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CSR: Farce of Labelled Organic Food


“I consume only organic food”, said Rithika, a homemaker staying in the posh locality of South Delhi. India imitates the west to meet the needs of its growing population by implementing the Green Revolution. India’s food production saw rapid gains by usage of high yielding variety (HYV) seeds, tractors, irrigation facilities, pesticides, and fertilizers. Now, the West is moving to organic products and India, which has relied on organic products historically, is following the suit.

Research has proven that organic products are good for consumers. Overuse of fertilizers has not only affected the quality of food but also in the quality of soil and the environment overall.

In blind wine tasting, people appreciate an expensive wine better than the cheaper one in spite of the same wine being labelled differently. The same is the case with labelled organic food. People are ready to pay a higher price for it as compared to conventionally grown food even though they can’t tell the taste difference between the two types of food products. Marketers are trying to exploit this tendency of consumers to extract a higher price for a product that does not meet organic standards.

In a country like India, where the farmers are not very educated and have always relied on using natural manure to grow crops, it is very easy to get organic products. However, the regulations around organic labelling play a spoilsport.

FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) requires products labelled as “organic” to be certified by either the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) of the commerce and industry ministry or the Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS) of the agriculture ministry. The NPOP was aimed at organic goods meant for the export market and involves third-party companies conducting audits as well as tests to verify organic status, while in PGS, a cooperative of farmers guarantees that everyone in their group is practising organic farming. The first one is expensive and hence the second one, which requires coordination and trust, is preferred by farmers.

The PGS farmers are generally small farmers and hence they have to sell their products to other processors for value addition and hence cannot guarantee that the entire value chain confirms to organic standards.

Corporates in the agriculture domain need to come to the rescue and serve the needs of the farmers. CSR projects can be leveraged so that the entire chain confirms to organic standards. This will ensure that the farmer who sacrifices yield in order to cultivate organically gets a better price for his products and is not labelled a fraud just because of the kinks in the processing chain.

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The CSR Journal Team