Richard Webb is the founder of a web-based organic food company, called True Foods Market, offering a variety of product ranges that can substitute popular local supermarket products. We have asked him several questions about organic food. Through this interview you will find some of your questions answered too insa’Allah, that have been going around your mind since you read the articles in HalalPAK or some questions you had already before.
Q: How would you picturize an American consumer?
WEBB: All over the world, the demand for nutritious food is growing. More consumers are reading the ingredients and nutrition facts on product labels, asking pertinent questions, requesting healthier products from manufacturers, and committing to healthier eating. Although the number of these kind of consumers is low, it is steadily growing as more and more shelves for organic and natural products in supermarkets are emerging. As far as it goes for me, although I am not a Muslim, I respect the Muslim tradition of not drinking alcohol, eating pork, or consuming harmful chemicals. My religious beliefs also influence me in my desire to follow a code of health.
Q: What triggered you to consider organic food?
WEBB: About 8 years ago, I met with a health practitioner who counseled as to things I should and should not eat. The educational process helped provide the motivation I needed to make major changes in my diet. I now avoid sugar, pork, genetically altered foods along with other products containing chemicals and artificial ingredients and I have enjoyed greater health in terms of increased energy and overall well-being. Being involved in health issues over the past several years has changed my eating habits, but a little over a year ago, I started a food distribution business which markets all natural foods including a very large selection of organic products throughout the U.S., Canada, and many other countries.
Q: What are the basic advantages of organic food and farming?
WEBB: For the most part, we know that organic means “pesticide free”. However, this term also refers to the fact that these products have been grown on land that is absent of any pesticides or chemicals for a minimum of three years. Organic foods are processed and packaged without the use of artificial preservatives, colorings, irradiation or any other additives. In addition, diversity is a very important component of organic farming. In organic agriculture, crops are continuously rotated to maintain sustainable soil with balanced nutrient levels. This results in reduced pest and disease problems. Monoculture farming (the same crop planted every year in the same soil) on the other hand, drastically strips away precious topsoil and depletes the soil of its health, leaving it less resistant to infestations and diseases (OrganicAdvocates.com).
Q: What it is the idea behind mass crop production in North America?
WEBB: The reason why pesticides are used is to supply high yields, to reduce farming costs, and to produce visually appealing crops. Each of these conventional practices certainly contributes to increasing the bottom line. The problem with these practices is that it ignores the fact that there are possible health risks associated with the intake of these chemicals. These pesticides are poisons that are designed to kill living things that threaten our food supply. Chemicals and other harmful substances are not foods, and if what we put in our bodies cannot be used, then our body’s natural line of defense is to wash it out by producing mucus. If our bodies are not able to throw off these “non foods,” then they remain in our bodies causing problems for us later on. Doesn’t common sense tell us that if these chemicals are deadly to other living things that they might negatively impact the health of people as well?
Q: Why is the price of organic food higher than the mass production food items?
WEBB: Although the price tag for organic almonds is more than regular almonds, the “true” cost won’t be included until you factor in several other costs. For example, according to OrganicAdvocates.com, “Our tax dollars already go toward government subsidies for university and government chemical-research projects, export subsidies and direct support to large-scale commodity farmers… Add a dramatic loss of topsoil caused by conventional agriculture and that conventional bunch of carrots may be costing our society much more than an organic one.” In addition, who is to say how many sicknesses and deaths have occurred as a result of unhealthy eating over a long period of time?