India for Safe Food and Safe Food Alliance have been setting up organic food melas in various cities.

It is said things come back in full circle and it seems true for agriculture as well. From old methods of natural farming to using chemicals and pesticides for increasing production, many are now turning back to the traditional methods. Health is the all encompassing reason behind it.

With numerous scholarly papers on health hazards of pesticide usage in food and hullabaloo created about genetically modified vegetables, people have been forced to think twice before buying from local department stores.

A luscious apple might have been polished with wax, the beautiful greens (the supreme source of wellness) might have artificial colour in them, and behind the tempting smell of mango the sinister calcium carbide might be at work. If health boosters become health imperilments, where do people turn to? ‘Go organic’ seems to be the call of many.

India for Safe Food, an electronic forum, is a movement being spearheaded by ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture). Working in the area of agriculture, environment, farmer and consumer rights, the forum has been trying to shift attention of consumers on alternative food choices.

With no chemical, no GM as its tagline, it has joined hands with other organisations to bring ‘safe food’ option to people. Along with Safe Food Alliance, the forum, run by group of volunteers, has been setting up organic food melas in various cities.

Stalls put up

After the success of the first mela in the city, the forum decided to reach out to more people and with the help of local groups like Exnora, it organised a safe food mela at Anna Park, United India Colony, Kodambakkam recently.

Stalls were put up by six organic outlets including, Dhanyam (T. Nagar), Vanilla Organic (West Mambalam), Vendure organic, Aditya organic (Vadapalani), Restore organic (Adyar), and Nalla Keerai (Thiruninravur).

To encourage home grown food, special stalls on terrace gardening and composting were also put up. A three-pot composting system was explained to visitors as a means of converting household waste into manure for home gardens. People were also treated to ready-to-eat food made from organic products.

Getting very good response from residents, Ananthoo, member of Safe Food Alliance, said, “More local groups should come forward and help us spread this message. If we don’t reach the grass root levels, the campaign will have no meaning at all. The Government should also encourage opening of organic stores at the taluk level. Safe food option should be accessible and affordable to all.”

While many visitors said that they would make a conscious effort to shift to organically grown food, some like Balasubramanium, a retired engineer, said that the cost of organic food is prohibitive. “With prices of food increasing, not many can afford to go organic. These food items are priced high, and why spend so much on items one can get at a less rate in department stores,” asks Balasubramaniam.

But Ananthoo says that the demand and supply rule will apply to organic food as well.

“With demand increasing, prices will fall automatically. Also there is something known as fair price which determines the cost of products in the market. Moreover, prices of organic food item are marked up only by 10 to 15 per cent.”

There were others who refused to make any changes in their food buying habits. “How can we be sure what organic stores sell indeed are organic,” they asked.

To lend support

While the debate on whether to stick to food sold in super markets or change to organic alternatives goes on, people who want to lend support to India for Safe Food can log on to indiaforsafefood.in and sign the online petition for policy change and access to safe food. People can also give a missed call to 022-3301 0031 in support of the cause.

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