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Why we need organic milk and meat

Dr Mandeep Singh Azad and Dr Manmeet Motan

We have grown up hearing that food is medicine. It helps us grow, rejuvenate and gives us energy. Almost all of us insist on buying the fresh stock, nitpicking each fruit and vegetable before we buy it. However, the highly industrialized and competitive times that we live in has had a negative impact on food. Eggs are a great source of protein, containing all the necessary amino acids as well being easy to absorb. Due to the increase in demand for eggs, 80% of all eggs in India come from industrialised poultry farms where chickens are kept in wire cages. They remain there till they die in extremely unhygienic conditions while being given synthetic hormones and antibiotics. A national survey in India has revealed that almost 70% of the milk sold and consumed in India is adulterated by contaminants such as detergents and skim milk powder but impure water was the most common contaminant. Most animals and birds are given synthetic growth hormones so that they grow fast and are ready to be culled. There is a demand to ban use of growth hormones since they are linked to cancer. Ingesting hormones through meat has also been linked to early puberty in children as well as causing obesity.
India is one of the agricultural based Nation with more than 58% of the population pertaining to agricultural sector. Before 1960, in India only organic farming practice was followed without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. During late 1960s, there was threat to food security due to population raise and frequent draughts. Government of India had entered collaboration with USA for reforming farming practices by adding chemical products for cultivation, diseases and weed management. There was increase in production and productivity in chemical or conventional farming and our country was able to satisfy partly the food security. After 30-40 years, production and productivity reduced drastically with abnormal input costs and the farming sector turned to be unfavorable occupation to all concerned. Soil degradation, more diseases, uncontrollable weeds, high water consumption, unfavorable price and with several natural and manmade issues, conventional farming turned to be unworthy for farmers. The share of agriculture in the Gross Domestic product (GDP) registered a steady decline from 50% in 1950-51, 36.4% in 1982-83, 18.5% in 2006-07, 13% in 2008- 09. Even though large number of farmers and farm labours are migrating from this sector, survey indicates that 52% of the people are still in farming contributing only 13% to GDP. This reveals clearly that there is no chance to have growth in income of farmers and farm labours. The existing farming practice is called conventional farming CF (chemical farming) using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, weedicides, mechanical implements for various processes and modern agricultural science and holds 98% of share in farming. Prior to 1965, our country followed 100% natural farming or organic farming practice without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Due to various severe problems  in conventional farming, most of developed countries and few developing countries are returning to harmless organic farming practice during the last 15 years or more. It is found in developed countries, the growth of organic farming practice is fast and upto 10 to 15 percent already converted. But in India, organic farming practice is less than 2 percent since government, Agricultural Universities and Research Institutes are not prepared to support organic farming  whole heartedly.
While research activities in organic crop production have begun, research relating to organic animal husbandry is yet to make a beginning in India. There is potential for on- station and on-farm research in all the dimensions of organic livestock production viz. breeding, feeding, disease control, management, processing, marketing, socio-economic and ethical aspects, it being a virgin area as far as India is concerned. The socio-economic investigations concerning the acceptance of organic livestock production and economics of organic livestock farming may also be taken up by the scientists engaged in livestock sector. The availability of organic feed and fodder among others may be one big limiting factor in initiating any research programme on organic livestock production since the experimental animals need to be fed at least 80% of the feed and fodder grown organically. The comparative studies on conventional vs organic vs traditional animal husbandry along various dimensions needs to be carried out. Alternatives to conventional treatment methods viz. plant based products, homeopathy, and other traditional practices need proper documentation and validation for their efficacy to be worth using under organic production systems.
The establishment of organic animal husbandry requires an interm period, termed as the conversion period.
*    Animal products may be sold as organic agriculture only after the farm or relevant part of it has been under conversion for at least twelve months and providing the organic animal production standards have been met for the appropriate time.
*    The accredited certification programme shall specify the length of time for which the animal production standards shall have been met. With regard to dairy and egg production this period shall not be less then 30 days.
*    Animals present on the farm at the time of conversion may be sold for organic meat when the organic standards have been met for 12 months.
Organic livestock management practices offer unique rewards and challenges to the livestock producer regardless of the animal species produced.  There are a number of considerations that need to be addressed to successful produce certified organic livestock and products.
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