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Organic Farming: Chasing the Green Dream

Chitra Sanam

Pesticide residue
Poisoned apples have been a staple of most fairy tales, but in the real world, we all know that the big, bad witch goes up in a poof, and Snow White is far, far away from the evil spell of the forbidden fruit.

Err... maybe not! Brace yourself for this hard fact –– A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore confirms that 50 per cent of the fruits and vegetables we consume today are still contaminated with residues of pesticides. The daily intake of pesticides in India is estimated to be about 0.51 mg, which is a high percentage.

“We are slowly poisoning ourselves. We talk about fruits and veggies being a healthy alternative but today we can’t take anything for granted. Not even the food on our table,” says Malini Srinivasan, founder of TVS Educational Society and T S Srinivasan Centre for Rural Training in Hosur, Tamil Nadu, which works with small and marginal farmers to spread the practice of organic cultivation instead of mainstream chemical farming.

A Close Check on Pesticide Use in India

  • India still uses pesticides for farming which are banned from being used in several foreign countries.
  • India’s consumption of pesticides per hectare is low (0.5 kg/ha) when compared with Asian averages (Korea 6.60 kg/ha, Philippines 18 kg/ha and Japan 12.0 kg/ha).
  • Despite a comparatively low use of pesticides in India, the contamination of food products in the country is alarming. About 20 per cent of Indian food products contain pesticide residues above tolerance level compared to only 2 per cent globally.
  • etectable residues are found in 51 per cent of Indian food products. The reason lies in non-judicious use of pesticides, lack of awareness, and inadequate

Pesticides can be carcinogenic

The use of some pesticides, doctors point out, imposes a carcinogenic risk to the human body. Oncologist Dr SVSS Prasad, with Apollo Hospitals, says, “Pesticides can cause lymph nodal cancer.” Other health hazards include endocrinal disorders, respiratory and immune system complications.

They also impose other health risks. “Use of aerial sprays of Endosulphan for cashew crops in Kerala has caused central nervous system disorders in children living in the area,” adds Srinivasan.

Ecological damage

There’s ecological damage too, with excessive use of pesticides. With the onset of the Green Revolution, the use of heavy doses of chemical fertilizers became common as it was absolutely essential to increase agriculture production. That, however, in the long run has contaminated our soil and water. High nitrate concentration in drinking and irrigation wells is a given today. A study conducted by University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore shows that increased use of nitrogen increases pests; this in turn increases the use of pesticides. It takes around four years to completely rid the soil of the chemical impact!

Going the green way with organic produce seems a viable option that could just be one’s ‘royal kiss’ to a healthy life. “We have to see the writing on the wall. Change will come. Humans are resilient, but awareness is necessary. Of course we can’t be 100 per cent organic but it is a solution,” says Srinivasan. With organic produce comes reduced farming costs, an effective measure to maintain soil fertility and water-holding capacity. Organic farming also helps increase bio-mass and microbial activities.

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