Know your Organic Labels

Know your Organic Labels

Love has no labels but bottles, jars and grocery packets do. Labels make promises and raise expectations. Words like “Natural”, “Pure” and “100%” are used loosely and liberally on packets of food items. When you are out shopping for organic food you must look for authentic labels. Here are a few labels to keep an eye out for:

Indian Organic is a mark of assurance for organically grown food and processed food made in India. The certifying agency and regulatory authority is APEDA (Agriculture and Processed food products Export Development Authority). This is an accredited certification and legally valid for importing food products. APEDA runs under the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP).  All Indian organic products must display the India Organic logo for customers to easily identify certified products.

Indian Organic label is recognised by the US and the European Union.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India(FSSAI) launched a new logo for organic products in Decemeber last year.

Indian Organic Standards:

Decoded further, the Indian Organic label means:

  • The land from where the produce is obtained, has been upgraded for organic farming and no chemicals are used in the farm practices.
  • All inputs like fertilisers and pesticides are and must be natural.
  • No genetically modified inputs or Irradiation technology should be used.
  • All the farming practices and food processing techniques – physical, biological and mechanical must be verifiable.
  • No contamination from neighbouring farms must be present.
  • The farm must follow sustainable practices.

The organic certification is not easily obtained and is quite an intimidating exercise.  The farmer has to approach agencies that give the certification. The NPOP has a list of third party accredited bodies like INDOCERT, ECOCERT etc who carry out the certification procedure. A farm is given certification after two years of organic farm practices. A fruit orchard is given certification after three years of organic farm practices. A dairy unit on certified land can get it in 90 days, whereas a food processing unit can get it in one day provided all the biological, physical and mechanical inputs are convincing.

The organic certification for any produce is also valid for three years and must be renewed after that.

An individual farmer spends anywhere between Rs 25,000/- to Rs 40,000/- for organic certification. A group of farmers who pool their land holdings for certification may spend between Rs 40,000/- to Rs 1,00,000/-.

On some products you may also find the label of PGS India Green and PGS India Organic. PGS India Green indicates that the fields from where the produce is sourced are in the process of conversion to organic and PGS India Organic means that the produce is obtained from fields are completely organic. PGS stands for Participatory Gaurantee System for India. It is a decentralised organic farming certification system run by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India. 

International labels:

Some of the other international organic labels are the USDA and Organic EU.

USDA stands for United States Department of Agriculture and USDA Organic seal means that the product has been certified organic and contains 95% or more organic ingredients.

Presence of Organic EU logo means Eurpoean Union certification standards were followed while growing or making the product.

This is the new logo of Organic EU.

Logos give a visual identity to the organic farm sector and differentiate them from the conventional farm products, apart from making it easy for you and me to pick the food of our choice.

Sujata C

FYI: All of Daana’s products are certified organic. Order them from Amazon by clicking here


Good Health is Cold Pressed

Good Health is Cold Pressed

Ola acquired Foodpanda two days back. So now not only will they drive you home, they will also deliver hot food at your doorstep. Away from the hustle and bustle of the food delivery apps world, there is a quiet revival of the traditional oil mill all over the country – not in remote villages , but in the heart of happening cities. It appears to have made a silent comeback after seven to eight decades much to the delight of discerning consumers like Uma who lives in Yapral, Hyderabad. Since the past six months, she has been making a monthly trip to the traditional oil mill (ghani in hindi, ganuga in telugu) near her house to get fresh cold pressed oil.

Good old ‘ganuga’

Prabhakar is the lone ‘ganuga’ operator in the region who uses two bullocks to run his mill and prepare oil for select customers. He is from the oil crushers’ community, who took to selling garments when his livelihood of traditional oil milling was no longer profitable. Couple of years back, he chanced upon a meeting of Subhas Palekar,  the ‘rishi of  krishi’ in his village, advocating traditional food and farm practices. This proved to be a turning point in his life. Everything that Palekar said about chemical farming resonated with him. He had heard about the ill health caused by adulteration and chemicals in food. Prabhakar decided to revive his ancestral occupation and set up his ganuga in Balaji Nagar at Yapral, Hyderabad. Prabhakar says oil from a traditional mill is especially good for diabetics and heart patients.

