. Equipment should be regularly monitored so that it is suitable for organic farming.
4) Food packing and label: The food packaging information plays an important role for tracing of any food item. The packet must be food grade. Labels should have Seal / Logo of organic certificates issuing institution. We can easily go to their website and verify that the product is actually certified by that institution or not. Apart from this, the label must have a mark / code, through which it can be possible to trace the history of the ingredients used. Organic certification can be achieved in favor of a food product by properly applying the above steps.
Inspection and Verification
There is a compulsion to verify whether organic certification receivers are properly following the organic method, at least once a year. In this case, if there is any deviation, there is a provision for financial fines and cancellation of licenses. Thus, the organic activities of a firm or factory are ensured through accountability.
Organic Farming and Environment
1) Fertility of the soil: It is revealed from Studies for 50 years that the soil nitrogen and carbon decreases by 50% to 65% when cultivating the land using synthetic fertilizers and at one stage the land becomes unfit for cultivation. Organic farming uses organic materials to preserve necessary heat and beneficial germs of the soil. Apart from this, soil erosion is less and productivity increases in this method.
2) Biodiversity: Due to the use of artificial pesticides and weed herbicides in the current cultivation and due to repeated cultivation of similar crops, many valuable species of crops are permanently extinct. Besides, due to the spread of the toxic material in the environment, many animals and micro-organisms become poisonous. In organic farming, organic materials are used instead of artificial synthetic material, which protects the environment and creates a heaven for different species of plants, insects, birds and animals. In "The Journal of Biological Conservation-2005", 76 studies on the effects of organic and conventional farming on plants, soil, germs, spiders, butterflies, insects, birds and mammals were reviewed. In this review, it is found that organic fertility and enrichment of organic farms are high.
3) Nitrogen Run-off problem: The conventional agricultural method is heavily dependent on synthetic fertilizers, especially nitrogen. The use of global nitrogen increased 10 times in the last 50 years. 50% to 75% of this nitrogen mixes between rivers and other ecosystems, resulting in the toxicity of the water and the natural environment. Since synthetic nitrogen fertilizer is not used in organic farming, there is no increased risk.
4) Pesticides / Herbicides problems: Pesticides and Herbicides are widely used in the current agricultural system. From 1931 to 1997, the use of these has increased almost twice the number of acres. A geological survey of the United States of America in the late 1990's, 76 different pesticides of 8000 water and fish samples collected from different places of the country were examined. The main parts of the results obtained through the survey are as follows:
a) More than 90% in the water and fish have one or more pesticides.
b) More than 50% of underground water samples have one or more pesticides. c) Herbicides like Atrazine, Metolachlor, Alachlor and Cyanazine are found higher than maximum limit in the water of agro-farming area and deep shallow water. d) DDT is found in almost every fish sample, which is considered as carcinogen. Since the 1970s / 80s, the use of DDT in many developed countries of the world, including the United States, is banned.
5) Use of energy: Organic farming requires comparatively less energy expenditure. From a research conducted by “British Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs”, it has been found that in this method, energy consumption is 35% less in every unit of grain production. Scientists at the University of Essex found that in organic farming methods, only 30% to 50% of the energy was used in respect to the conventional farming system.
6) Carbon dioxide absorption: Rodale Institute, USA Conducting a research on the carbon dioxide absorption capacity of organic farming for 23 years, it is found that if all farmland is cultivated in organic farming, then about 580 billion pounds of carbon dioxide may be absorbed by soil from the air annually, which will help in controlling the temperature of the environment.