India’s Organic Farming Revolution

Should you buy organic food? Is it just a status symbol, or is it really better for us? Is it really better for the environment? What about organic produce grown thousands of miles from our kitchens, or on massive corporately owned farms? Is “local” or “small-scale” better, even if it’s not organic? A lot of consumers who would like to do the right thing for their health and the environment are asking such questions. India’s Organic Farming Revolution explores these questions, leading readers to rethink the politics of organic food.

Organic agriculture is a rapidly growing phenomenon in places like India. Over half a million organic farmers live in the country, the highest number of organic producers of anywhere in the world. India’s organic exports are now part of a multi-million dollar global trade network, and American consumers can find several of these goods, including rice and spices, in their local supermarkets.

In the south Indian state of Kerala, farmers, activists, and policymakers are turning to organic farming the break away from the Green Revolution, a system of agricultural production heavily reliant on chemicals, and the cause of thousands of farmer suicides in the country. Kerala’s example shows that when done right, organic agriculture can be good for everyone in our global food system.

Buy the book from the University of Iowa Press:

What reviewers are saying

At Bioneers 2014 with Vandana Shiva

At Bioneers 2014 with Vandana Shiva

“A breath of fresh air in the organic/local food production discussion.”
– Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy

“This book will make an important contribution to the field of organic literature.”
– Frederick Kirschenmann, author, Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher

“A well-researched, and powerful book demonstrating significant transformation, both with respect to farming practices and community-based change.”
– Frances Moore Lappé, author, Diet for a Small Planet

“[Thottathil] challenges readers to examine the complexity of agricultural systems and the tough choices that emerge for farmers, policy makers, and consumers…. Ultimately, though, Thottathil’s engaging book shows that this complexity and these tough choices ‘do not have to paralyze advocates interested in reforming industrial agriculture.’”
– In CHOICE magazine, by E. G. Harrington, Universities at Shady Grove

“Sapna E. Thottathil’s book is a timely contribution to the research on the emerging organic food market in India. It gives insight into the politics and governance of organic farming and is equally relevant to discussions on transitions to sustainable food systems more generally – in India and beyond. Based on the author’s extensive field research in Kerala, the book is written in an accessible, narrative style that speaks to a broad range of audiences.”
– In Ecology and Farming from IFOAM and the Alternative, by Nina Osswald (Read the whole review online from Ecology and Farming or the Alternative)


In the Shepherd Express:
In India, as in other countries around the world, organic farming has been practiced for thousands of years, and a new book by a leading sustainable food advocate provides a very engaging example of how one state in southern India is remaking their society by requiring all farmers to make the switch to organic agriculture by 2020…. Readers will be introduced to the growing organic movement in India, a country home to more than half a million organic farmers, and will begin to understand the growing dialogue surrounding globalization and organic food.

At Laurel Bookstore, Oakland

At Laurel Bookstore, Oakland

From an interview with Good Food Web:
Sapna E. Thottathil is a connector of worlds. In her new book, India’s Organic Farming Revolution: What it Means for our Global Food System, she does just that. Taking a glimpse into the state of Kerala in southern India, Sapna guides readers through the “Green Revolution” and the years of debt, health effects and farmer suicides that followed. In working towards a solution, the Indian government enacted a policy that requires all Kerala growers to farm organically by 2020. India’s Organic Farming Revolution examines how this policy came to be and the lessons to be learned for all those looking to better our food system, both here and abroad.

On the Bur Oak Blog (Part 1 and Part 2):
Sapna Thottathil shares with UI Press editor Catherine Cocks why she wrote the book and what Americans can learn from farmers in Kerala, India.

From Utne Reader:
Is it better to eat local or organic? There is nothing straightforward about the current trends in our global food system. In India’s Organic Farming Revolution (University of Iowa Press, 2014), Sapna E. Thottathil explores current difficulties and pitfalls in organic politics through the lens of one state in India, Kerala…. Read more and an excerpt featured on Utne Reader.