What is organic farming?
Organic farming system in India is not new and is being followed from ancient time. It is a method of farming system which primarily aimed at cultivating the land and raising crops in such a way, as to keep the soil alive and in good health by use of organic wastes (crop, animal and farm wastes, aquatic wastes) and other biological materials along with beneficial microbes (biofertilizers) to release nutrients to crops for increased sustainable production in an eco friendly pollution free environment.
As per the definition of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study team on organic farming “organic farming is a system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc) and to the maximum extent feasible rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection”.
FAO suggested that “Organic agriculture is a unique production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity, and this is accomplished by using on-farm agronomic, biological and mechanical methods in exclusion of all synthetic off-farm inputs”.
Need of organic farming
With the increase in population our compulsion would be not only to stabilize agricultural production but to increase it further in sustainable manner. The scientists have realized that the ‘Green Revolution’ with high input use has reached a plateau and is now sustained with diminishing return of falling dividends. Thus, a natural balance needs to be maintained at all cost for existence of life and property. The obvious choice for that would be more relevant in the present era, when these agrochemicals which are produced from fossil fuel and are not renewable and are diminishing in availability. It may also cost heavily on our foreign exchange in future.
The key characteristics of organic farming include
Protecting the long term fertility of soils by maintaining organic matter levels,
encouraging soil biological activity, and careful mechanical intervention;
Providing crop nutrients indirectly using relatively insoluble nutrient sources
which are made available to the plant by the action of soil micro-organisms;
Nitrogen self-sufficiency through the use of legumes and biological nitrogen
fixation, as well as effective recycling of organic materials including
crop residues and livestock manures;
Weed, disease and pest control relying primarily on crop rotations,
natural predators, diversity, organic manuring, resistant varieties
and limited (preferably minimal) thermal, biological and chemical intervention;
The extensive management of livestock, paying full regard to their
evolutionary adaptations, behavioural needs and animal welfare issues
with respect to nutrition, housing, health,breeding and rearing;
Careful attention to the impact of the farming system on the wider
environment and the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats.
Principles in Organic Farming
The four principles of organic agriculture are as follows:
Principle of health
Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant,
animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.
This principle points out that the health of individuals and communities
cannot be separated from the health of ecosystems - healthy soils
produce healthy crops that foster the health of animals and people.
Health is the wholeness and integrity of living systems. It is not simply the
absence of illness, but the maintenance of physical, mental, social and
ecological well-being. Immunity, resilience and regeneration are key
characteristics of health.
The role of organic agriculture, whether in farming, processing, distribution,
or consumption, is to sustain and enhance the health of ecosystems and
organisms from the smallest in the soil to human beings. In particular,
organic agriculture is intended to produce high quality, nutritious food
that contributes to preventive health care and well-being. In view of this it
should avoid the use of fertilizers, pesticides, animal drugs and food
additives that may have adverse health effects.
Principle of ecology
Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and
cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.
This principle roots organic agriculture within living ecological systems.
It states that production is to be based on ecological processes, and recycling.
Nourishment and well-being are achieved through the ecology of the
specific production environment. For example, in the case of crops this is
the living soil; for animals it is the farm ecosystem; for fish and marine
organisms, the aquatic environment.
Organic farming, pastoral and wild harvest systems should fit the cycles
and ecological balances in nature. These cycles are universal but their
operation is site-specific. Organic management must be adapted to
local conditions, ecology, culture and scale. Inputs should be reduced by
reuse, recycling and efficient management of materials and energy in order to
maintain and improve environmental quality and conserve resources.
Organic agriculture should attain ecological balance through the design of
farming systems, establishment of habitats and maintenance of genetic
and agricultural diversity. Those who produce, process, trade, or consume
organic products should protect and benefit the common environment
including landscapes, climate, habitats, biodiversity, air and water.
Principle of fairness
Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness
with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.
Fairness is characterized by equity, respect, justice and stewardship of
the shared world, both among people and in their relations to other living beings.
This principle emphasizes that those involved in organic agriculture should
conduct human relationships in a manner that ensures fairness at all levels
and to all parties - farmers, workers, processors, distributors, traders
and consumers. Organic agriculture should provide everyone involved with a
good quality of life, and contribute to food sovereignty and reduction of
poverty. It aims to produce a sufficient supply of good quality food and
This principle insists that animals should be provided with the conditions
and opportunities of life that accord with their physiology, natural behavior
Natural and environmental resources that are used for production and
consumption should be managed in a way that is socially and ecologically
just and should be held in trust for future generations. Fairness
requires systems of production, distribution and trade that are open
and equitable and account for real environmental and social costs.
Principle of care
Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and
responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and
future generations and the environment.
Organic agriculture is a living and dynamic system that responds to
internal and external demands and conditions. Practitioners of organic
agriculture can enhance efficiency and increase productivity, but this should
not be at the risk of jeopardizing health and well-being. Consequently, new
technologies need to be assessed and existing methods reviewed. Given
the incomplete understanding of ecosystems and agriculture, care must be taken.
This principle states that precaution and responsibility are the
key concerns in management, development and technology choices in
organic agriculture. Science is necessary to ensure that organic agriculture
is healthy, safe and ecologically sound. However, scientific knowledge
alone is not sufficient. Practical experience, accumulated wisdom and
traditional and indigenous knowledge offer valid solutions, tested by
time. Organic agriculture should prevent significant risks by
adopting appropriate technologies and rejecting unpredictable ones,
such as genetic engineering. Decisions should reflect the values and needs of
all who might be affected, through transparent and participatory processes.
What are organic standards?
Organic standards define precisely the minimum requirements that a farm
or product should meet in order to be certified organic.’ There are organic
standards on national and international levels. For certification of products
for export, the standards of the target market or importing country are to be
compiled with. Some private labels such as Naturland, Demeter and
BIO SUISSE have certain stipulations in addition to the national standards.
Indian National Standards for Organic Products (NSOP)In 2000,
the Government of India released the National Standards for
Organic Products (NSOP) under the National Programme for
Organic Production (NPOP). It stipulates that inspection and
certification by a nationally accredited certification body is mandatory
for labeling and selling products as “organic.” A copy of the NSOP is available from http://www.apeda.gov.in/apedawebsite/organic/index.htm
European Regulation EEC 834/2007 Most relevant for exports to
Europe is the European Regulation EEC 834/2007. An amended version
of this complex regulation is available on http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/index.htm
IFOAM Basic Standards Being the mother of organic standards,
IFOAM Basic Standards are not standards for certification but standards
for standard setting on the national and international levels.
They are regularly reviewed and updated in a democratic process
by the IFOAM members from all over the world. The latest copy is available from firstname.lastname@example.org
US-NOP standards.USDA s National Organic Program regulates the
organic standards for farm production, wild crop harvesting and handling
operation. In order to label or to sell an agricultural product as organic
in the U.S., compliance with NOP standards is an indispensable requisite.http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/indexIE.htm