Prabhakar at work
Photo courtesy: Telengana Today

Time for mindful eating

You can imagine what wonderful meals Uma must be cooking for her family, if she takes so much care about the cooking oil. While many of us may not have access to a ghani near our house, we can make the switch to mindful eating by including cold pressed oils in the shopping list.

The fast pace of our lives has taken its toll on our health. We tend to be mindless when it comes to something as basic as food. We just need to slow down and bring our awareness to things around us and the food on our plates. You can make mealtimes more interesting by talking to your children about the food they are eating. Even the most ordinary everyday meal has something extraordinary about it, if we chose to think about it. This way we can help one another become more mindful and thus make wiser choices about our health, our food, our farmers and the environment.

If you know of any traditional oil mill becoming operational in your locality, do drop a line in the comments section. We would love to spread the word.

Sujata C sells cold pressed oils that you can order conveniently from

The Unrefined Truth About Refined Oils

The Unrefined Truth About Refined Oils

There is an open secret about refined oils that many of us still don’t know. It is the  process oilseeds undergo to acquire the state of odourless, colourless ‘refinedom’. To begin with, all sorts of seeds are used in refined oils – good, bad and even spoilt. When you do a quick internet search of the refining process of cooking oil the results throw up words like extraction, neutralizing, bleaching, deodorising etc. Intuitively, you know there is something wrong when they are neutralising, bleaching and deodourising your cooking oil. Dig a little deeper and your doubts are confirmed.

Bathed in petroleum solvent

While the term extraction seems harmless, seed pulp is bathed in a petroleum based solvent called hexane, to pull out the maximum amount of oil possible. (Is that a safe thing to do, is a logical question that comes into our minds.) Okay, so they use food grade hexane, but traces of it are likely to remain in the oil. Many studies including one conducted by the Royal Society of Chemistry of UK have confirmed this. Nausea, headache, blurred vision, muscle weakness and numbness of the extremities are some of the side effects of ingesting even trace amounts of hexane.

Sizzling temperatures

Very high temperatures (upto 180 degree C) are used in the refining process to remove colour, odour and bitterness, causing the molecules to become unstable, more prone to oxidation and creation of free radicals – the root cause of a host of diseases including cancer, Alzheimer and Parkinson. Along the way the oilseeds are stripped of all the natural fatty goodness – vitamin E and minerals and antioxidants.

Chemical wash

Neutralising is done to remove any impurities in the oil by adding caustic soda and soda ash (Don’t we shun the cooking soda to soften the dal because it will kill all the nutrients).It is then purified and bleached to improve the colour. (The only thing we associated bleach with was sanitation and laundry.) The oil is also deodourised to get rid of ‘unusual’ or chemical smells. (I thought only bathrooms need deodourising.) At the end, they add some preservatives to improve shelf life.

That’s a complete cocktail of chemicals that the oilseeds have been processed with. The refining process leaves behind a trail of chemicals which get into our body and cause untold damage to the internal organs.

A dash of GMO

It is also a common practice among oil manufacturers to add cottonseed oilseed in most vegetable oils for volume. These seeds come from BT cotton which is a GMO seed (and the consumers will never know). Recent research reports in respected medical journals in the Indian Heart Journal (IHJ), the official peer reviewed open access journal of Cardiological Society of India (CSI) and the Journal for Preventive Cardiology have carried reports on cooking oils and recommend unrefined oils for the presence of bioactive compounds flavours and Vit E content.

This only adds momentum to the ‘ditch-the-processed-food movement’ and substantiates the fact that our ancestors knew better and enjoyed better health as they were consuming oil extracted by the bullock driven mill.

Keep watching this space for more on topics like this and others.

Sujata C

Daana supports the trend against refined oils and urges you to switch to organically grown and cold pressed oils. Order them from or today.

