Five years ago, I was visiting my sister in Lafayette, Indiana, USA. This is miles and miles of flat land. It’s tornado country – the flat terrain means there is NOTHING to block the whirlwinds as they gather momentum. All around me were fields planted with soya bean, stretching for miles into infinity. There was only green to see. There was a windsock to show which way the wind was blowing. There was a pole mounted with a megaphone which was to sound the alarm if a tornado was on its way. However, the most remarkable thing was that there was not a bird, not an insect, not even a scarecrow to flap at an intruder. The fields had been dumped to saturation with pesticides and fertilisers to ‘protect’ the crop. The birds and bees knew better than to take a taste; something that the end users, we humans, did not and do not realise.
Alas! A warning for chemical residues along with the tornado siren would have been welcome!
Organic- what’s that?
The word literally means ‘relating to or derived from living matter’. If this planet and all that it supports has to go on living, farming and food production must ensure that delicate ecological balances are maintained.
Organic farming means only natural fertilisers like animal waste, guano and vegetable waste are used. Crop rotation, natural predators, neem oil and manual weeding are some of the methods of pest and weed control. Organic farming of poultry and livestock means that the feed is free from synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. It also renounces the practice of using hormones and antibiotics.
Shun those chemicals now!
Using harsh chemical means of pest control and ‘enriching’ the soil destroys microorganisms and delicate eco systems. Chemical residues endanger lives and cause disease. Genetically engineered seeds and crops sacrifice biodiversity at the altar of the quick buck that large corporations worship.
Chemicals poured into rearing of poultry and livestock cause equal harm. Buffaloes, for example, are given sex hormones like oestrogen to encourage milk production. There are studies that point out that these, when consumed, may trigger early puberty in adolescents and the early growth of secondary sexual characteristics like breasts.
As early as in 2012, the American Academy of Paediatrics, a 60,000 strong membership of physicians, warned of life altering and endangering health problems in children because of chemical residues in food and irradiation to increase shelf life. Growing children, it held, are especially vulnerable.
Livelihoods and health of entire communities are thus put to risk.
Organic Veggies and fruit: the short list
Ever seen those apples that glow unnaturally on supermarket shelves? They are a part of a group of fruit and vegetables which have more pancake on than a Bollywood actress- they are sprayed with chemicals t o give them that waxy finish and make them look rosier and stay longer on the shelf. Fruit like apples, peaches, oranges, nectarines, strawberries and grapes are best when they are organic.
Slimy, waxy cucumbers, greener than green parwal / potol(pointed gourd,) all greens from coriander to kale, exotic cherry tomatoes and broccoli and potatoes are also among the most sprayed crops. Choose the organic cousins of all these too.
Flax seeds, dry fruit, millets, cereal derivatives like poha and Daliya are other organic products that you might want to add to your list.
Make sure the extra spice in your cardamom, cloves or cinnamon is not DDT: buy organic.
Tamarind, chilli powder, turmeric powder, mustard, fenugreek, coriander- hey, just open your masala dabba, that treasure chest of spices and flavouring in every Indian kitchen, and make the choice of eating safe NOW.
There is growing awareness and a surging movement to safeguard life and health by making agriculture, livestock farming and food safe and sustainable.
It’s like we are in a sea of chemicals and must swim to safety. Going organic is the only ship that will get you there.