By Masooma Zehra Miyan
ISLAMABAD, Jan 16 (APP):The Covid-19 pandemic arena with its severe negativities has also given rise to some positive trends that includes adoption of organic foods by a considerable health conscious consumers to boost immunity system.
Although Pakistan is a little slow in embracing this healthy food culture, but the country in recent years has witnessed a considerable boom in production and consumption of organic commodities. Unfortunately, this has also enticed opportunists, a combo of some farmers and middle men, reportedly selling falsely claimed organic edibles to mint money and are deceiving ignorant consumes.
A farmer who grows vegetables in the farm of an owner near Shehzad Town disclosed on condition of anonymity ” I am using urea fertilizer and pesticides on the directives of my owner to get maximum yield and anything produced here is claimed organic. They are deceptively sold in the market and even innocent customers travel all the way to our farm to pick veggies”.
No doubt, he said, the soil before cultivation of a crop “is enriched with animal manure” but at later stages to attain quick and maximum produce chemicals were being used.
Talking to APP, Senior Scientific Officer, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), Dr. Nausherwan Nobel Nawab and Founder of Desipoultry.co Mehryar Ali Khan unanimously said that, “With no authority in place currently to monitor the authenticity of organic products sold, this poses problems at consumers’ end.”
Mehryar, whose venture offers a range of organic fresh produce and finished goods, said term organic has become a” marketing gimmick” and unfortunately innocent people were being allured by fake sellers. But the only way consumers can assure the genuineness of a produce was to ask relevant questions, he suggested.
On this matter, Rustam Organic Dairy Farm’s owner Muhammad Umar advised to compare the produce available commercially with that grown organically and there were “visible differences in terms of size, taste and shine”. The products available in the markets have more shine then organic produce, he informed.
Visiting the farms, he said, was another step the people can take as genuine organic farmers allow consumers to visit their farms “as seeing is believing.”
Dr Nobel said the PARC has no regulatory body and it was only providing guidelines to organic farmers on how to manage the growth of their crops without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Founder Pakistan Organic Association Qasim Tareen shared, “This body was formed to protect organic farms and reintroduce this thousands of years old farming technique.”
The association, Tareen said, “Provides training and help to the new and budding organic farmers and imparts awareness on benefits of going organic. It also keeps itself up-to-date on International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) standards and tries to adhere to them regularly”.
Qasim Tareen suggested implementation of Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS), a locally focused quality assurance systems being used internationally to help reduce worries of the consumers and support organic farmers gain the trust of their clients.
Tareen and other organic farmers are hopeful that sooner or later more farmers will join them in their cause for better health of the society and protection of the environment.
However, they all stressed for establishing an official regulatory body for strict check on fake organic edibles and sellers.
According to a 2018 report by IFOAM, only 0.1% of land in Pakistan comes under certified organic farming out of all organic farms worldwide.
Whereas, the report did mention that these farms are increasing in Pakistan with time.