Business Week’s cover story on The Organic Myth continues to stir up a debate that first appeared in the mainstream press when Michael Pollan (an excellent writer who went to the same grade school as I did at the same time!) wrote a terrific book, and an excellent article, and provoked a debate of sorts in the New York Times.
He was among the first to challenge the impact of Wal-Mart’s entry into the organic food market and ask whether it’s better to buy local than organic and what benefits organic food really brings to the table when it’s being shipped half way around the world.
Business Week reveals more information about the industry that I, for one, find troubling. “Sometime soon a portion of the milk used to make that organic yogurt may be taken from a chemical-free cow in New Zealand, powdered, and then shipped to the U.S. True, Stony field still cleaves to its organic heritage. For Chairman and CEO Gary Hirschberg, though, shipping milk powder 9,000 miles across the planet is the price you pay to conquer the supermarket dairy aisle. ‘It would be great to get all of our food within a 10-mile radius of our house,’ he says. ‘But once you're in organic, you have to source globally.’"
This debate is complex but important. The Business Week cover story is a sad statement about the media’s need to get attention to sell magazines. Organic, for all the challenges it faces is no myth. In fact, the USDA certification program is a rare regulatory success at a time when the current White House administration is dismantling decades of hugely important environmental legislation.
My advice? Buy locally grown food when ever possible, and when local isn’t available buy organic, but ask where it came from first!
There’s more at Grist.
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