The price of going organic
April 18, 2018 | 5:53 PM
by Times News Service
Organic vegetables

The organic way of living is good for health, but can be hard on the pocket. In Oman, awareness about the benefits of chemical-free organic products is only just beginning to grow. This week, we will explore the differences between organic and conventional agriculture, and whether we should dive into the lifestyle. Let us also find out why these products come with a high price tag.

The term organic simply refers to produce grown and processed in well-balanced soil that’s free of synthetic pesticides, petroleum-based fertilisers, and bioengineered genes. This includes meat, eggs, and dairy products where the animals are fed a natural diet of grass and grain and not given any antibiotics or growth hormones, unlike in commercial or conventional agriculture.

Though conventional farming still dominates the industry, organic agriculture has become celebrated as a clean-living option for those who want nothing but the best for their bodies. Farmers in large parts of the world are embracing the change.

Here in Oman, the concept of eating organic food instead of cheaper, commercially-grown vegetables is relatively new to many folks, and introducing it in their diets may require a tremendous effort, including raising awareness about the health benefits.

Four years back, Narjes Mohamed Mirza began her mission of opening an organic farming business. Now, it’s the first internationally certified organic farm in Barka that grows all your favourite vegetables, from colourful tomatoes to healthy cucumbers.

“If human beings knew how valuable and expensive their bodies were, they’d become advocates of organic lifestyles,” said Narjes.

Organic methods save the environment from polluting factors; chemically-made compost creates imbalances in soil nutrients. Besides, we are less exposed to numerous unhealthy chemicals on a daily basis, from technology and beauty and cosmetic products to the air we breathe.

Let’s do a quick comparison between organic and non-organic vegetables. In the first case, vegetables are grown using natural fertilisers such as manure, while in the second case, synthetic or chemical fertilisers are used to grow food. “Man-made fertilisers are dangerous, they won’t go away after a wash, they become part of the produce,” explained Narjes. She purchased natural fertilisers from certified sources, but also made her own organic fertilisers by using vegetable leftovers and animal manure.

Pests represent a huge issue for farmers everywhere. On organic farms, no harmful synthetic pesticides are allowed. Instead, they use traps, birds, and naturally derived pesticides to contain pests.

Organic fruits and vegetable look, feel, and taste natural, whilst non-organic produce appears to be a bit too perfect and too symmetrical, said those who have embraced the lifestyle. Narjes, who is an organic farming guru, attests to the argument.

Another advantage organic produce has is that it possesses more nutrients and antioxidants in comparison to chemically-fertilised food. This explains why cancer patients and those suffering from heart diseases are encouraged to consume organic vegetables: They are natural and free of pesticide residue. “I have adopted this lifestyle after I was diagnosed of cancer. Now, my whole diet has changed forever. Even though I’m spending extra money on organic food, I know I’m doing my body a favour,” said Maryam Mohammed, an advocate for everything-organic. So, let’s digest the facts and ask ourselves: Then why are we still bingeing on hormone-injected, pesticide-ridden food?

When it comes to livestock, the animals are fed all organic, hormone-free food. In conventional practice, the animals are given growth hormones to grow and produce faster.

And when these animals catch viruses, natural methods are used to treat them, as antibiotics and medications are completely prohibited. And, they also have access to the outdoors and fresh air.

Now that we know the benefits, what about the cost? Most people I interviewed had the same answer: “But it’s expensive!”

Samer Abdullah, who aspires to adopt the lifestyle is still concerned about the price tag. “I wish to eat more organic and be healthy but the prices are way out of my budget, which forces me to buy cheaper vegetables,” he said.

Well, here’s why organic produce costs big bucks.

To start an organic farm, you need to obtain an international certification from recognised firms. They will test and monitor your soil for three to four years before certifying it. The whole preparation and cultivation phase requires intensive labour, as everything is done by hand and is time consuming too.

Organic farms are also smaller than conventional ones, which means the produce is less as well. Hence, costs go up.

Another thing that adds to the cost is the price of organic fertilisers, seeds, and feed for animals. This is relatively expensive, especially in Oman, as the products have to be imported from trusted sources abroad.

Most importantly, the certifications are extremely expensive. Backyard farming is not organic unless the fertilisers are organic as well, and the area has been prepared for the stipulated years to be free of toxics and other contaminants.

“I spend OMR80,000 annually on my organic farm,” said Narjes, adding, “I still haven’t benefitted financially, but I’m determined to raise awareness and change the way we eat. Every Omani deserves a better, healthier lifestyle.”

Given the high price tag that comes with organic farming, perhaps a group of local farmers can collaborate and invest in this much-needed practice.

Even though we have imported organic produce at supermarkets, it’s best to encourage organic farming here in Oman for a healthier lifestyle. It may be costly, but it is worth every penny. –[email protected]

Organic products

Save Your Skin

Rising levels of pollution, with the emission of harmful gases and chemicals into the air, harm our skin. People try to compensate by cleansing, toning, and moisturising. But they fail to realise that you don’t really have to get out in the open to expose your skin to harmful chemicals.

They can be found at home too, in the creams, body lotions, gels, softeners, and whiteners on your dressing table. The chemicals in these enter your body through the millions of pores in the skin. Therefore, you have to make sure that what you apply isn’t harmful and that you aren’t introducing unwanted chemicals into your system.

You will be shocked by the amount of chemicals, parabens, synthetic colours, artificial fragrances, dyes, and nano particles that are used to make the products you think can keep your skin healthy.

Since you are no expert, you won’t really know which chemicals are good for the skin and which aren’t. The best way to rid yourself of all these worries is by going organic.

Organic products contain ingredients grown without genetically modified organisms, pesticides or synthetic fertilisers, and are known to have higher levels of antioxidants; they are made without being tested on animals. So, these products aren’t just good for your body and skin, but are also great for the environment.

But one thing that puts people off is the high price tag. There are reasons that justify the higher price tags.

Firstly, organic products have a shorter shelf life because of the natural ingredients used, as opposed to the chemicals and preservatives that make up non-organic products. Secondly, raw materials used to make organic products cost more as the production process is not cost efficient: The farms are small and the yield is low, as pesticides and fertilisers aren’t used.

Even manufacturing is done in small batches as opposed to mass production of chemical products. Besides, the packaging of products does not contain plastics that are harmful to the environment, but is done using more expensive reusable and recyclable bottles and containers.

Obtaining certification that a product is organic is also a long and costly process. In fact, make sure the certification marks and logos are genuine before buying products.

In the long run, organic products are worth every penny you pay since they are better for your skin and health, and the environment. Look at it as a good investment and not an unnecessary expenditure.

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