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Feeding The Nation

Going Organic: An Eco-Friendly Diet

Consuming organic food is not just about following the latest lifestyle trend. It is more about a raised awareness of the interconnected nature of diet, health, and the environment.

Words by Vikaria Lestari, Photography by Helen Yuanita

Walking down a store aisle, I can see fruit and vegetables displayed ontheir own rack with organic labelling on the packages. Dairy products and eggs are labelled in a similar way.

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But what does organic really mean? In what way does organic produce differ from the conventional? What are the advantages of organic food? Those are some common intriguing questions many people have. The promotion of organic farming started in the first half of the 20th century, when modern, large-scale agricultural practices beganto appear. However, it was only in the early 2000s that the public profile of organic food gained momentum as consumers began to see the connection between healthy eating and a healthy planet. It helps that the taste and flavour of organic foods are considered to be better than non-organic.

Organic foods include fresh produce, meats and dairy products; organic ingredients are also used to produce processed foods such as crackers, drinks, and frozen meat. They are produced by farmers who emphasisethe use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance the quality of the environment. Organic food is produced without the use of synthetic pesticides or petroleum-based fertilisers, sewage sludge-based fertilisers, bio-engineering, and organic radiation. Organic poultry and dairy products come from livestock raised without antibiotics, growth hormones, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

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Raising poultry for organic meat is a focus at OISCA (Organization for Industrial and Cultural Advancement) Sukabumi Training Center in West Java. “The chickens at OISCA do not get any antibiotic injections at all, even when they are first hatched,” says Muhammad Halid, Director of OISCA Sukabumi Training Center. The chickens are fed with organic corn kernels and natural, homemade food. “To improve the immune system of the chicken, we use botanical vitamins that come from ginger,” Halid explains.

Organic meat and milk are believed to be richer in certain nutrients. A supported European study showsresults in which levels of particular nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 per cent higher in organic meat and milk than in conventional products.

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For organic farming, leaves from the Mindi or Chinaberry tree (Melia Azedarach L) are used as pest control since they contain a powerful poison. The leaves are crushed, and their juice is sprayed to kill insects. Besides Mindi, oil from the seeds of the Mimba tree (Azadirachta Indica), known as the Neem tree, is widely known as a botanical insecticide. Containing azadirachtin, triol, salanin, and nimbin, Mimba is effective against caterpillars (including larvae of Handeuleum Doleschallia Polibete), ladybirds and leafminers.

Tuberous rhizomes such as galangal, ginger, and turmeric have also been adopted as botanical insecticides. These rhizomes and the perennial lemongrass are combined with water and sugarcane juice, then fermented for around 14 days before being used.

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As well as reducing our exposure to pesticide residues, buying organic means we are getting much fresher produce, as these products don’t contain preservatives. Organic farming practices contribute substantially to the health of the environment by reducing pollution, conserving water, reducing soil depletion, improving soil fertility and consuming less energy. Interestingly, organic farming not only helps preserve natural habitats, but also encourages birds and other predators to live happily on farmland, assisting in natural pest control.

In Indonesia, organic farming is observed by the National Organic Certification Bodies, known as LSO (Lembaga Sertifikasi Organik). The LSO ensures farmers meet agreed organic standards. Organic-based processed food comes under the watch of the National Agency of Drug and Food Control of the Republic of Indonesia, known as Badan POM. The tasks and purposes of this agency are similar to the US Food and Drug Administration.

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Finding organic vegetables and dairy products in Indonesia today is easy, as the Internet means many items are just a click away. An increasing number of startups with websites and apps provide consumers with fresh produce delivered to their door. You can even buy directly from the organic farmers and have the produce delivered.

However, should you want to treat your taste buds without the bother of preparation, organic restaurants are springing up in cities such as Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Denpasar, and Medan. They provide interesting menus ranging from baby porridge, meatballs, noodles, fried chicken, and satay to burgers and pizza. Balancing the goals of adopting a healthier diet and contributing to a better environment has never been easier.

Vikaria Lestari

Javanese by birth, is a writer and translator whose passions are travelling, food and reading. Her hobby, amongst others, is observing the unique characteristics of different cuisines and places, which she shares later in her writing. Her published works include translated novels written by bestselling American authors, as well as travel and lifestyle articles.