Wandering down Devon Avenue in Chicago, we often see the word ‘Zabiha’ advertised at various grocery stores. For Muslims it is wonderful to be assured our food is Zabiha, but have we thought of taking it a step closer to something even better? Have we seen or asked for ‘organic, Zabiha products’? Now that’s food for thought!

According to Organic Trade Association (OTA), the fastest growing sectors in the $600 billion dollars (U.S.) food industry are organic food and beverages. According to The Organic Trade Association’s 2007 Manufacturer Survey, consumer sales for organic grew 27% in 2006. The growth of the organic sector is phenomenal but in civilizations of yore, organic was the only option. Could the chronic diseases we have these days, and our susceptibility to them, be related to the food we consume today?

So what does organic mean? According to the Organic Trade Association, organic refers to the way farm products are produced and processed. This can range from but is not limited to milk, eggs, produce, and meat to highly processed food products. Organic farming involves abstaining from pesticides, synthetic hormones, antibiotics and chemical fertilizers that adversely affect the natural environment. Organic foods are not genetically engineered either.


Why Join the Organic Movement?

Reduce the Toxic Load on the Environment According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 99.5% of farm acres are at risk of exposure to agricultural chemicals. According to Science magazine, August 2002, dead zones in the ocean can be traced to synthetic fertilizers. There is run off of nitrogen and phosphorus, both found in fertilizers and animal feed, into watersheds leading to the ocean. This promotes the overgrowth of algae and consequently the depletion of oxygen and all oxygen-dependent creatures in the zone. The Gulf of Mexico dead zone covers 8,000 square miles – an area larger than New Jersey–potentially jeopardizing that region’s entire commercial fishery. Organic farming promotes a less toxic environment.

Protect Future Generations Medical News Today reports that pesticides found in conventional farming show a link between cancer, decreased male fertility, Parkinson’s disease, fetal abnormalities, and chronic fatigue syndrome in children. Other studies show that infants are exposed to detrimental substances in-utero, and link non-organic food to coronary heart disease, allergies and hypersensitivity in children.

Build Healthy Soil for Healthy Bodies – According to David Pimentel, Professor of Ecology and Agriculture at Cornell University, it costs the U.S. $40 billion annually to replace the damages done by the erosion of topsoil due to chemical fertilizers. Without topsoil, plant life is not possible. Further, conventional methods of farming result in the loss of vitamins and minerals in vegetables and fruits. Using organic matter instead of synthetic fertilizers or ammonia increases nutrients, micro-nutrients and minerals in produce. Organic Center State of Science Review in their study, “Elevating Antioxidant Levels in Food Through Organic Farming and Food Processing”, link antioxidants in our diet to disease prevention and better health.

Treat your Taste Buds Well – Researchers at Washington State University found that organic berries were judged as sweeter than their non-organic counterparts, in lab taste trials. If you are going to eat those berries, why not eat something that is tastier?

Promote Biodiversity – Organic products support biological conservation. Native plants, birds, insects and other animals thrive in organic environments.


Following in the Footsteps of Prophet Muhammad**

The purpose of mankind is to worship and please God Almighty. Among the many things needed, a healthy body is a must to fulfill this requirement. Good health is not possible without proper food and drink. In the Holy Quran it says, “O, ye who believe! Make not unlawful, the good things that God hath made lawful for you. But commit no excess for God loveth not those given to excess. Eat of the things, which God hath provided for you, lawful and good (Halal and Tayyab); but fear God in whom ye believe (5:87-88)”. Tayyab means pure and refers to pure and wholesome foods. Pure foods are those that are in their natural states, without the excessive use of pesticides and other synthetic compounds.

Prophet Muhammad** is an example for mankind – the way he worshiped, the way he talked, his manners, and the way he ate. Among his many actions/advice about food, organic food is a way to follow in his footsteps. So next time we sit down for dinner, let’s consider what our Prophet would encourage us to eat. Let’s ponder on where our food comes from. Let’s pay attention to how we take care of our bodies and see if we care for it the way God meant for us to do.


How Do We Know If Foods Are Organic?

Begin by reading food labels and looking in the organic section of your grocery store. All organic foods must meet strict government standards through the organic certification program established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If a food has a USDA Organic label, it means that at least 95% of the food’s ingredients are organically produced. This seal on the label is voluntary, but many organic producers use it. Fruits, vegetables, eggs, or single-ingredient foods are categorized as 100% organic and have a small USDA organic seal on them.


Where to Shop Organic?

Most groceries today have a section for organic foods. Alternatively, get connected with local farmers who produce organic foods via www.localharvest.org.


Is Buying Organic Food More Expensive?

You may notice that some organic products typically cost 10% to 40% more than similar conventionally produced products. Other organic foods such as coffee, cereal and bread may cost the same or less than the conventional corresponding item. It comes down to economics and personal commitment. As the demand increases and more products become available, the price differentiation will certainly become narrower. Organic foods take longer to ripen because chemicals are not used in their production. Free from preservatives, they also have a shorter shelf life. Those factors, plus a relatively smaller demand, do lead to higher prices.

Keep the following in mind, if you find that organic costs more than conventional products:

  • Conventional farmers receive federal subsidies while organic farmers don’t.
  • Environmental cleanups needed after conventional methods of manufacture are not reflected in product cost as they are payed via tax dollars.
  • Organic farming is more labor and management intensive as it does not resort to the conventional use of pesticides or herbicides.


Terms to Know

100% Organic – products are completely organic or made with all organic ingredients without using chemical fertilizers

Organic – at least 95% of the product is organic

Made with Organic Ingredients – The product contains at least 70% of organic ingredients. While the USDA Organic seal cannot be used on this, the word organic can be used in the ingredient list.

** Muslims recite the words ‘peace be upon him’ whenever the name of Prophet Muhammad is mentioned.



Farming Food & Health: David Atkinson Asks Whether Organic Food is Better For Us Than Conventionally Farmed Food. Chemistry and Industry, June 7, 2004 by David Atkinson

Organic foods in Relation to Nutrition and Health – Key Facts. Medical News Today. 11 Jul 2004 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/10587.php

Top 10 Reasons to Support Organic in the 21st Century www.organic.org Source: Alan Greene, MD (Organic Trade Association), Bob Scowcroft (Organic Farming Research Foundation), Sylvia Tawse (Fresh Ideas Group)

http://www.ota.com/index.html Source: Environmental Health Perspectives, March 2003 and Source: Environmental Health Perspectives, April 2008. Organically Grown Food More Healthier. BioMedicine. 7/20/2007 http://www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news/Organically-Grown-Food-More-Healthier-23739-2