CSE bats for organic and natural farming

  • Releases new report that presents irrefutable evidence of the benefits of non-chemical agriculture
  • Yesterday’s Budget promises to promote chemical-free natural farming, but it is a half-hearted promise at best, as no separate allocation has been made in it, says CSE
  • CSE’s asks: Invest in organic and natural farming. Make it a mass movement

New Delhi, February 2, 2022: “Despite the push given to it through periodic pronouncements from India’s leaders, the country’s efforts to upscale non-chemical farming practices have largely remained half-hearted at best. Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) new report on the subject presents robust evidence which makes it clear that we can upscale organic and natural farming. It is time to invest adequately in a well-funded nation-wide programme for this”: said Sunita Narain, director general, CSE here today. She was releasing CSE’s report -- Evidence (2004-20) on holistic benefits of organic and natural farming in India – at an online event here today.

The report had a ‘community’ release -- representatives of the community which has been practicing or promoting organic and natural farming across the country joined in to release it along with Narain (see the full list below).

The coming of the report immediately after the Budget is especially opportune. The Finance Minister has made a pitch for promoting chemical-free natural farming, and has encouraged states to revise the syllabi in their agricultural universities keeping in line with this new push. “But,” says Amit Khurana, programme director, Sustainable Food Systems programme, CSE and co-author of the CSE report, "these are relatively small steps compared to the need of the hour, and especially after the prime minister's appeal in December to make natural farming a mass movement.”

Khurana adds: “Hopefully, our new report, which highlights that there is strong long-term evidence that organic and natural farming is not only profitable and sustainable but also productive, will propel the country to invest more adequately to upscale and encourage such a mass movement."

What the report presents

The report presents evidence collected and collated on aspects such as crop yield; cost of cultivation, income and livelihood, soil health and environment, and food quality and nutrients. It is based on two sets of sources:

  • Results of the All-India Network Project on Organic Farming (AI-NPOF), 2004-19 -- The project is currently being implemented across 20 centres in 16 states. The report compares results of three approaches -- organic, integrated (which partly involves chemicals) and inorganic (dependent on chemicals).

  • About 90 scientific studies on organic and natural farming published during 2010-20 in India – these collectively add to and complement the overall evidence.

The report makes a clear case to consider the holistic benefits of organic and natural farming, such as those related to livelihoods, soil health and environment (instead of only yield) in future policies and programmes. Specifically, through the AI-NPOF results, it presents long-term evidence on how benefits of organic approach outweigh that of inorganic approach (and also integrated approach to a large extent), with respect to profitability parameters such as net returns and soil health parameters like organic carbon, macronutrients, micronutrients, bulk density and rhizosphere microbial population.

The evidence collected by the report bring out some interesting details:

Evidence on crop yield: Out of the 504 times that yield results were recorded during 2014-19, the yields were found to be highest 41 per cent of the times with organic approach, followed by 33 per cent with integrated, and 26 per cent with inorganic approach.

Evidence on income and livelihoods: Out of 61 cropping systems, net returns have been seen to be the highest in 64 per cent with organic approach at 12 centres, 11 per cent with integrated approach at four centres, and 25 per cent with inorganic approach at five centres. The five-year mean net returns with organic approach are higher than inorganic in 67 per cent cropping systems.

Evidence on soil health: Cropping systems with organic approach have scored the highest in terms of all the parametres on soil health – organic carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The report’s findings on soil bulk density, soil bacteria, fungi, micronutrients etc also offer a similar verdict.

“It is surprising how the results of the government’s own All India Network Project on organic farming, which has been present in the public domain for the last several years, did not get the required attention. It is also a concern how the entire issue so far has focused on yields and not on livelihoods and soil health benefits,” says Khurana.

“It is evident that organic approach has fared better than integrated on profitability and sustainability and is almost at par with it in the case of productivity,” points out Abhay Kumar Singh, programme manager, Sustainable Food Systems Programme in CSE and a co-author of the report. Adds his co-author and the Programme’s deputy manager, Abdul Halim: “There is proof that natural farming involves low costs and helps in introducing resilient crops, energy and water efficiency, plant and animal biodiversity, carbon sequestration and climate mitigation.”

The report recommends actions needed to upscale organic and natural farming – building a well-funded ambitious programme; training and supporting farmers during transition; making available quality organic fertilisers and biofertilisers; enabling agriculture extension systems; farmer-friendly certification; enabling market access; and action at the state level.

Concluding the discussions at the release of the report, Narain said: “We now know that there are enough reasons to upscale organic and natural farming. We hope that the larger scientific community and policymakers recognise the strong case that we now have to transform the non-chemical farming initiatives in our country into a mass movement.”

Community Release of Report was done by

Azad Singh Panwar, ICAR-Indian Institute of Farming Systems Research

Bharat Bhushan Tyagi, farmer, Bulandshahar-Uttar Pradesh

Binita Shah, SUPA Agricultural Research Group, Uttarakhand

Debal Deb, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Odisha

G V Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Telangana

H S Grewal, Heavenly Farms, Haryana

Mathew John, Keystone Foundation, Tamil Nadu

Rajinder Choudhary, Kudrati Kheti Abhiyan, Haryana

Sabyasachi Roy, National Dairy Development Board, West Bengal

Samir Bordoloi, Society for Promotion of Rural Economy & Agricultural Development, Assam

Shurvir Singh, farmer, Bijnor-Uttar Pradesh

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture

Subhash Sharma, farmer, Yavatmal-Maharashtra

Sultan Ismail, Eco Science Research Foundation, Tamil Nadu

Vishalakshi Padmanabhan, Participatory Guarantee System Organic Council, Karnataka 

For details, interviews etc, please contact Sukanya Nair of The CSE Media Resource Centre: sukanya.nair@cseindia.org, 8816818864



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