13th Edition of International Permaculture Conference gets off to a Colourful Start

International Permaculture Conference gets off to a Colourful Start

The 13th International Permaculture Conference commenced on a vibrant note at the auditorium of Prof Jayashankar State Telengana Agriculture University in Hyderabad on November 25, 2017. The verdant greenery of the university campus provided a perfect setting for the prestigious event that is being held in India for the first time with the support of International Permaculture Convergence(IPCC) and Friends of IPC (FIPC).


There were more than 1000 participants including permaculture practitioners, advocates, activitsts and supporters from 63 countries at the venue on the cool November morning to celebrate this back to nature movement. They were accorded a very traditional welcome with drum beatings, dancing farmers and music. The seed rangoli that adorned the floor of the reception hall was captivating. The celebratory mood was contagious and one traditional farmer from Australia broke into an impromptu jig, setting the tone for the day.

Prominent and well known activists who graced the occasion included seed sovereignty advocate Dr Vandana Shiva, water conservationist Dr Rajendra Singh, founder of the Permaculture College Robyn Francis, soil specialists Prof Sultan Ismail, and Andy Goldring, Chief Executive of the Permaculture Association UK.

The Telengana  government sponsored 100 farmers to attend the knowledge sharing event. It was interesting to see how eager and curious they were to hear the delegates on the dias with their headphones in place and making themselves comfortable in the aisle of a packed auditorium.

Farmers from other parts of India were also present to share their experiences with other farmers of the world. Permaculture practitioners from different parts of the world were dressed in their traditional costumes adding to the vibrancy of the place.

In the keynote address, Dr Vandana Shiva in her typical firebrand style, bemoaned how growing city had made a burial ground of farmland. She stated convincingly that industrial farming was cause for all the woes of the world. Lambasting the mindless technological advances being made in the world she said, “Just sometime back they gave citizenship to a robot. The next level of insanity is farming without farmers. Algorithms have no life, it is the seed that has life and we have to save our seeds from the onslaughts of the MNCs.” She condemned the hegemony of the handful of men who control half the wealth of the world and warned of the dangers that can stem from such a situation. Hitting out at rogue leaders and rogue corporations that dominate the world, she observed that most of them including Bill Gates were in need of a lot of ecological literacy.

Robyn Francis spoke on the importance of regenerating community resilience in a changing world.  She expressed her gratitude to women supporters of permaculture and said that women are the agents of change and capable of creating a safe, healthy and happy world with good food and self sufficiency.

The Convergence plans to provide hands-on learning experience to the participants through farm tours on wide ranging topics including local farm practices, traditional village living skills, pitcher irrigation, traditional oil milling technologies, local plant remedies and so on.

Exhibition stalls displayed seeds and plant produce of diverse varieties.  There were other stalls conducting demonstrations of sustainable agricultural practices and workshops on building communities. Famous balladeer Gaddar entertained the guests in the evening with songs that had a flavour of the soil. Traditional martial arts of India like karre samu and kalairipattu were performed by experts to regale the guests.

The Conference and Convergence is being hosted by Narsanna and Padma Koppula of Aranya Agricultural Alternatives a Hyderabad based environmental and developmental NGO who hope that a this conference will give a strategic direction to the permaculture movement in the world.

Growing up in an organic world

Growing up in an organic world

By Sujata C

The November sunlight feels so good. It has the right amount of warmth to counter the hint of cold that lingers in the air. It’s a great time to spend outdoors with your family and you are tempted to spend hours just lazing and soaking in the sun. It’s Children’s day, and instead of rushing off to the mall or catching the new movie at the multiplex, try something that’s real quality time. How about familiarising your children with the organic way of life?

You can begin right in the garden or your balcony. Get your children some basic gardening tools like a hand rake or a trowel to turn the soil over and gardening gloves if they are prone to skin allergies. This will build up the excitement. Being outside, they will get a healthy dose of sunlight and some physical exercise as well.

Since organic way of life is too large a universe to get all at once, you can introduce it in small but specific topics like pest control, for instance. Where there is a garden there are pests, we know that too well. So how about getting rid of garden pests in an eco friendly way without upsetting the delicate living system of soil?

