By Miguel Braganza
Poison-free vegetables are an important consideration when thinking of healthy food. For years now we have unknowingly poisoned ourselves and our children with sub-lethal doses of insecticides.
We now know that insecticides and herbicides like organo-phosphorus compounds and 2, 4-D are mostly spin-offs of World War II and Vietnam War’s ‘Agent Orange’.
Vegetables laced with these pesticides, we know today, are the cause for the increasing incidence of cancer and other deformations. And we, after education developed by corporate-supported Western universities, agriculture scientists and extension officers (me included), have been a part of the hard-sell for the agro chemicals that the European countries have long banned in their countries of origin and across the developed world.
ORGANIC IS POSSIBLE
Traditional farmers have grown cucumbers, muskmelon, pumpkins, gourds, ladyfinger and dioscorea air potatoes organically on hillsides, from Sattari to Canacona.
Over the last few years we have shown how all these can be grown, and grown organically, at sea levels, at Calangute and Candolim, or on a rocky plateau, at the International Centre-Goa, Dona Paula.
The shift to organic agriculture is not merely about replacement of synthetic insecticides and fertilizers with natural ones, but is actually a complete conversion of one’s set of beliefs. The philosophy changes from profit maximisation at all costs to counting the cost of making the profit on other people, animals, birds, bees and even microbes in the environment.
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (www.ifoam.org) defines it thus: “Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.” Organic agriculture fits well in the philosophy of the Vedas, Mahavira, Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi and now the Bharatiya Janata Party. Not for nothing did organic agriculture get a tremendous boost in states of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Chattishgarh during the last decade. It will now be a national mission and needs our support more than it needed during the pilot phase during the Congress-led UPA dispensation, especially under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY).
Now is the time to sow winter vegetables like radish, knol-kohl, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cabbage. The seeds are available. ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’ is sound Biblical advice for all of us.
Agent Orange or Herbicide Orange (HO) is one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the US military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. It was a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D.
During the late 1940s and 1950s, the US and British collaborated on development of herbicides with potential applications in warfare. Some of those products were brought to market as herbicides.
Prior to the controversy surrounding Agent Orange, there was already a large body of scientific evidence linking 2,4,5-T to serious negative health effects and ecological damage. But in 1969, it was revealed to the public that the 2,4,5-T was contaminated with a dioxin, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), and that the TCDD was causing many of the previously unexplained adverse health effects which were correlated with Agent Orange exposure. TCDD has been described as “perhaps the most toxic molecule ever synthesised by man.”
A 1969 report authored by K Diane Courtney and others found 2,4,5-T could cause birth defects and stillbirths in mice. Several studies have shown an increased rate of cancer mortality for workers exposed to 2,4,5-T. In one such study, from Hamburg, Germany, the risk of cancer mortality increased by 170 per cent after working for 10 years at the 2,4,5-T-producing section of a Hamburg manufacturing plant. Three studies have suggested prior exposure to Agent Orange poses an increased risk of acute myelogenous leukemia in the children of Vietnam veterans.
The Good News
There are two bits of good news: vegetable seeds are already available at the directorate of agriculture and its zonal agriculture offices across Goa, which are slowly shifting to organic farming. For those who have difficulty in germinating seeds and raising seedlings, Green Essentials offers a helping hand by making seedlings available at reasonable prices. Some of the government agriculture farms, especially the one at Mapusa, do likewise.