A pan-India advocacy organisation that promotes ecological agriculture has said the recent notification on organic farming by Indian food safety regulator would be detrimental to the growth of organic farming in the country.
The Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), in a letter to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), said the notification on organic foods issued on December 29 last year, which makes certification mandatory for all barring a small set of farmers, would serve as a major impediment that deter farmers from shifting to organic farming. “As the Food Safety regulator, you are aware of the all-pervasive contamination by agro-chemicals, including of groundwater. We believe that organic farming has to be supported in all ways possible for it to spread to larger areas in a short span, given the need of the hour, the ASHA letter said.
The regulation could deter farmers to shift to, and pursue safer food production systems, because it will involve higher burden on farmers, beyond their financial and other capabilities, it said. “This, in a way, self-defeating to the very mandate of FSSAI,” it added.
This is missing the present notification and in the absence of that, FSSAI rushing in with its unreasonable regulation is an impediment.
“FSSAI should have waited out the implementation of its new regulations until something like this is put into place by State agriculture departments and Union Agriculture Ministry, it said.
It further said that there was no justification for giving the exemption to only “small” producers – this exemption should be extended to all organic farmers of the country, and their collectives.
ASHA also proposed that the regulator should exempt all those organic producers whose stocks are getting marketed through retail outlets that have directly sourced the produce from such organic farmers, without any intermediaries and are directly selling to end consumers (B2C).
“It appears that the situation of small illiterate farmers who desperately need organic farming as a way out of their agrarian distress is not considered when regulations are made,” ASHA said.