Saturday, March 25, 2006

O juicy orbs, my mouth waters

Photo credit: Ana C. Golpe

Oh, the horror! The elitism!! The “dark secrets of the organic-food movement”!!! And such diatribes that pass for objective journalism . . .

In Field Maloney’s recent Slate screed, those choosing to sell or purchase organic foods are damned, again and again, as elitists, who care more about their own health and “status-conscious lifestyle choices” than anything else, and whose “high-end lifestyle” food preferences condemn local farms to reincarnations as fields of condos.

My, my, my, and all because I started buying organic food because I cared about farmworker exposures to pesticides, herbicides and other farm chemicals....

That was a long time ago, and in that time my reasons for purchasing organics whenever possible have grown apace: flavor, supporting small producers, avoiding chemical-laden foods, supporting my cooperatively-run grocery and local farmer’s markets, and rejecting high-fructose corn syrup and all trans-fats without having to read all those tiny labels. Apparently, this just makes me an elitist in the eyes of Field Maloney, simply because I am willing to pay a small price premium in order to buy the food of my choosing. Quelle horreur!

In fact, one can very easily purchase economical organic food, by simply avoiding processed foods and out-of-season produce, so Maloney’s “elitist” charge cannot stand up to scrutiny. Since food today is quite cheap (when considered as a proportion of total income), the addition of a small premium to switch to organics is not a major expense, and comes nowhere close to the premium people choose to pay for designer clothing or any cars and SUVs costing more than $20,000. Branding those preferring organic foods as “elitist” seems to be Maloney’s primary arguing point in this attack piece, and it simply does not stand.

As far as having to choose between local, conventionally-produced food and fields of condos goes, this is a false choice. The local farmer is not prevented from recognizing market forces and converting to organic farming, which can, according to California Agriculture, lead to higher net farm income. Maloney’s argument that most organic food is not produced by small farmers and therefore, organic food purchases aren’t supporting small farmers is disingenuous. The way by which organic food purchases support small farmers is that the economics of organic farming are more favorable to small farmers than are the economics of conventional farming—in some cases this is all that allows them to stay in business.

The funniest part of the piece is where Maloney accuses Whole Foods of fashioning “fawning produce porn,” and ridicules the placement of the produce section in “geographic center of the shopping floor and the spiritual heart of a Whole Foods outlet”—what an awful thing! To center the entire store around the healthiest, most non-commercial, and (yes!) cheapest way to nourish oneself! I should note that I don’t usually shop at Whole Foods. I prefer my local, independent, cooperatively-run grocery with all-organic produce, because it makes my choices that much simpler. But as an alternative to Safeway or Albertson’s, what is so awful about Whole Foods emphasizing its beautiful, eye-catching, and healthy produce? Americans need all the encouragement they can get to eat more produce, and what better way to do it than by making it attractive?

In a nation that bows down before the (so-called) free market as being the ultimate arbiter of all values, it’s more than a little strange that whenever a significant segment doesn’t choose to go along with the corporate program, they’re attacked for all manner of presumed sins, elitism usually first and foremost among them. But these same attack dogs never have much to say about the chemical-laden processed crap that masquerades as food for the general populace. They see nothing wrong with pouring soda pop down the throats of growing children, and they do not object to the use of special packaging that will keep meat looking fresh even when it’s long gone rancid.

It seems to me that the more people who switch to the Whole Foods model of eating, especially if they fall for the produce promotions, the better off we’d be as a nation, health-wise. Ah, but then what would happen to the food-corps’ bottom lines, the real measure of “health” to some?


Blogger Marcin said...

Greetings from Poland :)

1:34 PM  

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