Laura Yoshimoto Turpin
When you hear the word ‘organic farming’ what comes to mind? A lot of people might respond ‘expensive’, ‘trendy’ or ‘useless’ but organic farming can be defined in simple terms. It’s a production system that, with rare exceptions, does not make use of conventional chemicals such as pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Its main foundation is based on sustainability, health of soils, biological diversity and cycles adapted to local conditions.
Basically, organic farming is a system devoid of chemicals and methods that harm the soil’s fertility and the environment. It’s better for us as well as future generations.
Organic agriculture increases and stabilises yields, particularly in marginal lands, improves resistance to pests and diseases, decreases erosion, improves water uptake and combats desertification.
The number of organic farmers has increased in the past years and demand for certification is growing all over the world.
No wonder. Chemically-based agriculture is proving unsustainable. It’s producing low quality food and contributing significantly to all forms of malnutrition, making wasteful use of water and land, considering each year, one million hectares of agricultural land go out of production.
And to top it all off, the pesticides used are a major health hazard to farmers and farm workers.
So why are we still holding onto that kind of farming? The answer is simple: costs.
Organic agriculture, on average, loses 30 per cent of yields produced compared to conventional farming and organic certification is usually expensive. This means that organic products are more expensive, and most people go for the cheap stuff.
Some think being organic is trendy. It’s a fad that people have adopted to make them look cool. However, they don’t stop to consider the effect of conventional farming on our ecosystem and biodiversity.
Agriculture has reduced the habitat for wild species due to a 500 per cent expansion worldwide in the last 300 years.
The chemicals that go into the crops accumulate in ground and surface waters. It’s voluntary poisoning of the land and animals around it.
The problem is that people don’t realise how much of an impact and/or genuinely don’t care.
But sometimes, people can surprise you.
Sikkim is India’s first fully organic state. It took 13 years to implement organic farming. The population of 619,000 achieved a full organic state last year and has since been subject of praise not only in India but from organic communities from all over the world.
Seventy-five thousand hectares of land have been converted into certified organic farms following the guidelines as prescribed by National Programme for Organic Production.
In hindsight, not all Sikkimese adapted. Although the majority of them didn’t depend on chemicals, the use of synthetic fertilisers was common. The banning of chemical pesticides led farmers to adopt organic farming, whether they liked it or not.
So, the current state of Sikkim is in an extraordinary but questionable situation. The government forced their people to go into organic farming, which is great for the environment but is that the right way to get people to care?
Yes, we need to care and try to do our best, however, should politicians implement a compulsory measure to guarantee a more sustainable way of life? When the ban was implemented, the sale and use of chemically-grown products was made punishable by law with an imprisonment of up to three months or a fine.
People need to be educated when it comes to organic farming, not forced into it. Agriculture is a huge and important part of our lives, even if we don’t notice it, but when people are under someone else’s choices, they might react negatively. Hopefully, in the future, other states will make organic education compulsory, not the actual farming.
Laura Yoshimoto Turpin is an undergraduate student in the School of Journalism Studies.