Bhutan: First Country with Completely Organic Farming

By shunning all but organic farming techniques, the Himalayan state will cement its status as a paradigm of sustainability

– John Vidal and Annie Kelly for the guardian

MDG : Bhutan : farmers transplanting rice shoots into rice paddies in Paro valley,

Already an overwhelmingly agrarian state,

Bhutan is aiming to become the world’s first completely organic country. Photograph: Alamy

Bhutan plans to become the first country in the world to turn its agriculture completely organic, banning the sales of pesticides and herbicides and relying on its own animals and farm waste for fertilisers.

But rather than accept that this will mean farmers of the small Himalayan kingdom of around 1.2m people (according to Pema Gyamtsho, Bhutan’s minister of agriculture and forests; the World Bank estimates it at around 740,000) will be able to grow less food, the government expects them to be able to grow more – and to export increasing amounts of high quality niche foods to neighbouring India, China and other countries.

The decision to go organic was both practical and philosophical, said Gyamtsho, in Delhi for the annual sustainable development conference last week. “Ours is a mountainous terrain. When we use chemicals they don’t stay where we use them, they impact the water and plants. We say that we need to consider all the environment. Most of our farm practices are traditional farming, so we are largely organic anyway.

“But we are Buddhists, too, and we believe in living in harmony with nature. Animals have the right to live, we like to to see plants happy and insects happy,” he said.

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What To Buy Organic: The 8 Most Buzzed-About Organic Foods

What Should We Be Eating?

If you try to Google for information on the food that’s most important to buy and eat organic, it’s a tad confusing. Every list seems to focus on a few different things, usually driven by nutrition and meal plan bias. So rather than dig through a lot of conflicting lists, I thought it would be interesting to see what organic foods consumers discuss the most.
organic food

I was amazed to see that these main food categories all have similar volume. As consumers, we’re buzzing about a wide variety of organic foods. Interestingly, animal products are the big winners, even if by a small margin. There has been ample coverage, mostly in books and films, on the state of the meat and dairy industry in the US; perhaps there is slightly more consumer awareness that drives these conversations.

Per Capita Buzz

I thought it would also be interesting to look at volume of conversation per capita to see if there are any states that stand out in their conversation around, or awareness of, organic. 

The standout regions are the West Coast and Northern New England/New York State. Indiana, Wyoming, and Georgia were also standouts (though worth noting that Wyoming had a total of 94 mentions to Texas’ 1,000+).

Noteworthy Themes

Apparently, as consumers we talk about chicken more than beef. And we’re really interested in information that includes scientific backing, or at least mentions scientists. Also interesting that the UK’s Organic Trade Board, tweeting under @whyiloveorganic, pops up.

While I don’t have the answer to what exactly are the best products to buy organic, I will be interested to see how these trends change over time. Right now, the volume of conversation is lower than I expected, at just over 100,000 mentions in 6 months in everything from tweets to recipe blogs to Facebook conversation. I think we will see volume growth as consumers continue to get more education on the importance of organic, and brands like our client, Horizon Organic, have the kind of distribution that make organic increasingly accessible.

This article was originally published on Capture The Conversation.