“You are what you eat” is a popular saying that reflects a person’s general wellbeing, especially, the physical and mental health of a person, which also hinges on the kind of food one eats.
Therefore, the source, the type, and the quality of food or food products that a person consumes can tell on one’s outlook.
In this festive occasion, our choice of food is critical since it will have a lot of impact on our health thereafter, and in the New Year.
The food we eat, as we all know, is produced by farmers who work tirelessly, tilling, planting and harvesting food products that are packaged or processed on to the market to feed society.
However, with various climatic conditions affecting the production of food as well as other facets of endeavours, nations have been exploring many ways to increase production to meet the higher feeding demands of society.
Research scientists, all over the world, and especially in Ghana, have also helped in coming out with breeds and varieties of food produce like maize, yams, sweet potatoes, cassava, millet, sorghum and other fruits and vegetables to address the food needs.
Also, in attempt to fill the food gap, being exacerbated by the changing weather patterns as a result of climate change, some scientists have also explored and championed Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) produce that have been met with a lot of backlash.
However, Organic produce, continue to enjoy a lot of goodwill from people all over the world, with most shops and super markets parading organic products on their stables for the consuming public.
Switzerland, for instance, had the highest per capita consumption of organic food of any country in the world in 2018. That year, the average Swiss and Denmark consumer purchased around 312 euros of organic food. Sweden also ranked highly in terms of organic food consumption in that same year.
Organic food is food produced by methods complying with the standards of organic farming, which features practices that cycle resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.
The most commonly purchased organic foods are said to be fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. However, there are also many processed organic products available, such as sodas, cookies and breakfast cereals.
Researchers say a choice of organic foods will help people to avoid chemicals, benefit from more nutrients, enjoy better taste, and avoid hormones, antibiotics and drugs in animal products.
Consuming organic produce also help preserve our ecosystems, reduce pollution and protect water and soil, as well as preserve agricultural diversity.
It is indeed a truism that organic foods are a smart priority and an effectual choice for personal and planetary health.
Therefore, patronizing organically grown food, free of harmful chemicals, abounding with more nutrition, taste, and ecological sustenance is a direct endorsement for instant health and a general well-being.
Also, choosing organic animal products is said to be unyieldingly important, especially for children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers.
Therefore, the best way to avoid cocktail of chemical poisons present in commercially grown food is to eat organically grown foods, which are known to have more nutrients including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and micronutrients.
This is because, in organic farming, the soil is managed and nourished with sustainable practices by responsible standards.
Arguably, agricultural chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers are contaminating our environment, poisoning our precious water supplies, and destroying the value of fertile farmland, while certified organic standards do not permit the use of toxic chemicals in farming and require responsible management of healthy soil and biodiversity.
Expert say in comparison with conventionally grown produce, organically grown produce has lower detectable levels of pesticide residue.
It is therefore, welcoming that a good section of society believes that organic foods and feeds are the best way to go and therefore, will jump at any opportunity that ensures that they have access to organic products to enhance their nutritional well-being.
But the issue with most consumers is where to get such authentic organic produce to buy and how to know that such products were genuine ones.
That is why the introduction of the Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) certification, launched recently in Accra, to certify and boost organic produce in Ghana is welcoming.
The PGS certification is a locally-focused assurance system that certifies producers and processors of organic produce in Ghana and ensures that such farmers subscribe to organic and agro-ecological principles.
A PGS label on any products, would thus, enable consumers to identify a truly organic products they purchase.
The certification of organic produce under the PGS was based on active participation of stakeholders and built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange, as such groups of PGS farmers by practice, agree to adhere to a standard of production, which is transparent to all members within the community.
With the launching, a number of producers have also been trained and certified as PGS organic producers all over the country, and as such consumers could go ahead and look out for PGS labels on their preferred organic products.
At the launching, Mrs Olawami Benedict, the PGS Coordinator in Ghana, explained that the system represents the local verification mechanism that assures consumers of organic produce on the local markets.
She said that the PGS was being implemented in the country under the Organic Markets for Development (OM4D) of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movement-Organics International (IFOAM) in partnership with Agro Eco-Louis Bolk Institute.
The launching programme was, however, supported by the Market-Oriented Agricultural Programme (MOAP) of the GIZ, and the Agro-Eco Louis Bolk Institute.
Dr. Elke Stumpf, Head of Programme, GIZ-MOAP, said the promotion of organic products had been a focus area of the GIZ because organic farming was a climate-smart agriculture that contribute to combatting climate change.
She said the MOAP, also supports farmers and processors to be ready for the organic certification as that served as the gateway to access high-end markets.
Consumer trends, she said, had shown that most Ghanaians preferred organic products if they could have access to them and trust the source, adding that that presents a huge potential for organic agriculture in Ghana.
Dr. Solomon Gyan-Ansah, Deputy Director for Crops Services, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, said the PGS certification would go a long way to increase consumer confidence in patronising locally grown foods and plant products “to help us increase the income level of our farmers, create more jobs and further increase our national production performance and value at the global levels”.
He added that the increase in health concerns and the changing of eating habits among citizens had created opportunities for the organic farmers in the country, especially, those into fruits and vegetables.
He said the government, under its “Investment for Food and Jobs 2018 to 2021 plan was, therefore, investing in the promotion and expansion of organic farming to enable producers to access the growing organic market, adding that the investments were being made with support from development and strategic partner to foster agricultural growth and development.
In sharing her experience with the Ghana News Agency as an organic vegetable farmer who has been in the industry for over six years, Naa Anyeley Enti, CEO of Garden 2 Plates, said her company was born out of a passion for gardening and eating healthy good food.
“All our produce are homegrown with clean running water. The main focus is to bring different but delicious varieties of lettuce onto the market at affordable prices. We offer a selection of seasonal vegetables handpicked to order,” Naa, who is a Biochemist by profession said.
She mentioned that among her homegrown vegetables are Kaiser, mixed leaf, baby leaf salad, salad, and romaine lettuce. “In season, we also offer, cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower, tomatoes, and kale,” she added.
Naa, therefore, believes that the PGS system had come to help bring integrity and trust onto the organic market, adding that most people with allergies have had their allergies “gone when they started consuming organic produce.
It is advisable that all Ghanaians look for and buy PGS certified organic products to support the PGS programme that directs us to finding good source of organic product to improve our physical and mental well-being.
By so doing, we also promote and fulfill the tenets of the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically, Goal One-No Poverty, Goal Two- Zero Hunger, Goal Three-Good Health and Well-being, Goal Eight-Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 12- Responsible Consumption and Production, Goal 13-Climate Action, Goal 15-Life On Land, and Goal 17- promoting partnerships.