As you work you can explain a bit about the soil system and its nature and take the children’s help in gathering ingredients. Climbing tree to pluck leaves off a neem tree would be a real fun thing to do for children. For children such activities help build a connect with nature and they will grow up with a higher environment quotient. Keep the conversation going and tell them why you are not opting for chemical sprays and liquids, explain how they harm the soil and leave residues.

Experts at Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad suggest many simple ways to make home based natural pesticides. Here are some natural remedies they advocate:

For insects in soil:

Two tbsp of red chilli powder, two tbsp of garlic paste. Mix it in one litre of water. Add a little of the mixture to the soil in each pot. The severe burning sensation caused by the chilli kills the pests.

For leaf spray:


  • Black tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) leaves: 50gms
  • Two glasses of water
  • Half tsp of detergent powder


Boil tulsi leaves in water for 30 minutes

Let it cool. Add detergent powder to it. Stir well. Let the kids fill a spray can or bottle with the mixture and spray on plants.

Well known agricultural expert Hari Shankar Panwar known for chronicling the traditional farm practices of farmers recommends this neem leaf decoction for pests like aphids, grasshoppers, white fly and caterpillars.


  • 1 kg leaves of neem (Azadirachta indica) 
  • 1 litre water
  • ½ tsp of detergent powder


Grind the neem leaves to a smooth paste. Mix it in water along with the detergent powder. Stir the mixture well. Spray it on plants.

Researchers are also recommending pomegranate peel decoction as an effective way to keep bugs off the plants.

Try out these eco friendly ideas in your garden. Not only will your garden be pest free, you would have instilled an appreciation for the organic way of life in your children.

Where did the plant come from?

Where did the plant come from?

If you pushed some seeds from a tomato pulp into a pot of soil; kept it in the Sun and lightly watered it everyday; soon enough, a tomato plant would start growing.

Where did the plant come from? How did the stem, branches, leaves, fruits get build? To build anything, you need raw material. Where does the plant get its raw material?

First Guess: The soil became the plant.
You can see if this is true. Keep weighing the pot everyday. If the soil is becoming the plant, then the weight of the potted plant should remain the same. However, the potted plant keeps getting heavier as the plant keeps getting bigger, it must be sucking the mass from somewhere else. Besides, farms never lose soil after repeated harvests. Wrong Answer.

Second Guess: The water became the plant.
Two problems with this. First, the plant, like all life forms, is carbon based. There is no carbon in the water. Second, it doesn’t absorb as much water as the plant weights. You can confirm this if you are carefully measure the amount of water you give to the plant. Wrong answer.

Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
– Sherlock Holmes

The Correct Answer : The air became the plant. The air has carbon dioxide. The plant absorbs carbon dioxide, uses the energy from the Sun to release oxygen back into the atmosphere and builds itself up into a larger plant.

Let that sink in, it is really a fascinating phenomenon. A seed, sown in the soil, starts sucking carbon from the air and using the sunlight, starts to build itself into any and every tasty fruit and vegetable that you have ever eaten. Your Alphonso mango, the french grapes, the avocado from Chile. They were all built from thin air.

– Farhan

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Women and the fight against poverty

Women and the fight against poverty

Barefoot College is an organization based in Rajasthan, India whose goal is to empower and equip rural illiterate women so that they may drive change and improvement in their families and societies.

Requirement to join Barefoot college is really simple:

  1. You need to be illiterate
  2. You need to take your learnings and skills back to your village and invest your time and energy there.

The premise is even simpler:

  1. Women are more invested in the long term in their neighborhoods, and are willing to put in work to see results much further down the line
  2. Men on the other hand, when they pick up skills, tend to want to move to better lifestyles which means that they tend to not invest their time and energy in their villages for long periods of time.

We are not being some sort of reverse sexists here. While outliers always exist, both the above statements are corroborated by data gathered from multiple communities in the world.

How does Barefoot achieve this? Watch the trailer of the movie “Solar Mamas”, made by TED prizewinning filmmaker Jehane Noujaim that documents the work and the impact of Barefoot College.

And then go watch the full movie here