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May 2006


“All Natural”
I just read “The Rotten Side of Organics, the Satya Interview with Ronnie Cummins” [April, 2006] and found it very informative. It answered a lot of the lingering questions in my mind. It also reminded me of a lesson learned last year on a trip. We stopped to get gas and I ran into the mini-mart to try to find a drink. I say try because I usually have no luck, as everything is normally pretty awful in those places. I spotted one that said “all natural” on the front and grabbed it. At first taste, I immediately knew something was wrong. Sure enough, in the ingredients was high fructose corn syrup. It is going to take a lot of work to turn this ship around.

Thank you for your informative publication.

Joey Diana Gates
Via email

So What?
I grabbed your April issue from the vegan dosa cart in Washington Square Park.

The “Grocery Store Wars” piece rests on implicit assumptions, none of which are flushed out or justified, and most of which I disagree with. The first seems to be that what’s good for big food retailers is bad for consumers, but where is the evidence for this?

I would guess, for example, that the 10,000 supermarkets were put out of business because they couldn’t compete with Wal-Mart. But what’s the harm in that? I would take this as evidence that Wal-Mart was simply preferred by consumers, perhaps because they were cheaper, had better branding, a better location, better selection, whatever.
China. Where our food comes from might only be a question of national security and little else. If “our farmers,” which I take means the heavily subsidized U.S. agricultural industry, small or large, can’t compete with Chinese farmers then they should rightly be the ones in the balance. I’m unsure why this is bad for consumers, bad for vegetarians, bad for New Yorkers.

Corporations making organics are meeting a demand. If Lockheed Martin gives me my vegan shampoo, so be it. What are you advising instead, that I look to children in Soho to brew up my shampoo? That I make sure the producer has fewer than 30 employees? Organic vegan shampoo is organic vegan shampoo.

I’m happy that Wal-Mart is moving into the organic sector for the sake of profit. Again, what is the alternative? Pure corporate altruism? If corporations try to modify organic standards, then we should demand immutability or newer and better standards—not that they don’t make more organics or that it’s implicitly bad they do so.

Whole Foods: good and bad, but more good than bad. If they’re destined to be second in the game, great, wherever the consumer takes them. I prefer them over local stores because they’re cheaper, their product is better and the store is cleaner and nicer. Simple. If the local guys can do better, I’ll go with them. All of this is good for local vegetarians, not bad.

Where does your food come from? The earth, I’d guess. It’s not important to me where exactly. I know the jeans I’m wearing somehow came from the Cone Denim plant in North Carolina, I wouldn’t lose sleep if I never knew. What do you prefer, that every consumer know the lineage of all the things we buy, wear, use, ingest? Then use that to demand that everything be local, even if it’s more expensive and of lower quality? It all seems a bit stone-age and tired to me. The money will go where the deal is best and that’s best for everyone.

James Hedges
Via email

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