Thursday, June 4, 2009

GREEN LIVING: Organic Food - A Boon For Consumers

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Organic Food - A Boon For Consumers by Anuradha Attree

Organic foods are those foods that are produced, processed and packaged without using chemicals. They have been accepted due to their perceived health benefits over conventional food. The organic industry is growing rapidly and has caught the attention of farmers, manufacturers and, above all, consumers.

Being produced without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste or sewage sludge and processed without ionizing radiation or artificial food additives, organic food products are considered as a boon to consumers. But it is also a fact that consuming more organic food certainly isn't the only way to improve one's nutrient intake, but it may be the safest. One has to have a balanced diet to ensure proper nutrient intake.

It's regularly claimed by the mainstream food industry that pesticide residues in foods are known to be safe on the basis of total diet surveys that supposedly find the levels of pesticide residues in our food to be very low and within acceptable safety limits.

But monitoring programs consistently show that around one in three non-organic food samples tested contains a variety of pesticide residues, with nil to trace levels being found in and on organic produce. Apart from the harmful residual effects, conventional chemicals also lead to lush growth causing swelling of crops with more water and thus reducing the dry matter content.

Soils of conventional farming systems contain more heavy metals and have scant mineral content whereas organic farming develops a sustainable system where activities of soil micro-flora and fauna are triggered leading to the availability of minerals to the crops, and henceforth to the consumers.

In addition, antioxidants (phytonutrients) implicated in the plant's self defense system, are higher in organic produce as crops rely more on their own defenses in the absence of regular applications of chemical pesticides. Consequently, organic crops, on average, contain higher levels of trace minerals, vitamin C, and antioxidant phytonutrients.

"It is vitally important that we can continue to say, with absolute conviction, that organic farming delivers the highest quality, best-tasting food, produced without artificial chemicals or genetic modification, and with respect for animal welfare and the environment, while helping to maintain the landscape and rural communities" - Prince Charles.

Organic foods are a simple way to reduce consumer's load of toxic fertilizers, pesticides and food additives and are the best alternative out of the main food stream to stay healthy.

Anuradha Attree, Amity Institute of Organic Agriculture, AMITY UNIVERSITY, Noida.

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