Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Organic food - some questions

Organic is the word to use if you are in with the food tastes of the times.

The Wikipedia entry has this to say on Organic food...
"Organic food is, in general, food produced without the use of artificial pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and in many definitions genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Farms that grow organically, often do so in a sustainable, environmentally sound, manner, and more often than not, are small family-run farms. These qualities of organic farming, among others, are in stark contrast to the more common industrial farm."

It also goes on to say, Organic food may be fresh or processed. Read the entry for some nice gyan on organic food.

For fresh food, "organic" usually means produced without extensive use of synthetic chemicals (eg: fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones), in the USA substantially free of genetically modified organisms, and often, but not necessarily, locally grown.

Processed organic food usually contains only (or at least a certain specified percentage of) organic ingredients and no artificial food additives, and is often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions (eg: no chemical ripening, no food irradiation).

One question I have is why is organic food more expensive than regular food? Indeed it should be cheaper, considering it is usually less processed, uses lower inputs - so why the premium? The wiki entry says that it is because "farmers who grow organic food have to meet stricter quality standards to have their products certified organic. More labor is required to achieve this, bringing up the cost." That is interesting since in India farms arent greatly mechanised neither is there an Indian quality standard on organic food, unless we adopt European or other standards.

Perhaps organic should also be local, as this post says, among other things...

7 comments:

Anu said...

May be it is more expensive, because it is not mass produced.

Niti Bhan said...

I believe its because they have to be more careful with the weather conditions and the larvae etc of bugs and worms that would eat the seeds because they won't use as much chemical fertilizers or poisons to kill the the bugs. If that convoluted sentence makes sense?

Neelakantan said...

Anu, my contention is that in India very little gets mass produced (fruits and vegetables), so the cost difference is negligible and also remmeber that we dont have too much machinery in our farms.

Of course Niti, but my point was that dont chemical fertilizers cost money, so doesnt that add to the input cost? But perhaps our subsidy regime makes it tougher.

But heres something that i should have thought about: Apparently fertilizers improve yield and going back to organic reduces yield atleast in the short term....

Mridul Narayanan said...

There are more risks involvd in organic production than with artificial (pests etc). Obviously one is going to end up with more half eaten/distroyed fruits and vegetables if one goes organic. And basic business rule says- more risk, more cost.

And as you told, its the subsidy that is to be blamed. If there was a level playing field, both are going to cost the same (maybe organic will be less)

RationalBeing said...

New Wikippedia definition for organic food (especially spinach): Anything loaded with bug feces and e. coli....

niti bhan said...

Hi neelaakantan - I did not post this under "niti bhan" since I was away from the computer all day. I do wonder who posted as me?

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