When I saw the post “Organic, Grass Fed and Hormone-Free: Does This Make Red Meat Any Healthier?” on Eco Warrior Princess, and after reading the article, the second thought that crossed my mind was “enlightening piece”. The first was, ‘Are there even cows that feed on anything else but grass?’. Seeking an answer to this question, I canvassed the web and found not one but a plethora of articles in support of pumping cows full of grains and growth hormones in order to make them ‘healthier’ and fit for consumption. At this point, I realized to my profound amazement that there are cows in developed countries actually fed with grains. Suffice it to say that it was impossible not to write this piece afterwards.
Now you have to understand that I was born and raised in a small village in Eastern Nigeria. I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and I currently live in Abuja, the capital of the country. I have worked in farmlands and have studied in the best of schools long before I became a Nigerian lawyer. I have explored neighboring African countries and going beyond, I have scooped handfuls of water from the Atlantic Ocean to quench my wanderlust. As a child, I have seen and run from herds of cows in Southern Nigeria and as an adult, I have conversed extensively with nomadic herdsmen in the North. So, when I state that I had never seen or even heard of a cow that was fed anything other than grass, I do not mean it lightly. Simply put, in my world, cows eat grass.
It is no longer news that most countries of the West utilize chemicals in food production. I know that as a result, their chickens are unnaturally bigger and their oranges often devoid of seeds. In spite of all these, I have found, in my research for this piece that I wasn’t as fully prepared (mentally that is) as I thought I’d be in respect to the far-reaching extent of the chronic use of these substances in our daily living. The use of chemicals, hormones and other additives in growing food and meat have so taken root that the resultant products are now referred to in ‘enlightened circles’ as “conventionally grown”.
The word conventionally translates as “based on or in accordance with what is generally done or believed”. In the light of the foregoing, it stands to reason that conventionally grown here means that the majority agrees that chemicals ought to be the way forward. Really? Are organically grown foods now so favored by the minority that they are regarded merely as an alternative to inorganic living?
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More bewildering to me is the fact that there are actually schools of thought who argue against the consumption of organic foods. I am only now becoming increasingly aware that many people have gone above and beyond to convince many others that “conventionally grown” foods are the better stacked with nutrients to meet our daily dietary needs. How does that argument go? “Why eat naturally grown foods when we can pump them full of the chemicals you need? Really?'I have wondered why Nigerians (and Africans) generally have not been quick to adopt the “organically grown” label. Now, it seems our ‘slowness’ is for two main reasons. First off; organic living is an inalienable part of the African heritage...'Click To Tweet
In Nigeria, and as found in most African countries, all major foods are organic. “Conventionally grown” foods in these parts are so few that in comparison to the organically grown products, they are practically nonexistent. They are often only to be found as imported wares in fancy upscale supermarkets where they get little patronage from the average Nigerian. Our oil is almost always gotten from our own palm trees, our tomatoes freshly plucked from our backyards. Our vegetables and fruits (of more varieties than I can name), potatoes, beans, yams and rice to mention but a few are as organic as they come. Our livestock feed on plants, graze on pasture and get treated when they fall ill and that’s the end of the matter.
I have discovered that one of the most potent arguments put forward for the use of chemicals and hormones in growing crops and animals is that of demand. It has been argued that without the help of these chemicals, we cannot hope to grow enough food to meet the demands of an increasing population. Now while I am not an agricultural expert, my experience in Nigeria has taught me differently regarding growing food naturally.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, 80% of food in the world is produced by smallholder farmers. In Nigeria, almost all major foods are produced by these smallholder farmers. These farmers grow their crops by hand, utilize no chemicals and more often than not, use no machines. If this can work effectively in Nigeria (and it does work) with a population of about 200 million, then I verily submit that it would work even better across other places in the world as one global village.
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In another of such anti-organic articles, the writer argued against buying organic food because it encourages child labour in Africa. While my argument is far from being against the person of this author, it is clear to me that he isn’t African. What remains unclear to me though is whether he had in fact been to the Continent to better understand the topic of child labour in relation to Africans. In light of the fact that I live in the most populous African nation, I found his argument baseless at best and moronic at worst. Most foods over here are produced by family-owned farms (primarily for survival) and where these farmlands are more expansive, assisted by paid labourers.
Where children are involved in the process, (again from personal experience) it is often to provide help to their parents and for what it’s worth, a majority of these kids actually love to help. Now, this is not to say that there are no cases of child labour; only that, in my opinion, discouraging people from buying organic food items for the ill-conceived reason that to so buy works as an encouragement to child labour practices somewhere in Africa, is too much of a stretch. It makes as much sense to me as being told to stop using my cell phone as a direct protest against the imposition of tax (or some other administrative bottleneck) by telecommunication companies on their employees somewhere in the Caribbean.
Is it possible that this desire for conventionally grown foods are more cosmetic than we realize? Is it not born more out of a desire for aesthetically-pleasing homogenous foods than the actual fulfilment of man’s dietary needs? If so, what exactly is the expectant result? Too many questions, very little answers.
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The fact that we grow our own food here often discourages waste and at the same time makes it seem far-fetched when we hear stories of inorganically grown foods. The article about the cows though woke me up a bit more. When I buy my vegetables from a seller in an open-air market here, implicit in the business transaction is the fact that he or she grew the products herself. Wasting the food, therefore, becomes even more difficult for me than it would have been if I had bought them pre-packaged from a multinational food chain.'Is it possible that this desire for conventionally grown foods are more cosmetic than we realize? Is it not born more out of a desire for aesthetically-pleasing homogenous foods than the actual fulfilment of man’s dietary needs?'Click To Tweet
I have wondered for so long why Nigerians (and Africans) generally have not been quick to adopt the “organically grown” label. Now, it seems our ‘slowness’ is for two main reasons. First off; organic living is an inalienable part of the African heritage. We don’t proclaim our adoption of the concept because we have not adopted the same. We are organic by definition. The second reason is that because organic living is a part of our culture, we often expect (perhaps unfairly) that other nations view the concept in the same light as we do. So that it arouses no curiosity in the average Nigerian to meet someone from a different cultural orientation who eats mainly organic foods. The cultural shock comes when we come face-to-face with plastic rice or factory-made red meat.
We are unapologetically organic. We produce our foods ‘conventionally’ and over here, that means organically.