The fruits and vegetables section in a super market is usually loaded with various types of produce. In this aisle, the least visited is the organic section, which has higher price tags in comparison . We are used to buying the less priced, pesticide loaded, non–organic produce as we think it saves our money. It does save a few pennies, but not your health. Hence, if you are concerned about your health, and want to eat healthy and pesticide-free food, switching to organically grown products is the best option. Organic foods are naturally produced foods, free of artificial pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones. Though it is natural, the produce is costly because a lot of time and efforts are required to grow these foods without the help of any sorts of chemicals, pesticides or yield enhancers.
Let’s take a look at the various reasons why organic farming requires more efforts.
- Natural growth cycle is generally longer
Nature has set a course and time for each produce. For example, it takes about 6 months for a bottle gourd plant to produce its fruit (the common lauki or doodhi). But, to meet the surplus demand, non–organic farmers uses growth hormones like oxytocin, which reduces the maturation time by half, thus doubling the production and reducing the wait time. These chemicals have long lasting negative effects on our health. Organic foods do not cause this issue as growth hormones and antibiotics are not used. Hence, it takes a lot of time as well as efforts to meet the market demand.
- Crop management
For effective pest control, non–organic farmers use various synthetic and artificial pesticides and insecticides available in the market. These chemicals are very effective and are provided at affordable, subsidized rates to the farmers by the governing bodies, which increase the chances of overuse and abuse of the chemicals. High intake of pesticide laden food reduces immunity, leads to ADHD in children, fertility issues in adults, etc.
Organic farmers do not use chemicals for pest control. Rather, they follow various safe approaches like companion planting ( different types of crops are planted together where in one set of plants act as baits and protect, promote the growth of other set of plants), fermented pesticides, etc. for effective pest control. In organic farming, pest control process is very laborious and requires a lot of efforts. Sometimes, it takes double or even triple the time than conventional farming. The excess time required for pest control adds to cost of the product.
- Obtaining the seeds for organic farming
Most non–organic farmers use hybrid, laboratory prepared or genetically modified (GMO) seeds, which produce crops at a faster rate and thus becoming an immediate source of income.
On the contrary, the heirloom seeds (naturally pollinated seeds from previous year’s parent plant) used in organic farming are difficult to find. These seeds are usually passed on from one generation of farmers to another and only a handful of farmers preserve them. Hence, to obtain heirloom seeds, extensive background research, good connectivity with farmers, and financial support is required. Therefore, to compensate time of acquisition, final pricing of the produce is high.
- Faster availability of non–organic foods in the market
Previously every season was known for its produce. Mango was a summer fruit and ripens just before the rainy season. But nowadays, mangoes can be found in the markets as early as February. Early market appearance fetches them high profit to the non–organic producers, almost 3 times its normal value. This has a huge impact on the natural organic producers. By the time, the natural, flavorsome, safe and nutritious produce is market ready, the market is saturated and filled with many unsafe options; hence to prevent losses, the organic produce is priced higher.
Keep in mind that non–organic producers use ethylene gas or calcium carbide for early ripening and faster market launch. These artificially ripened fruits can cause various health problems like gastric issues, mouth ulcers, skin rashes etc.
- Perfect appearance and bigger size
Whenever we buy fruits and vegetables, we pick up the perfect looking produce. Nobody wants the natural spinach with holes, mangoes with dark spots, unevenly colored bananas, etc. Do you know that water melon with yellow patches and brown lines tastes sweeter than its perfect counterparts? Also, we tend to buy produce that costs lesser and are bigger in size.
But, this hype will cost us our health as non–organic producers restore to various manipulative techniques to make profit. For example, they use tissue cultured banana saplings for better looking, even shaped, even sized, and bigger bananas. In comparison to these, traditionally grown natural banana heads have unevenly sized fruits – ones that near the stem are bigger in size and ones at the farthest end are smaller.
To sum up, it takes immense efforts and time to produce safe and natural food; resulting in higher cost. So, which is more important to you – Cost effectiveness or Health? The local market may not have all the varieties of organic produce but, we can start with the available organic choices for a better and chemical free health. Increased sales may motivate the organic farmers to increase productivity, variety and also lead to reduced prices.