Thursday, April 2, 2009

organic oreos - still bad for you - but better for farmers!

I was alerted to the existence of these:

by this post at the internet food association.  It raises, especially in the comments the entire issue of the "paradox" of organic junk food.

Michael Pollan has discussed this at length as well, using hypothetical "organic Coke" as an example.  He concludes that there will be positives and negatives. Likewise, I think that at one level, organic oreos are great! A ll those wheat and corn fields that will no longer have nitrogen and pesticide runoff really do translate into improvements for farmworkers and ecosystems. They will still be unhealthy as ever except perhaps the absence of some barely detectable levels of residual pesticides.  And they are still bad for your health.  However, it's not as though organic Oreos are going to spark a sudden increase in the amount of junk food eaten.

I think the problem is that ultimately organic is a word that we think means "wholesome and good for the consumer", when in reality it is a word that refers to a relatively dry list of technical regulations about how various foods must be grown. These regs have some implications for health of consumers, but in reality they have much more to do with the impacts of agriculture on those who do the growing.

Healthy eating really is largely a distinct issue from sustainable agriculture.  People who care about the latter almost certainly care about the former, but the reverse is much less true.  A lot of confusion comes from that relationship.

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