Can consumers tell fake from genuine organic?

Last Updated 23 March 2018, 13:36 IST

In their pursuit of good health, many in Bengaluru fork out good money for organic food. But can consumers make out genuine from fake organic?

Dr Vishwanath Kadur, agriculturist and president of Garden City Farmers Association, says, "It is very difficult. The total acreage under organic farming, as far as I know, is less than one per cent in our country. Bengaluru alone has more than 200 organic shops. Where do they get their products from?"

Kadur also heads Oota From Your Thota, Bengaluru's urban organic growers' confederation.

"If you want to see if organic farming is increasing, you should see if the sale of chemical fertiliser has come down. We need statistics," he says.

The important thing, therefore, is to buy organic products from a trusted source. This could be an organic farmers' market, a farmers' collective, or a local store.

Kadur points out, "The true organic person is one who grows food, even if it's on the terrace or balcony. The next option is to approach converted organic farmers who follow the ethical path and don't use chemicals or pesticides."

By growing your own food, you can save at least up to 80 per cent on your medical bills, he reckons.

Look, smell and taste can help buyers separate the genuine from fake organic, according to Madhu Chandan S C, founder, Organic Mandya.

He says about 80 per cent of all so-called organic products are not organic, even if they come with certification. "The certification framework is not tight. Anyone can get it," he says. He rues people have "outsourced their common sense to third parties."

"When you buy an organic product, check the credentials. Find out the motive of the seller. It's always better to buy through a cooperative society than an individual; the chances of being cheated are fewer," he says.

Dr Shalini Joshi, consultant, internal medicine, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, describes organic food as that grown without pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.

"Some organically grown food could have pesticide residue, unintentionally, because of what is in the soil. Moreover, groundwater may also have pesticides," she says.

She recommends people grow vegetables and herbs such as basil, spinach, and mint on their terrace or balcony. In the midst of all this, a question is frequently asked: Are we paying too much for organic?

"It could be 30 per cent more expensive," says Madhu Chandan.

He believes the pricing is not unfair. "Compared to the medical bills you end up paying after having unhealthy food, this is negligible," he remarks.

Many are ready to pay the premium, but guaranteed organic is in your backyard.

"Bengaluru has 14 or 15 organic terrace gardeners. Many software engineers have taken up organic farming. Also, there are community gardens in the city," says Kadur.

If you want to know the health of the people, find out the health of their soil, he adds.

State distinction

Karnataka stands fifth in the country in total area under organic cultivation.
The state government promotes organic with several programmes.
In March 2016, the total area under organic cultivation was 93,963 hectares.
(Raitha Mitra, KSDA)

Know your veggies

Buy from a trusted organic co-op.
You can smell the chemicals in greens.
When you cook non-organic grains, it takes longer.
Non-organic produce has no aroma.
(Source: Madhu Chandan S C, Organic Mandya)

(Published 23 March 2018, 13:36 IST)

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