Organic food for one and all (but what does “organic” mean now?)

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Organic food for one and all (but what does “organic” mean now?)

Food has always been a central environmental concern, but there are some new issues arising. One is the growing conflict between fuel and food–or, one might say, between SUV drivers and the world’s poor–and another is the mass marketing–or, perhaps, the industrialization, of organic food.

It’s a little hard to tell whether Michael Pollan thinks the latter is a good thing or a bad one, in “Mass Natural” in the New York Times:

“This is good news indeed, for the American consumer and the American land. Or perhaps I should say for some of the American land and a great deal more of the land in places like Mexico and China, for Wal-Mart is bound to hasten the globalization of organic food. (Ten percent of organic food is imported today.) Like every other commodity that global corporations lay their hands on, organic food will henceforth come from wherever in the world it can be produced most cheaply. It is about to go the way of sneakers and MP3 players, becoming yet another rootless commodity circulating in the global economy.”

Pollan has got John Mackey, the founder of Wholefoods Markets, on the defensive, as you can see from Mackey’s blog. Investors adore Wholefoods, a company that markets virtue with staggering success, and that is, no question, a fascinating and attractive business. What I’m waiting to see is a campaign aimed, like the Church of England’s recently launched effort, at getting their customers to stop driving to the store. Or should Wholefoods ban SUVs from their parking lots?

And think of this: “The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year. The grain it takes to fill the tank every two weeks over a year will feed 26 people.” Read more.

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  1. Organically Speaking 11 August, 2006 at 8:25 am - Reply

    Hello Karen:

    Nice post. If interested Organically Speaking a Seattle base website has released a conversation with Michael Pollan podcast (audio conversation). Interesting tidbits on farmers markets, CSAs, and more!

    Some Podcast Show Note Questions:

    Q) Why the price difference between conventional food and organic and how do we go about bringing down organic food prices?

    Q) How can small local organic farmers remain local in a capitalistic system?

    Q) What is the “Food Web” you briefly touch on in your book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.

    All the best,

    Holistic Conversations for a Sustainable World Who Share Your Passion for:

    * high quality organic food
    * natural, sustainable lifestyle
    * ecology
    * holistic health

  2. Bob 3 October, 2007 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    Most people are not aware of the fact that electric cars are a very real alternative to non renewable fueled vehicles. Oil companies, whose main objective is to earn a profit at whatever expense to the environment, crushed the movement to introduce electric vehicles into the mainstream. What the world needs to realize is that If we do not switch to electric cars within our lifetime, or we will run out of fuel and global warming will destroy the earth. This problem is clearly due to the American movement of industrialization, a movement that is creating nothing but problems. It is true that many of the devastating impacts of the industrial revolution are not evident today but the truth is that the earth is not facing a bright future. It all started with factories poring toxic fumes into the atmosphere, then we began producing billions of vehicles that pour toxic fumes into the atmosphere. Because it is obvious that the government doesn’t support cleaner anything all tomorrow for all we know we will have logged all of our trees, polluted all of our water supply and burned up all of our fuel leaving us with no backup plan. All of Bush’s other policies have been corrupt; we can only expect him to crush any initiative to clean up our act. If Bush doesn’t have enough common sense to see that he is destroying the earth, how can we trust anything he has to say?? It won’t happen unless oil companies and government can guarantee the profits they are reaping from our current situation. And as to the Republicans who insist that these studies are all bogus well they can go fuck themselves. Their studies are bogus, so why should we listen to anything they have to say? But what else is troublesome is the fact that Gore is getting rich promoting a cause that he doesn’t even care about. Only an idiot would use 100,000 times the average wattage in his household, fly around on a corporate jet and get up on stage to preach to us that we need to get our acts together. Well I say Gore can sit on a fat dildo. We need to take this to heart. If we can’t event see any improvement by next year that we have wasted our time.

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