India always practiced organic farming. In 1964-65 there was acute shortage of food grains. It was at this time that the Green Revolution took place in India and in a few years India was self-sufficient in food grains. Characterized by high yielding varieties, use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and irrigation, it led to tremendous increase in production. On the other hand it also led to degradation of soil due to excess use of these chemical inputs. This and some other points have brought forward time and again the issue of adopting organic farming techniques. Organic farming is characterized by the use of green manure, biological pest control methods and special cultivation techniques to maintain soil productivity. The market for organic produce too is growing.
Yes there is an alarming need for the shift –
1. Organic food is healthier. There is no chance of pesticide poisoning as chemical inputs are avoided completely. It is more nutritious too.
2. The synthetic fertilizers require a lot of fossil fuels in their manufacturing. Using less synthetic fertilizer means that less fossil fuels are being used leading to less damage to environment. Chemical fertilizers pose a threat to the environment. Chemicals can enter into local ecosystems harming animals and polluting rivers. Organic farming does not pose such risks to the environment.
3. Use of chemicals kills microbes in soil and leads to problems in ecosystem as each organism has a role to play.
4. Provides employment opportunities as organic farming is less mechanized.
5. Due to hybrid varieties and GM crops, the traditional varieties of crops are becoming extinct. So a shift to organic is needed.
6. The amount of natural resources needed to produce chemical fertilizers is huge. It affects allocation of resources to other important sectors.
7. Subsidies to fertilizers are costing a lot. That money can be used for other constructive purposes. Lower growing cost is seen in organic farming.
8. Organically grown plants are seen to be more drought tolerant.
9. Organic farming effectively addresses soil management via crop rotation, inter-cropping techniques and the extensive use of green manure. The absence of chemicals in organic farming does not kill microbes which increases nourishment of the soil.
10. Resistance to disease and pest is seen. Organic farming enables farmers to get rid of weeds without the use of any mechanical and chemical applications. Organic farming practices not only get rid of weeds and insects, but also guarantee crop quality.
11. The demand of organic food is more than that of its supply and this boosts up the price of organic food. Therefore, when the farmers sell the organic foods in the market they earn more income. Due to high income many farmers turn toward this method.
12. It is sustainable agriculture.
No there is no alarming need for the shift –
1. It cannot match the productivity of current farming methods. We need to feed a large population.
2. Time needed for organic crops to grow is more.
3. The so called health hazards are only for the untested varieties. The crop varieties which are thoroughly tested if used, do not pose any health hazard. Also, while cultivation due care if taken regarding application of fertilizers and pesticides, the yield comes out to be good and free from any health issues.
4. Environment is affected only if we carelessly apply the inputs while farming. Precision farming practices can manage environmental concerns too.
5. To develop natural fertilizers and pesticides take lots of time as they are derived from natural materials which take time to regenerate. With the increasing population one does not have time to wait. Yield is needed quickly to feed people.
6. Organic farming needs skills. An organic farmer requires greater understanding of his crop and needs to keep a close watch on his crops as there are no quick fixes involved, like pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Sometimes it can be hard to meet all the requirements and the experience to carry out organic farming.
7. More labor is needed for organic farming and that too skilled.
8. Organic agriculture does reduce CO2 emissions to a certain extent, but there is no dramatic contribution as believed by many.
9. Organic foods in the supermarket are costlier. Poverty coupled with hunger is a vicious cycle to get rid of. It is difficult to buy such costly food in countries like India.
10. Natural fertilizers used might not contain required nutrient in sufficient amount. So precise application of nutrient specific fertilizer as done in current farming practices is much more useful and easier.
Organic agriculture is definitely more sustainable in the long run, improving soil fertility and terrain drought resistance greatly. These farming practices completely waive off external costs, incurred due to investment in chemical pesticides and nutrient runoff, and a number of health issues. However we must look at the current needs too. Poverty and hunger are priorities today. A gradual shift towards organic should be our aim. However this is possible only if we are able to control the population and find ways to increase production in organic farming practice.