Monday, June 19, 2006

Hyman Provides Us With More Organic Fertilizer

Mark Hyman’s attempt to answer critics of Wal-Mart’s push to get into organic products is rotten on two counts.

First, you have the dopey attempt to play the “common man” card on behalf of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart, Hyman suggests, simply wants to offer organic products to more people. What should we care about the economic effects of the “Birkenstock-wearing organic farmer in South Dakota behind the wheel of his John Deere tractor?”

Right. The multi-billionaire Walton family are champions of the everyday person, and the family farmer is the elitist.

Even more ridiculous is the proposition that is the entirety of Hyman’s argument rests on. According to Hyman, we shouldn’t worry about Wal-Mart cutting the quality of organic products as they enter the market because “the National Organic Program is a federal office that establishes standards for organic products . . . so . . . standards for organic food can’t be lowered.”

As a premise on which to base an argument, that one’s a little shaky. Anyone working for Sinclair knows better than most that money + lobbyists = changes in federal regulations. You don’t suppose that the largest corporation in the nation might be able to flex a little muscle and get organic standards (such as they are) relaxed? (In fact, “organic” is already a word that gets thrown around much more loosely than it should.)

Moreover, as others have pointed out, applying the Wal-Mart business model to organic foods would logically lead to “organic” food being shipped to the U.S. from halfway around the world, undoing much of the economic and ecological benefits of buying organic. And call me crazy, but I’ll take a pass on genuine farm-raised organic chicken from Hong Kong.

But the degradation of what “organic” means, along with the bankruptcy of any number of American family farmers who work their own land and raise animals in an ethical and careful way are, for Hyman at least, simply an acceptable cost for Wal-Mart to expand their predatory business practices and the reach of corporate-socialism.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 3.87


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