Texas Secession and Michelle’s Organic Garden

So I just found out that the Mid American CropLife Association sent Michelle Obama a letter in response to her planting an organic garden with children at the White House. They apparently objected to the subversive “don’t-use-harmful-chemicals-on-your-food” message. You’ve just got to read this to believe it. And also, Stephen Colbert did a segment on the letter. There’s a link to clip of it below, along with a jab at Rick Perry’s allusions to Texas seceding from the Union over the stimulus money offered to our state.

Last week, “conventional” agriculture advocates at the Mid America CropLife Association took umbrage at Michelle Obama’s 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 email 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 HEAVEN’S 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’s 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: let’s 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’s 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’s profits. Sorry, agribusiness! Looks like the First Lady ain’t afraid a’ you!

–Erica Schuetz

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/224922/april-20-2009/tip-wag—texas-secession—maca

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One Response

  1. Okay, first, congrats on regularly posting to your blog. I’m duly impressed. Most people start a blog with great intentions, and then, you know, they get busy, or whatever, and pretty soon they’ve only posted once in the last six months (like me).

    That said, I just want to point out one teensy thing about the Organic Garden debacle … (20 minute pause) … oh, well, maybe not.

    I was going to say that “you know if farms everywhere switched to organic farming that billions of people would starve, right?” But then I looked this up, and found that there appears to be a lively debate over whether or not organic farming can yield as much food per acre as conventional farming, and it’s maybe not as clear as I thought. I don’t know what to think anymore, but it makes for interesting reading.

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