Burning Question: Is the organic food movement elitist?

Majora Carter
Founder and executive director, Sustainable South Bronx
“Why pick on the organic food people? It’s not their fault that some people are too poor to afford organic. Or that Big Ag subsidies make non-organic cheaper. Or that the oil economy, failing education system, and widening income gaps have conspired to make an ‘organic food movement’ one of the many groups fighting for a modicum of common sense. The organic food movement is pretty far down on my list of targets. I love their carrots, too!” 

Nina Planck
Founder of London Farmers’ Markets and former director of New York City’s Greenmarket
“Organic food and whole food—what I call traditional food—is frugal. Buy a whole chicken. It serves four people twice—the second time as soup. Buy fresh, local produce in season and canned wild Alaskan salmon. This gives you more nutrition for the buck than industrial food. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket where you’ll find meat, fish, dairy, and produce—real food. In the center aisles are processed, nutrient-poor, high-profit-margin foods. That’s what will eat up your budget.”

Arturo S. Rodriguez
President of the United Farm Workers of America
“Too many consumers believe just because produce is organic that the farm workers are treated better. But some growers who farm organically and embrace the rhetoric of ecological farming just want to appeal to a profitable market. They treat workers just as poorly as growers using pesticides. Farm labor can be decent work with union protections. That’s why the union label is as important as the organic label.”

Barry Glassner
Author of The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food is Wrong
“I have found both elitism and anti-elitism in the movement, sometimes within the same person or organization. Some people proudly note that organic farms are pesticide-free places to work and live. But when I ask why the movement doesn’t give equal priority to ensuring that farms, distributors, and retailers provide living wages and health care, the atmosphere changes. The person will change the topic or offer excuses.” 

Issue 25

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