Organic food became the catch phrase at the panel discussion on Food Secure India organised by the Department of Food Chemistry and Food Processing of the Loyola College. While most of the panelists highlighted the need for production of organic food, the audience took the topic forward with a slew of questions on the costs, economic sustainability and the methods though which the organic food production could be taken forward.
Speaking at the event, Amit Vaishnav, Director of Megafoods Madras Private Limited said that post-independence, India has been converted from one of the world’s largest organic farming countries to one which heavily subsidizes pesticides and imports genetically modified seeds. “This is not what the British did to us. This is something that we have brought on ourselves,” he said, pointing out that in most cases these pesticides and genetically modified seeds are banned in the countries in which they are produced.
Aasha Ramesh, Consultant at the Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum said that farmers in India realize the negative impact of pesticides. “Go to the farmers in the remotest villages of India and they will show you how they farm crops on a little patch of farmland for their own domestic consumption. They keep away from pesticides,” she said.
She also pointed out that when it comes to food security, one also needs to ask whether the food is safe and whether food is capable providing the sufficient nutritional value. “The fruits and vegetables might look lush and lovely and you might be paying through your pocket to buy them, but what use is it if it cannot provide nutrition,” she said.
The panelists also pointed out examples where farmers have been able to successfully grow organic food without compromising on their profits. The Deccan Development Society based in Medak in Andhra Pradesh was sighted as a successful example of previously drought affected villages overcoming their poverty through organic farming practiced according to traditional methodology. Panelists also pointed out examples of farmer groups who have taken to the direct delivery of their organic food produce to their consumers thereby avoiding middlemen, reducing on the time delay in delivery from farm to household and also ensuring steady profit.
“States like Sikkim which have been following organic farming till today have shown us that it is sustainable. The state has not only enough for itself but also provides it to neighbouring states,” said Amit Vaibhav.
Answering questions about the increasing cost of organic vegetables in the market, he said that organic agriculture is a costly affair in the first couple of years, but within 6 years there are increased profits “If the people demand organic food now, the farmers will be encouraged to take to it,” he said.