No, it's not a state in the United States, nor is it in the Western Hemisphere for that matter. The first 100% organic certified state is in India. Sikkim, located in Northeastern Indian, between Bhutan and Nepal, received this certification back on January 18, 2016, during the Sikkim Organic Festival.
Out of all the countries in the world, India has the most organic farmers, and now it can claim that it has the first, fully organic state. Sikkim is home to 66,000 farmers, all of whom have sworn off GMOs, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. This comes as a significant achievement of the Sikkim Organic Mission Plan, which, in 2003, set a goal for the state to become 100% certified organic.
India has a long standing tradition of growing products with little to no input and saving seeds that date back centuries. Thus, the idea of organic farming is nothing new to India. However, the concept of "certified organic" is new and has yet to gain much consumer support in the country. Thus, Sikkim, and the rest of India, is in the process of learning how to market organic produce domestically to consumers.
Photo: Anja Disseldorp - Flickr: India Sikkim - view of rice fields
Sikkim's organic farming serves as a case study for the Indian government, who is exploring whether statewide organic production is reproducible on a larger scale. In Sikkim, the government worked from 2003 onwards to support farmers in becoming 100% organic by gradually removing subsidies for pesticides and fertilizers, purchasing organic certification for Sikkim farmers, and increasing the integration of organic farming techniques across that state.
The landscape in Sikkim is not ideal for conventional farming. Most farmers in the state own 4 hectares or less of land, which they cultivate using terraced farming methods due to the hilly features of the land. Thus, the monocultures that dominate nonorganic, conventional farming wouldn't work in the region anyway.
At the moment, Sikkim, a land-locked state, does not have the infrastructure that would make transportation and export of its organic produce possible. In addition, the mechanisms for marketing and selling organic produce in India are not fully established either. Therefore, this milestone, while significant, marks only the beginning of a long road for organic farming in India.
Photo: Kaushik Das; A view of the winding, switchback roads in Sikkim.
As other agricultural products in India also switch to non-GMO and organic, such as cotton, the Indian government will need to look at how it can best support all of its farmers in making the shift to organic while ensuring that the farmer's livelihood is not overlooked; especially since India has a difficult history of farmer suicides.
While Sikkim presents unique conditions that have supported it in becoming a 100% certified organic state, it does serve as inspiration for the rest of the world. Might India lead the way in creating a 100% certified organic country? We will have to wait and see.
Article by: Rajmani Sinclair, September 20, 2016