Organic is a growing sector and a lot of consumers are slowing converting their kitchen to organic. Most of the stores in India store both organic and natural products and sometimes due to insufficient information on the label, the consumer is often confused.
The term “organic” and “natural” are widely used and a lot of consumers are not sure what it means. Let me explain to you the difference between the two.
‘Natural’ means that the product has undergone minimal processing and does not contain any preservatives or additives, but the term is not protected in any way and there is no certification. However, “all natural” term is loosely used and doesn’t have any legal definition. Natural products can also be genetically modified organisms (GMO).
Organic products are those made entirely from natural substances, which in turn have been grown eschewing the use of artificial chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides. According to WHO, organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conversation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don’t use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. Simply put, organic produce is grown without the use of any pesticide, synthetic fertilizer, genetically modified organisms (GMO) or sewage sludge. Animal products like meat, poultry, eggs and diary products don’t take any antibiotics or growth hormones. Animal products like meat, poultry, eggs are also termed as free-range, where the animals have outside access and is not couped up in a cell.
In India, the term “organic” is not legally protected for use in retail, and organic produce can also be sold without certification. FSSAI is currently in the process of notification of organic rules for the domestic market.
The retail chain Fabindia developed a three-tier labeling system that distinguishes between so-called natural products, products from farms in conversion to organic and fully certified organic products. ICCOA, also followed similar labeling system for vegetables sourced from Karnataka. Navdanya, the NGO gives the ‘navdanya gurantee’ for organically grown products, the credibility of which is based on the reputation of the NGO rather than on third party certification.
Organic labeling can be further categorized into 3 categories:
100% organic: made with 100% organic ingredients
Organic: made with 95% organic ingredients
Made with organic ingredients: made with organic ingredients without any certification
Since organic sector is an unorganized one in India, a lot of times you will see unbranded or non-labelled packets at stores. This may be due to several reasons, repackaging by the store (who doesn’t follow any labeling norms due to small supply), small production/supply, seasonal product, applied for certification and is in transition, cannot afford certification etc.
In Bangalore, it is common to see a lot of organic stores organizing twice a week sale of organic fruits and vegetables. These are mostly not certified and are sourced from farms on the outskirts. Organic in India, is mostly promoted on the basis of trust and the intent of the producer/seller. Since, certification cost is too high most of the small producers prefer to sell their goods through small retail outlets.
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Reference: Organic food marketing in urban centres of India