For Organic Foods, certifications are the way to go

certified organic food

Aakanksha

‘Organic’ products are fast gaining popularity, both among sellers and consumers. However, as new products emerge, how are the consumers to know what is truly Organic and what is not? We caught up with Aakanksha Kapoor, who oversees Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at ISayOrganic a Delhi based online grocer specializing in Organic produce to get her views on the topic. 

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How would you define Organic food?

Organic food is food that is grown without the use of any chemicals fertilizers or pesticides. It is as close to nature as possible, helps retain soil health and nutrition and maintain a balance and biodiversity in the ecosystem.

How can one be sure about the authenticity of Organic foods? What should a consumer be looking for?

Yes, we find that there is lot of doubt among consumers about whether a product is genuine or not. Consumers should do their research, ask as many questions as they have in their mind and look for certifications.  The customers can look for certification labels like:

  • India Organic (is a certification mark for organically farmed food products manufactured in India. The certification mark certifies that an organic food product conforms to the National Standards for Organic Products established in 2000.
  • PGS (Participatory Guarantee Systems) The PGS is an internationally applicable organic quality assurance system [like ISO 9000] implemented and controlled by committed organic farmer-producers through active participation, along with the consumers.
  • Ecocert (this is an international certification agency that certifies farmers in India too)

As I Say Organic, we believe that certification is important to build consumer confidence and the only way to establish trust amongst varied communities of consumers. Certification also helps Organic farmers gain a fair price for their produce and facilitates the sale of organic products.

Is there any way in which we can physically tell the difference between Organic products and those grown without the use of chemicals?

Anyone can claim for anything to be Organic, there’s no way to you can tell by looking, unfortunately. So certifications are really the right way to go. However, we recognize that certifications can be tedious and expensive, which can be a deterrent for small farmers. We therefore, also get references for non-certified farmers through our network of experts and activists, who can vouch for their authenticity. 95% of our produce is certified and for non-certified produce (on a case by case basis) we follow a strict procedure of monitoring.

The general perception is that Organic food is expensive. Is that true?

Yes, at the moment it is slightly more expensive – but not as expensive as it is perceived. For a family of 4, it costs approximately 3k extra a month if the kitchen is fully converted to Organic (Fruits, Vegetables, and Staples.) As the demand for Organic food increases and markets expand, the prices will start coming down. Choosing Organic is an investment that one makes towards a healthy body and a sustainable future, so the higher price is really quite nominal.

Does the taste of food/pulses/products vary because they are Organic in nature?

Definitely, in raw vegetables and fruits, you can feel the fresh crunchiness, purity and true taste of the vegetables.

How does consuming Organic foods impact the the environment? 

Organic farming helps maintain an ecological balance in nature. Organic farming practices work to maximize carbon fixation while minimizing the loss of that carbon once returned to the soil, thus reversing the greenhouse effect. It helps maintain soil health by practicing crop rotation and giving nutrients back to the soil. Chemicals run off to water, making their way back into our bodies, they harm aquatic life, create dead zones where no life can thrive, and contribute to global warming. Top soil loss is a direct result of chemical over use and now a grave threat to food production. Going Organic certainly seems to be a very effective way to contribute to the environment and we hope that more and more people learn about the real costs and benefits of using Organic produce and make the shift.

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