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6 Oct

Sikkim Declared 100% Organic

 In a mountainous region in eastern India, Sikkim is now a 100% organic state, with no chemical pesticides or fertilizers and no GMOs.
A way to make organic food cheap

Organic food sometimes costs more. But experts say the way to make organic food cheap is to get everybody on board. One entrepreneur in India who has experience in agriculture put it like this: “What happens ordinarily in organic is that a retailer deals with small quantities from a wide range of farmers. The supply chain is broken and disorganized. This adds to the cost of produce. When a state is 100% organic, then the costs that go into segregating, packaging, labeling, and differential pricing, are saved. When everything is organic, the price automatically falls.”

How Sikkim is benefitting from becoming an organic state

Sikkim’s transition to an organic state is good for public health and the environment in the area. It’s also good for the economy. Tourism to the area is also increasing and bringing in more money. Guests can stay in organic villages, where they are able to enjoy the abundant natural beauty and eat fresh, organic meals. Sikkim organic retail stores offering pulses, rice, mandarin oranges, ginger, cardamom, and turmeric have been set up by the government in New Delhi. More stores are planned for other major cities. Due to the surge in demand for Sikkim’s organic produce, farmers are now earning 20% more.

Some things to consider about Sikkim

When thinking about the success of Sikkim, you might also want to consider the advantages this state had to begin with. The state is small and culturally homogeneous. And many of the farmers already had knowledge of traditional, organic ways of farming. But Sikkim still had to overcome considerable challenges. And there are lessons to be learned from their journey. Every area will have it’s own unique challenges and advantages. Perhaps the most important aspect of the Sikkim example is that it will inspire other areas to go organic, or at least, to try out more organic farming methods and use fewer toxic chemicals. This will go a long way in improving our food production and the health of our world.

How Sikkim’s achievement affects the world

India is a place with high rates of pesticide use. As a result, it is a nation tragically marked by very high rates of farmer suicides; of children dying from pesticide-laced school lunches; and of trains of people with pesticide-related cancer. But Sikkim can serve as a model to help other states go organic. Already, this is happening. One of the goals behind Sikkim’s Organic Festival in January was to spread the message of organic movement to other states. The prime minister encouraged other states in India to follow Sikkim’s example. He invited them to try organic farming and see what happens.“If the experiment succeeds,” he said. “Farmers in other places will follow it on their own. Farmers may not be influenced by any amount of lectures by scientists…For them, seeing is believing.”

Indian states, including Kerala, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh are already working towards becoming organic. And in a country where pesticides are still in use that have been banned in more than 67 countries, any increase in organic farming will make a positive difference. Of course, the growth of organic farming is needed not only in India but throughout the world. Gratefully, Sikkim is not the only place seeing success with organic food. For example, in Cuba, large-scale organic farming exists, although it began out of necessity, due to a trade embargo with other nations. Denmark has ambitious plans to become an organic country. And a growing number of farms in the U.S. are organic success stories.

Organic food sales in the U.S. have been increasing every year since the 1990s, and the trend is continuing. In 2015, organic food sales in the U.S. neared an estimated $37 billion, up 12% from the previous year. And when even more people demand organic food, more farmers will produce it, and prices will go down. If we want a world with less toxic food, a world that is safer for our health, our environment, and our climate, we have a lot more progress to achieve. And everyone can play a role if you choose to take action and support organic. Whether you’re a farmer or a consumer, you can make a difference. As the Indian prime minister said: “Sikkim has shown the way and what we are seeing today is the result of tremendous hardwork and belief in an idea.” Increasing organic agriculture around the world won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

Note: Image from Flickr user Anja Disseldorp under a Creative Commonslicense with edits Article written by Lindsay Oberst – Food Revolution Network.

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