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Special ReportsOct 2013
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Health & Wellness
FOOD FOR THE FUTURE
Much to his relief, a thorough check up of his body didn't reveal anything unusual. His doctor advised him to avoid market food especially fried and advised him to take to organic food, if possible.
He started buying organic vegetables for cooking and strictly avoided 'parties'. Within months, he felt he is getting better. His appetite returned and pain in his leg joints also started mellowing down.
What are organic foods? Organic foods are natural foods which are grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, chemicals and preservatives. These are natural foods.
International Federation of Organic Production (IFOAM) and National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) set standards for organic products in India.
Research studies have indicated that organic food helps a person control blood sugar levels, keep cholesterol in check and provides vital nutrients for the body. Besides this, organic farms do not release synthetic pesticides into the environment. Therefore, growing crops in healthy soils using sustainable agricultural practices results in food products that offer healthy nutrients.
Renuka, a mother of two, switched to eating organic food because "It would be better for my children and the environment". Thousands like them are driving the demand for organic food, which is now a Rs.5.6 billion market in India, according to the International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA) in Bangalore. Organic food is now more accessible in India, with more shops coming up and more information available to those who want it.
"Till now organic food was mainly being exported," said M.K. Menon, executive director of ICCOA. "But over the last couple of years, the domestic market has started growing. Many people are prepared to spend the extra money largely on the grounds that they believe organic foods are more nutritious and safer than foods produced by conventional methods.
Although several reviews have indicated some consistent differences in favour of organic versus conventional produce, this is difficult to interpret because some of these studies may not have been conducted in a truly scientific manner. Even so, the best of these studies show consistency in higher vitamin C, (and perhaps iron and magnesium), in organic food and consistently less unwanted and potentially toxic nitrates.
In recent years this analysis has been extended to include other food components such as antioxidants potentially important substances in human nutrition in addition to vitamins and minerals. This may be because these natural chemicals are produced to protect the plant against insect pests, and organic crops have less pesticide protection. Another theory is that the faster growth in artificially fertilised crops causes the plant to concentrate resources for growth rather than production of these antioxidants.
A report by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) concludes that organically grown (golden delicious) apples were found to be firmer and received higher taste scores than conventionally grown apples. Another study showed that organic tomatoes were sweeter and organic carrots had more "carrot taste".
According to a survey described in the FAO report, less than one per cent of food-related illness is caused by chemical contamination of food. So even if chemical contamination of organic food is less than for conventional food, this will have only minor effects on the overall rate of acute food-borne illness. Organic proponents argue, however, that some cases of mild pesticide poisoning from pesticide contamination can mimic microbiological food poisoning.
In summary, it could be said that considering the life-cycle of organic food production, known safety advantages are significant compared to conventional food production, with most of these advantages being unrelated to organic food consumption.
Ambica Gupta is a leading Dietary Counsellor and Food Administrator. She can be reached at 'email@example.com'.
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