What the Tamil Nadu Organic policy needs

Only after three years of organically producing a crop, can you get it certified. This clause in the new organic policy must be changed

This is because land is cultivated on a rotational basis and cannot have the same crop for three years, Arachalur Selvam, president, Tamil Nadu Traditional Farmers Federation says

While emphasis is on export, there are no action plans to make organically farmed produce available at affordable prices to the poor farmers who produce them

Market linkages are needed, K Venkatraman, coordinator, Tamil Traditional Farmers Federation, said citing the example of Telangana government which gives priority to organic produce in temple food supplies including the Tirupati laddu.

Tamil Nadu should have such policies. At least a certain percentage of organic produce must be allocated to ration shops, hospitals and government hostels in the state, he said

Urban women’s self-help groups and organic farmers must be brought together and markets expanded through mobile phone apps

Goat and cow herders earn their livelihood by selling livestock dung as manure. There are no institutionalised schemes to integrate herders and organic farmers, Venkatraman said

The policy should have had a unified vision about people engaged in grazing, said Rajiv Gandhi, coordinator, Tamil Nadu Livestock Feeder Welfare Association as sustainable farming uses livestock waste as manure

Cities generate large amounts of biodegradable waste which too can be used as manure in organic farming. It will also help solve some waste management issues

The policy has no incentive for farmers to switch from chemical to organic farming. At least three years’ time is needed to restore the microbes and vitality of the soil.

So they cannot switch if the government does not implement crop insurance or provide relief to fully compensate farmers for losses during the transition period

Pamayan, an organic farmer, said the difference between organic farming and natural farming has been misinterpreted in the policy

Action plans are needed to move from organic farming, which procures and uses inputs such as bio-fertilizers from outside, towards natural farming that uses inputs from on or near the farm.

The policy does not guarantee that genetically modified crops do not creep into organic farming. The aim should be to ensure self-reliance in agriculture, especially seed production

The government should also focus on the health of agricultural labourers because they and peasants are badly affected by the extensive use of poisonous pesticides.

For bio-agricultural research, an autonomous institute must be set up. The existing research universities are promoting chemical-based farming only, farmers point out.

The role of farmers’ markets (uzhavar sandhai) in marketing produce has not been mentioned in the policy. They can promote organic produce to the local people

A fair price policy must be in place for organic agricultural produce; it will be beneficial to farmers and consumers alike.

The policy must lay stress on awareness campaigns to explain the evil of pesticides and benefit of organic farming that produces toxin-free food.

Tours around organic farms and sojourns at the farms can be made part of the policy so that the organic farmers can augment their revenue.

There should be a plan to gradually remove harmful pesticides from farms. If the departments of agriculture, environment, climate change, forest, tourism and health work in tandem to promote organic farming, it will pay rich dividends

Medicinal plants (herbs) produced in natural farming are essential to medicine. A programme to cultivate non-toxic medicinal plants should be part of the policy

N Punniamoorthy, former professor at the Tamil Nadu Veterinary University and a Siddha medical researcher, says incentives should be given to organic farmers who protect water, soil and environment from contamination during cultivation of crops

Siddha medicine should be used to ensure the good health of cattle to avoid chemical residues in their excreta, he says

The policy should clamp a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified crops in bio-agricultural zones and eliminate polluting industries from bio-agricultural zones and ensure that no new polluting industries are set up in the zones