Friday, November 25, 2011


In a world where use of chemicals has become common for every endeavor of man to gain maximum advantage from natural resources, any development that precludes use of these substances with doubtful safety credentials is bound to be eagerly accepted by the consumers. Organic foods clearly fall into this category as they are produced with no chemical fertilizers or synthetic pesticides giving an impression they are much more safe than conventionally raised food crops or animal food products. But there is always a catch in that even the best foods turned out from organic farms can get contaminated during storage, distribution and marketing and accepting blindly these products may not be absolutely safe. The supervisory and monitoring regimes that help in safeguarding the quality and safety of organic foods, no doubt are doing a yeoman service but difficulties in covering all farms, small and bag invariably leave out some for self restraint and discipline. Ultimately the consumer must heat process the food, for his own safety to prevent food related safety hazards. A recent appraisal of organic food sector reveals some gaps in monitoring efforts calling for action by the consumers to be aware of possibilities of contamination. 

"Organic foods are foods that are produced using methods that do not involve synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers; do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives. For the vast majority of human history, agriculture can be described as organic; only during the 20th century was a large supply of new synthetic chemicals introduced to the food supply. As generally perceived, organic food may not be nutritionally superior than non-organic food. A report revealed that organic food are also immune to contamination and care should be taken while consuming it. Organic food production is a heavily regulated industry. Currently, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan and many other countries require producers to obtain special certification in order to market food as organic. The producers have to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. If livestock are involved, the livestock must be reared with regular access to pasture and without the routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones".

No doubt setting up an organic food farm is a tough task and only dedicated and industrious entrepreneurs can achieve success. While there can be many operational problems at the farm level, especially to ensure contamination free inputs, rigorous inspection and certification procedures can be time consuming and expensive. Because of these strict regimens, organic foods can never be cheap in the foreseeable future. Still many consumers do not feel the economic pinch as long as there is absolute safety and it is the responsibility of the government, farmers and the retailers to guarantee the safety of organic foods, being sought after increasingly by the concerned consumers. One of the critical questions that confront the policy makers is whether the normal commercial foods churned out by the industrial farms are really safe? While there cannot be a straight answer to this question, considering that life is a balance between potential risks and extent of benefits accrued, main stream foods cannot be considered unsafe measured by any major yardstick.


No comments: