I attended my first ever event dedicated to all things organic. The Organic World Congress 2017 in greater Noida. I went with a group of 50 farmers from Punjab. My first impression of the event was, that there was noting for the grass root farmers! All the schedules were written in English, most of the panel discussions i attended were not meant for the farmers. There were fancy stalls of big companies who have sponsored the event. Young girls in flashy dresses, taking down contacts of people, asking for business cards. It was all business.
These are the new middlemen for a typical farmers. The big corporates are now cashing in on the ‘organic awareness‘. Tapping the top 3-5% of the indian market with stylish packing and advertising. Farmers photo were seen on some of the packs. Is this good for the farmers growing organic? Sure it is! They have more chances of their produce being picked up. The more people wake up to safe food, the more these companies will come forward to fulfill this need, and eventually the profits will trickle down to the farmers. My ONLY problem with this model is, THERE IS NO TRACEABILITY! There is no way of knowing from where the produce is coming from. We do not have a strong Certification and authentication structure. This gets even more complex if many raw materials have been used to make a single product. Big corporates have seen the opportunity and are releasing ‘Organic’ products big time. It is time for the authorities to setup strict code of conduct and other guidelines. Else, all this will fail.
I also met seed savers from all across the country. They were happy to display the collection of OP / native seeds of their region. I took some seeds and asked “How much?”, the farmer did not understand, she was happy to SHARE! Putting a price on seeds is a concept they do not understand. Seeds were never meant to be sold, they have always been shared across communities. There was also a young man from Sahaja Samrudha displaying ‘Rice Art’. When i picked one up he sternly said “Don’t touch”.
I believe there is a place for everyone in the Organic movement. The big brands are here to stay and will follow their model of capitalism. The policy makers, whose discussions no farmer could understand, also have a part to play. Your neighborhood farmer’s market, which brings farmers in direct contact with consumers, supports locally available food. It is time to for the consumer to wake up to the reality of poison on their plates. We always get the government we deserve. Let us all demand safe food and force our representatives to speak out in public against the use of pesticides (or else, do not elect them to office).
At the end of the conference, all the foreigners left by flights and farmers were looking for a late night train or a shared car ride back to their villages. The big brand were busy packing their display products. The young girls in their flashy dresses were sitting in a cafe, busy counting the money earned.