Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Morally superior food - in a word, ick.

I've always (or at least, for as long as I can remember) thought the whole "organic" movement to be a bit smug. Which wasn't to say that I didn't initially think it was a good idea. Just a bit to self satisfied for it's own good. I've no doubt the intent behind the movement is good, but when you get to the shop. especially at places like Harvest Wholefoods in Grey Lynn and Commonsense Organics in Wellington, the prices make it a bit exclusive. Which in turn, as Giovanni Tiso notes, is one of the things that risks turning it into a moral issue - a holier than thou thing.
Which is, I would have though, a bad thing. Surely if you're out to save the world then you want as many people to buy your supposedly good for the environment food as possible. I initially thought that the high price was due to the small amount of produce being grown. While supermarkets may have started getting in on the organic thing, with prices getting lower there for organic produce, it doesn't seem to have happened elsewhere. If anything the prices seem to have risen. The only message that I can see from that is "save the world, at a premium". And when large chunks of the population can't afford a premuim, you have a problem, becuase they are going to dominate the market place, thus preventing the saving of the world.Giovanni actually manages to draw a few threads together in this vien such that when you sit down and think about it, the expensive organic stores actually seem rather ... creepy.

My primary problem with the industry is the lack of distinction made between organic and sustainable. Sustainable is the one that is good for the environment (and hence, in the long term, us). Organic is not automatically sustainable, nor automatically good. When you start taking the social exclusion/moral superiority factors into account, the problems I have with the organics industry become somewhat excessive.

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