Is sustainability an option only for those with money? Affordability and accessibility are two things that need to be ensured before we say that sustainability should be a necessity and not a luxury. It’s almost certain that if two evenly priced choices were given to consumers to choose from, out of which one is sustainable and the other is not, the sustainable option would be the one chosen. Unfortunately, to come across that kind of situation, in reality, is highly unlikely. Almost always, organic goods are more expensive than the inorganic foods. The reasons for this are interesting to explore.
The organic market share in the retail market is very low and one of the reasons could be because the farmers need to pay extra money to get the food certified as ‘organic’ and the entire process is strenuous and time-consuming. Also, it’s not that organic food is more expensive, it’s that conventional, non-organic food is subsidised to make it accessible to the common man. So, in context, it appears cheaper than organic food. But, this also raises the question – why isn’t organic food subsidised, it quite evidently the better option? This is a structural, organisational flaw that needs to be corrected. Furthermore, the production cost of organic food is very high. As no artificial pesticides or insecticides are used, extra labour is required for tasks like hand-weeding, cleanup of polluted water and the remediation of pesticide contamination. Another problem is the fact that supply is unable to meet demand. Organic farmlands account for a marginal amount in India compared to the large-scale factories that produce inorganic food, so to meet the growing needs of the population is problem enough and to do that with limited land area adds to the list! But, don’t you wonder? Why is it that we would pay extra to get a better television, better clothes, better phone, better laptop but when it comes to better, safer, healthier and sustainable food, we think twice! This is the ironic situation we find ourselves in, today. We care so deeply about things that potentially harm us and when we need to prioritise for the things that can make our lives significantly better, we refuse to pay a little extra money. But still, we think of the financial insurance of our future at the cost of our healthy present. The hard truth is that the present will reflect on the future, directly and indirectly.
But, this problem practically solves itself and the answer is ‘us’! All we need to do is, demand for organic food that recycles resources, promotes ecological balances and conceives biodiversity and voila! – the solution/s will appear in front of us. We need to understand that we, the consumers are the ones who shape the market and not the other way around. If we start asking for organic food and boycott conventional foods, arrangements will be made to expand organic farmlands, simplify the certification process and improve pricing schemes. Collaborative activism is the way forward. As a community, if we start asking for healthy, nutritional food, the market can’t help but provide it to us (and at cheap prices too!) so next time, you see a jar of organic strawberry jam, don’t just buy it and complain about the price. Buy it and tell your friends to buy it as well! And soon you’ll find that, it’ll be both the healthier and the cheaper option as well.