MagazineJuly 2009Yes or No, is organic food elitist?

Yes or No, is organic food elitist?

Illustration by Wade Mickley
Illustration by Wade Mickley

68% No

Is wanting to breathe clean air and drink clean water elitist? Organic foods are only more expensive at the market. If you include the money that you spend in taxes that are given to agribusinesses and chemical companies, and you include the costs of health care from the diseases associated with the chemicals that we are forced to ingest, organic is cheaper and better for people and the nation.
—Lief, Monroe, N.C.

No doubt organic costs more at the grocery, but that does not make it elitist. Organic is better for the earth, the water, the farmer and the consumer, and the closer to home (tailgate markets), the better. The big question is: why is corporate food so cheap? We are an obese nation because our government subsidizes corporate farming to produce cheap food. Organic or not, fresh veggies are more expensive than a Big Mac, and that is killing us as a nation.
—Dave Matz, Asheville, N.C.

How would food that contains no man-made chemicals be elitist? I’m not a wealthy guy. I feed organic food to my family because it’s better for us and has less of an environmental impact. The thought of my two-year-old daughter consuming bovine growth hormone and commercial pesticides concerns me, so we put it in our budget.
—Jake Dempsey, Roanoke Va.

Organic is sensible and sustainable. If anything, choosing not to eat organic food is elitist—as far as human dominance over the planet. It is elitist, so to speak, for us to think that our food choices have no repercussions along the food chain and in various ecosystems.
—Bryan, Columbia, Md.

What could possibly be elitist about desiring better health? My father, a farmer, quite possibly died a premature death because of constant exposure to pesticides and herbicides. I want better than that for myself. The expense of some organic products does give it an elitist cache in some folks’ minds, but it’s the “Certified Organic” monitoring and testing that leads to the expense, not the farming practices in and of themselves. If you want organic produce at supermarket prices, try a local tailgate market. Many of those farmers use organic practices but do not pay for the “certified” label. The food you buy will possibly be safer—for you and the farmer­—and probably tastier, too, because it hasn’t been shipped all over the place.
—Shannon Calhoun, Swannanoa, N.C.

32% Yes

It is elitist in the fact that organics cost more at the store and have the perception of being green. To produce the same amount of product, organic food requires more land to be taken out of its native state and turned into arable land. The amount of mechanical weed control required by organic methods means more fuel is used in organic farming than conventional agriculture. But I guess cheap fuel is what our boys in Iraq are fighting for.
—D-Dawg Schleeds, Blacksburg, Va.

Not all folks are able to own their own garden, and not all folks are able to afford organic produce. Going “green” is a matter of opportunity. With having two part-time jobs and going to school, just getting a square meal is a blessing. Forget about pulling weeds.
—Bradley J. Mead, Charlottesville, Va.

Organic food may not be elitist, but the people who promote organic food definitely can be elitist at times. The issue is not whether organic food is better for you; it is how proponents of organics act toward people as they promote. I lived in a farming community in northern New York. No one in my old town cares about organic; however, most of the farmers did a lot of organic farming without knowing it. The issue is important, but to educate people instead of shoving organic or veggie or anything else down throats is a different matter.
—Tyler Donaldson, Asheville, N.C.

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