Organic farming and food security - A model for India - A paper by Society for Organic Agriculture Movement

This paper discusses the need to shift from chemical intensive agriculture to organic farming. The authors in their vision for a chemical-free agriculture also stress that organic agriculture is a way to achieve food security.

The authors begin with the current crisis in Indian agriculture. Stating that though the Green Revolution made India self-sufficient in food production in the shortest time it also resulted in a host of problems. The indiscriminate use of fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides has created problems of decline in the soil fertility, pollution of water resources, and chemical contamination of food grains, amongst the many similar issues now linked to the Green Revolution.

Change to organic farming from chemical intensive agriculture may reduce yield initially. This is because the chemicals used in the Green Revolution over the last 50 years have drawn out most of the nutrients from the soil. However this reduction in yield will be compensated by the reduction in input costs and the premium on organic produce, as per this study.

Produce from chemically-treated soil and crops adversely affect human health, and the example of Punjab where the Green Revolution brought in irrigation and chemicals but also ill-health is cited. They state that 25% of the population in Punjab suffers from diabetes and also point out to the cause which is zinc deficiency in the diet caused by excessive use of fertilisers, as also the increase in cancer which is caused by excessive use of pesticides.

The example of Brazil is discussed, where soya bean is grown organically much to the surprise of Dr Norman Borlaug (architect of the Green Revolution) who was requested to visit the country to see for himself, the high crop productivity being achieved without chemicals. Further scientists in Brazil also developed ways to increase efficiency of organic manures.

In discussing how food security can be achieved through organic farming, the authors point out to the need for including milch cattle. The use of milch cattle will not only increase the income of the farmer through the sale of milk but will also produce dung and urine which can be fed into a biogas plant, to covert it into highly valuable and compost. This will not only reduce the input costs but also provide other sources of income. A costing of converting farms to organic, by using government data on subsidy, nutrient availability etc is provided.

The paper suggests that the government could implement such a scheme step wise. Each state should earmark a cluster of 100 hectares to implement such a model over 5 years. The help of civil society organisations can be used to ground this program.

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