Contrasting Organic Rice and Conventional Rice | The Main Disparities
Put simply, organic rice is cultivated without the use of any fertilizers or pesticides, making it entirely free from chemicals. On the other hand, normal or conventional rice is grown with the aid of fertilizers and pesticides to enhance the crop’s productivity.
Main Distinctions between Organic Rice and Conventional Rice
|Organic Rice||Conventional Rice|
|Utilization of natural fertilizers such as manure, compost, neem oil, neem cakes, and green leaf compost to uphold soil health and moisture, resulting in significant health benefits.||Fertilizers, pesticides, and similar chemicals are commonly used to manage pests and diseases, stimulate plant growth, and maximize crop yields.|
|It contains a low level of arsenic.||Rice produced with the use of chemicals may exhibit elevated levels of arsenic.|
|Organically grown rice has a reduced presence of food additives.||Additives are extensively employed to improve the shelf life, visual appeal, and taste of rice.|
|It possesses abundant nutritional and functional attributes.||The health benefits are limited in quantity.|
|The quality of soil, water, and air is enhanced through eco-friendliness.||The utilization of chemicals has detrimental effects on the overall environment.|
Exploring the Distinctions: Organic Rice vs. Conventional Rice
Growing and harvesting organic rice (Importance for life and environment)
It is widely recognized that opting for naturally produced food items from organic farming is significantly beneficial for our well-being. Traditional farming practices for conventional crops often involve the extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides, which can pose risks to our health. Rice, being one such crop, falls into this category, as it has been subjected to synthetic chemical additives known to be harmful.
Conventional rice an imminent risk
However, in recent times, an increasing number of individuals across all age groups have become aware of the disparities between organically grown rice and its conventional counterpart. Moreover, they have gained insight into the long-term health consequences associated with consuming these toxic chemicals through their diet. As a result, there has been a notable shift towards organic rice varieties.
But what makes organic rice the preferred choice?
Western cultivation practices
What type of rice do Indians typically purchase? Milk, eggs, potatoes, fresh vegetables, and grains such as rice and wheat are essential food items that originate directly from fields and farms. Over the past fifty years, farming and animal rearing have witnessed a surge in the use of chemicals. Despite our expertise in organic farming since ancient times, Indians have adopted Western agricultural methods due to the influence of colonial rule, leading us astray from organic practices.
Rice is a prime example of a crop adversely affected by these questionable farming techniques. As a staple food crop, it is consumed in a wide range of varieties, making the harmful effects more prominent and widespread. In recent times, there has been significant news and speculation regarding the use of Endosulfan, a pesticide employed in rice cultivation.
Endosulfan serves to deter the population growth of locusts, which pose a significant threat to rice production. However, it has been discovered that this pesticide is carcinogenic, resulting in the deaths of both farmers and consumers. Some individuals have even experienced mutations in their cellular structure and have been born blind as a consequence. Consequently, it is unsurprising that this harmful chemical has been globally phased out by farmers and agricultural experts alike.
The Influence of Consumption and Cost In Asian countries
Despite the aforementioned concerns, many individuals continue to purchase conventional rice varieties, often due to the cost factor. Organic rice currently constitutes a small portion of the rice market, accounting for approximately 15%. However, the demand for organic rice is growing rapidly, and as this demand increases, there is a possibility of a drop in prices for organic crops.
The per capita rice consumption in rice-consuming states is estimated to be around 102 kilograms per year. This consumption level provides insight into the scale of rice consumption and allows for an assessment of the potential of the organic rice farming market in India.
Unfortunately, there are no reliable figures available regarding the proportion of total rice production that is organically grown. The majority of rice and rice products sold in supermarkets are still conventionally produced. However, it is possible to purchase organic rice in zero waste stores, supermarkets, or directly from producers in India.
In Thailand, organic rice is not commonly sold, and if it is available, it is typically found in trendy shops located in downtown Bangkok. It is often vacuum-sealed and priced at approximately twice the cost of “normal” or conventional rice. A similar situation can be observed in India, where most organic rice produced in Bangkok is exported. While we do not have information on other Asian markets, it is likely that the scenario is quite similar in those regions as well.
Contrasting Organic and Conventional Rice Cultivation A financial challenge
The Historical Background Conventional rice cultivation refers to the prevailing farming practices that have become the norm. In India, there has been a longstanding preference for using pesticides and fertilizers to ensure a satisfactory yield. Given the financial challenges faced by farmers and the agricultural sector in India, avoiding any reduction in the quantity of produce is of utmost importance.
This financial pressure is the primary driver behind the use of synthetic additives, as they help safeguard the crop against any setbacks. However, as previously mentioned, times are changing, and the organic produce market is gaining traction in India.
