INDIA WAS ORGANIC ALL ALONG UNTIL THE GREEN REVOLUTION OF THE 60s POLLUTED OUR SOIL WITH CHEMICALS. NOW WE HAVE TO RETURN TO TRADITION…
By Dr Sumeet Sharma
Mark Twain quipped in his autobiography: “The ancients stole all our great ideas”.
And he was right.
India housed one of the oldest civilisations of the world, the Indus Valley Civilisation, and as a society, possesses a rich legacy of ancient knowledge documented across volumes upon volumes of ancient texts and literature. Our ancestors accumulated knowledge pertaining to diverse subjects such as the ecosphere, agriculture, planetary movements, geometry, mathematics, vaastu*, health, the humanities—and in many aspects their discoveries surpass those of modern science.
“In India, in addition to the practice of biodynamism, farmers also used to plant certain crops under certain tithis and nakshatras to align produce with the Earth’s positive energies. Till the early 60s, Indian agriculture used no chemical inputs and was, by default, a 100 percent organic. Fertilisers and pesticides only entered our lexicon with the advent of the Green Revolution, during which period extensive agricultural R&D was transferred from the West”
Harmful modern day techniques in the field of conventional agriculture are testament to the superiority of the agricultural methods of yore, which manifested a deep understanding of nature. A prime example is the practice of biodynamic farming. Biodynamism, a holistic agriculture system invented by Dr Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s, is a collaborative approach between the farmer and the Earth to renew soil vitality without resorting to artificial means in a sustainable and ethical manner. In India, in addition to the practice of biodynamism, farmers would also plant certain crops under certain tithis* and nakshatras* to align produce with the Earth’s positive energies. Till the early 60s, Indian agriculture used no chemical inputs and was, by default, a 100 percent organic. Fertilisers and pesticides only entered our lexicon with the advent of the Green Revolution, during which period extensive agricultural R&D was transferred from the West.
Yet, at the time, no one could fathom the widespread havoc these chemicals would wreak on human and soil health. Today, pesticides and herbicides have been scientifically proven to be carcinogens and cause a plethora of diseases, including cancer. Excessive use of fertilisers is attributed to eutrophication of lakes, nitrate pollution, soil acidification and toxic elements such as fluoride, cadmium, heavy metals and even radioactive substances that pollute the environment.
A Return to Organic
The most deepset reservation people have about organic produce is that it is more expensive than non organic fare and, therefore, not affordable.
This is a fallacy.
Pray tell: Are medicines affordable? Is cancer treatment affordable? What about a half-hour appointment at the physician’s? How much does that cost?
Do take into consideration the cumulative effect of pesticides and fertilisers, which can lead to cancer, kidney failure and nervous disorders amongst an ever evolving litany—and weigh alongside the treatment costs involved for these serious health issues.
The matter is plain and simple: the more you consume produce that has been grown on poisoned soil or has been sprayed upon by chemicals, the more you will fall ill. The more you consume pure organic food, which is not only grown on chemically untouched soil but also was never sprayed chemically, the less often you will fall sick. Investing a few extra rupees every month in lieu of better health and fewer visits to the doctor seems but a small price to pay.
Alternatives to these chemicals, such as biological pest control and genetic engineering to interfere with insect breeding, have been developed and are in use. Furthermore, cultivation practices such as polyculture, crop rotation, agro-ecology and the push-pull strategy are also gaining acceptance. Biopesticides consisting of plant or animal derivatives, bacteria, entomopathogenic fungi and herbal pheromones are now being widely utilised as well. But while conventional agriculture focuses on eradicating pests completely, the organic approach only repels these insects using natural means such as neem and sacred datura, thus maintaining the delicate balance of ecology. And to restore the soil’s fertility, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) ratio, cowdung, cow urine and farm residues are made into manure and nutrients for the plants’ natural growth.
The growing popularity of the global organic movement has meant development of numerous new technologies, which will push the output per acre up and bring costs down significantly. A company in India, Pralshar Bio Products, has even developed organic certified manure with bio enzymes which yield an output of 22 tonne per acre compared to the conventional NPK manure, which yields 18 tonne for every acre.
On the governance front, the current Modi government has recognised the significance of organic agriculture and has initiated a host of measures to boost the sector. Allotment of 5,00,000 ha of land for organic farming and free loans under schemes like the ‘Pradhan Mantri Mudra Bank Loan Scheme’ will galvanise the country’s agricultural community.
A pressing area of focus that has been ignored is creating a foolproof method to get rid of harmful food contamination and adulteration. Instituting public-private partnership (PPP) organisations with powers to check for adulterated goods in stores on a regular basis and implement heavy fines if the samples fail existing food safety lawsimplemented by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) could go a long way in resolving this issue.
It is time to reflect on the legacy left behind by our ancients and re-apply their wealth of wisdom to our present world. Let us commit wholeheartedly to the organic movement and reclaim the great ideas of our ancestors.
The author is MD & CEO, Pure Products, a brand owned by Isleworth Tradelinks Limited
*Vaastu: A traditional Hindu system of architecture, literally meaning ‘Science of Architecture’
*Tithi: In Vedic timekeeping, a tithi is a lunar day
*Nakshatra: Nakshatra is the term for lunar mansion in Hindu astrology