Thursday, March 23, 2006

Why I Love Slate Magazine, or Why the "Organic Is Better" Argument Just Doesn't Hold Up

I have some family members who will definitely begrudge this post, but I'm posting it anyway. For the past few years, everybody seems to be talking about "organic" food (totally stupid moniker, by the way -- all food is chemically organic). It has definitely become a fashionable product. Anybody who's anybody buys and eats organic food. That's the feeling I get from nearly everyone these days. For me, it's become like conservative vs. liberal politics. If you don't support the organic way of life and praise it's existence, you're wrong. There is no argument for mass production of food. This is why I find myself alone in most all organic food debates.

My usual argument is that we live in a world populated by 6 billion people! How can we expect to feed everyone without mass producing food? Sure, fresh produce grown without pesticides is appealing and very healthy, but it's just not a realistic way to feed everyone, I think. It's SO expensive! And so the health gap between the rich and the poor just keeps getting wider. But let's pretend my argument doesn't hold up. There's still something fishy about the organic craziness going on, here. I'm always wary of arrogant and elitist arguments; I think there's usually something wrong when sentiments of superiority show up. And I really feel like that's what's happening with the organic food movement.

Well, Slate Magazine labels it elitist, too, so I feel very confident saying that it is. I know, I know -- I'm praising Slate right now because it's reinforcing what I already believe. But I think there's truth in the article they recently published, and the writer explained it all much better than I ever could. In the article "Is Whole Foods Wholesome?" author Field Maloney uncovers some not-so-factual "facts" that the prominent organic grocery chain touts in its stores. I'm tempted to just paste the entire article right here so that you will be more inclined to read it, but instead, I will just entice you with an excerpt:

Of course, above and beyond social and environmental ethics, and even taste, people buy organic food because they believe that it's better for them. All things being equal, food grown without pesticides is healthier for you. But American populism chafes against the notion of good health for those who can afford it. Charges of elitism—media wags, in otherwise flattering profiles, have called Whole Foods "Whole Paycheck" and "wholesome, healthy for the wholesome, wealthy"—are the only criticism of Whole Foods that seems to have stuck.

You'll have to read the article to find out what the "dark secrets of the organic food movement" are. Like I said, I can't explain it as well as Maloney, and I really want you to read the article!

Do I like organic food? Sure. Will I ever shop at Whole Foods again? Yes, when I can afford it. All's I'm saying is that there are at least two sides to an argument. So don't pretend that organic food is always better.

Thing I'm thankful for: people who are smarter than me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you should have quoted this section of the article:

Every media profile of the company invariably contains a paragraph of fawning produce porn, near-sonnets about "gleaming melons" and "glistening kumquats."

Produce porn -- that was clever.

Hopefully Wal-Mart can help in the effort to at least censor Whole Foods' exposed produce. There are children in grocery stores, people!

2:07 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Man, Lexi. You are so funny. Sometimes I feel like Goldie Hawn's character in "Death Becomes Her." She always checked to make sure her boyfriends didn't fall in love with her old friend, played by Meryl Streep -- Meryl Streep was prettier, funnier, sexier.

Please don't seduce my future fiance away from me with your clever wit, Irish twin!

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't come up with the pornographic analogy, or should I say homology? You're just as pretty, funny, sexy, intelligent, clever, and wonderful as I am. :o) Maybe I'm nervous my future fiance will see your "gleaming melons" and run for the hills...YOUR hills that is.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

OH MY GOSH, LEXIA!! I can't believe you wrote that! I might just delete the comment altogether!

You're definitely goin' to Hell for that one . . .

Can we please keep the comments to Whole Foods?!?

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can believe I wrote that. I'm sure others can believe I wrote that. I'm sure soon you'll come to the realization that I'm just stating the obvious. :o)

Okay, okay. The floor is now open to discussing the tyranny of Whole Foods and not referencing any body part/parts of Sara, our beloved blogger (even if they are positve one's).

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh... sorry... I know I came here with something to say.

Something about food and liberals I think.
I'm gonna go sing some hymns or something and come back later.

Oh, and Sara... one of these days I'd like to meet that sharp witted sister of yours.

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I first started buying baby food for Sadie, I got sucked into paying 5 cents extra for each jar of organic fruits and veggies. Not a huge difference but when you are going through about 100 jars a week, it adds up.

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, on liberals... this is the "You disagree with me so you're clearly lacking in [whatever virtue I most consider myself] and don't deserve to be heard" thing? Yeah... those people suck.

As far as Whole Foods, I'm surprised they make the claims they do.

Okay, not so surprised as disappointed.

I don't tend to shop there because I know it'll cost more than I can justify spending. I like going organic on some things, but I'm not going to break the bank if I don't really need to get the organic "edition."

But then, my green tendencies lie almost entirely in the "what's more healthy" area. I started opting for soy and organic milk because I found out some unhappy things about antibiotic use in dairy farms. I'm don't like drinking antibiotics I don't need, so I try buying organic because it's the only milk I know doesn't have extra antibiotics.

Even then, price is against me because people are willing to pay significantly more for organic milk (or even soy milk) than they do for regular milk, which is expensive enough already. So a lot of times I find myself hoping that the antibiotic situation's not as bad as I've heard and getting the store brand.

Anyway, I'm irked that Whole Foods is pushing how virtuous their products are based on false pretenses. Especially the line about helping the small farmer. It's not as ridiculous as the energy claim, but I see it as more deceitful. I'm a lot more concerned about small farmers being able to make a living than whether fossil fuels fertilized or transported my food.

"Whole foods, because there's nothing like paying more for the illusion of ethical superiority."

9:38 PM  

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