The Role of Hybrid Varieties Hybrid rice varieties predominantly dominate conventional rice cultivation. These hybrids are known for their high yield potential and, at times, their resistance to pests. However, when using hybrid seeds, it becomes impossible to save a portion of the harvest for the subsequent sowing cycle.
If hybrid seeds are replanted, an assortment of plants or weeds will grow alongside the rice crop. This compels farmers to purchase pesticides and fertilizers from these companies, in addition to buying seeds. In contrast, genetic engineering is prohibited in organic farming, thereby mitigating weed-related concerns.
The Presence of Genetically Modified Rice Varieties and Arsenic
The Impact of Genetic Modification The cultivation of genetically modified rice varieties has revealed the presence of traces of mineral oil in whole-grain rice, particularly in sacks of genetically produced rice (referred to as conventional hybrid varieties). This occurrence can be attributed to inadequate packaging practices.
The Role of Arsenic Rice has the ability to absorb arsenic from the soil. Despite the existence of strict limits on arsenic levels in rice in India since 2017, adherence to these limits is often lax due to lenient food regulations. However, this issue can be managed by simply washing rice before cooking, as this process helps reduce arsenic content. It is advised not to use the swelling method when preparing conventional rice. Additionally, if this rice variety is not consumed excessively, there are typically no significant health risks associated with it.
Contrasting Cultivation Methods: Organic Rice vs. Conventional Rice
Dry Cultivation in Organic Rice Farming
In organic rice cultivation in India, there is a greater prevalence of dry cultivation methods compared to the traditional wet cultivation. The conventional approach typically involves the use of substantial amounts of water. Conversely, organic farming prioritizes dry cultivation methods, which often result in lower yields. However, from a sustainability standpoint, the dry cultivation method employed in organic farming offers significant advantages, particularly in regions with limited rainfall.
Water Consumption and Supply
Under normal circumstances, it takes approximately 3000 to 5000 liters of water to grow one kilogram of rice, leading to a strain on local water resources. In tropical and subtropical regions, monsoon rainfall is typically relied upon for rice cultivation.
Enhancing Biodiversity through Organic Farming
Organic farming plays a vital role in promoting biodiversity within ecosystems, particularly in rice cultivation. Unlike conventional methods that employ chemical inputs, organic farming creates favorable conditions for various animals and plants to thrive in flooded rice fields. By eschewing the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides, which pose a threat to the delicate web of life crucial for plant well-being, organic farming stands as a beacon of biodiversity.
In Japan, on Hokkaido Island, a cultivation system embraces the practice of flooding rice fields after the harvest season. This deliberate action provides a conducive habitat for worms and diverse aquatic organisms. The positive consequences of this approach are subsequently witnessed in the following rice season, where the effects contribute to a flourishing ecosystem.
Switzerland has also embarked on a similar project to boost biodiversity. Through multiple field trials, it has been demonstrated that wet rice fields serve as a sanctuary for endangered animal species, such as rare dragonflies. This successful endeavor highlights the profound potential of organic farming to create sanctuaries and foster the survival of vulnerable creatures.
The production of methane and its impact on the greenhouse effect
Greenhouse gases, such as CO2, are emitted during the production of rice. Conventional rice production methods contribute significantly higher levels of CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, adopting more sustainable cultivation techniques, like dry cultivation in organic farming, can play a crucial role in mitigating methane production.
The use of synthetic pesticides is prevalent in both conventional rice farming and Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) cultivation. However, it is important to note that these pesticides have adverse effects on the environment, as mentioned earlier.
Pesticides commonly utilized in conventional and rice farming methods:
- Tricyclazol: An anti-fungal agent that is not authorized for use in the European Union.
- Carbendazim: An anti-fungal agent that is no longer permitted in the EU. Carbendazim has the potential to cause genetic defects and negatively impact fertility and unborn life.
- Thiamethoxam: An insect-repellent neonicotinoid known to have significant adverse effects on bees. The EU has implemented specific regulations since 2013 regarding the use of neonicotinoids, but a complete ban has not been imposed.
- Isioprothiolan: A fungicide primarily employed in rice cultivation, lacking approval in the EU.
- Phosphane or phosphine: A fumigant employed to eliminate storage pests after harvesting. Inhalation of phosphane poses substantial health hazards, and even low concentrations can harm aquatic organisms. Its usage remains permitted in the EU. However, this gas decomposes during storage, eliminating the associated risk to human health.
- Methyl bromide or bromomethane: A fumigant employed for controlling storage pests. It is banned in the EU due to its toxicity and detrimental effects on the nervous system, aquatic organisms, and the ozone layer. However, it is still permissible in rice-producing countries like India, Pakistan, and the USA (outside of rice cultivation).
- Aflatoxin B1: Produced by molds rather than pesticides, this mycotoxin arises when stored grains are excessively moist. Aflatoxin B1 can have adverse health effects.
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