Michelle Obama's Organic Garden Ruffles Some Conventional Feathers
Last week, ‚conventional” agriculture advocates at the Mid America CropLife Association took umbrage at Michelle Obama‚ organic garden on the White House lawn. After a couple of MACA staff members shuddered at the thought, they sent her a courteous and outrageously absurd that starts out by congratulating her on having a garden, then spends the next several paragraphs explaining to her just why she shouldn’t have a garden, or for HEAVENS SAKE at LEAST not an organic one.
The email denies that how food is grown could be related to its quality: ‚Much of the food considered not wholesome or tasty is the result of how it is stored or prepared rather than how it is grown.” (Don’t worry, Mom‚ I’m sure MACA didn’t mean to call you a bad cook.) At this point, it seems like we should be past that debate.
And as Mary Ann Lien points out in her article in the Examiner, the use of the word “conventional” to describe pesticide-based agriculture (and the practice itself) has only developed in the past century or so, while the methods humans have known for thousands of years have somehow morphed into being seen as elitist and fancy. It’s actually a pretty amazing marketing trick when you think about it: it‚ now elitist not to buy some extra chemicals to put on your crops, and to do things the way our great-great grandparents did.
The email goes on to explain carefully (and with maximum possible evocations of American-ness): “Many people, especially children, don’t realize the extent to which their daily lives depend on America’s agricultural industry. For instance, children are unaware the jeans they put on in the morning, the three meals eaten daily, the baseball with which they play and even the biofuels that power the school bus are available because of America’s farmers and ranchers.” It’s a cool sentiment, I think: lets think about how everything we do is connected with the land and the people who work it. But wouldn’t growing a garden be a good thing for all those kids, so they can learn firsthand about the labor involved, and better appreciate the work of farmers? Also, as Mrs. Obama is not a child, I’m not exactly sure of the reason for that emphasis.
Obviously the establishment here is feeling a little threatened. And Mrs. Obama‚ steps to plant an organic garden at the White House definitely carry significant symbolic value. But how could NOT using toxic pesticides‚ oh sorry, crop protection technologies‚ hurt anyone? Oh. Right. It could hurt someone‚ profits. Sorry, agribusiness! Looks like the First Lady ain’t afraid a you!
UPDATE: Stephen Colbert’s segment on the MACA email, watch it here.