Organic Farming in India – Good or Harmful?

The term organic farming refers to farming methods using only biofertilizers, biopesticides, for growing traditional, heirloom, high-yielding, and even genetically-modified seeds. Organic farming is at its nascent stage in India, where a few farms have taken up the new initiative to make food crops healthy. Despite being a healthier alternative, organic farming poses substantial challenges to farmers, and may never replace chemical fertilizers and pesticides throughout the country.

Sikkim is currently the only state in India whose agriculture is 100% organic. Only 4 other states – Meghalaya, Mizoram, Uttarakhand and Goa have more than 10% of the land under organic farming. Overall, the whole country has only 2% of land under organic cultivation. The top 3 states by areas under organic farming – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra constitute more than half the total area for organic farming.

Though many states of India have their own organic farming policies, most of them are not looking to meet their targets. Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Mizoram, Kerala, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh have desired to become fully organic farming states in coming years. Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have their own policies for organic farming. However, none have made it as far as Sikkim. Despite its small area, India has the highest number of organic farmers in the world.

Organic farming in India has the potential to become popular in hilly areas, and areas of large ecological diversity. This is because chemical fertilizers and pesticides can get washed away by rain water to rivers, lakes and ponds, polluting them, causing diseases to man and the wild. Eutrophication still possesses major problems across rural India. This is predominant in the hills as run-off water in the hills easily reach the plains and subsequently the rivers. It also poses a hazard to pisciculture as chemical fertilizers and pesticides kill fish and aquatic life.

However, despite its advantages, the drawbacks are keeping a check on the growth of organic farming in India. Firstly, productivity is low at around 60-75% of the yield of conventional agriculture. Secondly, India has a huge middle and low income class population which cannot afford an increase in prices for daily food items and groceries. Thirdly, it would be impossible to feed the huge population of India though its own produce and India would then need to import more food crops to avoid a famine. Lastly, organic food is healthier is a myth, though organic food is environment friendly.

We can have organic farms where environment protection is our top priority. The hilly states, which have opted for organic farming policy should implement them as soon as possible with or without assistance from the Centre. However, for the bulk of the produce, we still require it to be dependent on conventional agriculture, to sustain the huge demand to feed the overgrowing population of India.

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Written by – Himadri Paul