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I agree with many of the points Stephanie Mencimer makes in her article on Fresh Fields (“You Aren’t What You Eat,” 1/21). I, too, find distasteful “the superficial, commercialized social consciousness that has replaced real charity and political activism.” Yet her article misses an important perspective. There are very valid reasons to be concerned about our food system, although shopping at Fresh Fields may not be the answer.
The huge profit margin of the industrial agriculture system that Dennis Avery thinks is so wonderfully efficient allows large-scale farms to overproduce food and sell it cheaply at the supermarket. These low prices are merely a pleasant side effect of their bid to gain huge market power, and their market power will have a far more devastating effect on our society than the alleged health risks of organic food. Mencimer lambastes yuppies for being too neurotic about food safety, then attempts to make us fear organic produce.
Agribusiness companies have invested a great deal of money in genetic engineering, and therefore they have expended a lot of money on a massive PR campaign to kill any challenges to genetically engineered food. It seems sensible to me to question a technology that is obviously of such great self-interest to companies who stand to reap huge profits by its market acceptance. There is a debate within the scientific community about genetic engineering, but Mencimer chooses to quote only policy researchers at the Hudson Institute on this issue. What Mencimer sees as yuppie neuroticism about genetic engineering could also be viewed as mistrust of corporations that are increasingly deregulated by the government.
We have made healthy food too expensive, and it would be silly to claim that shopping at Fresh Fields is a “moral imperative.” Real positive change in our food system will require antitrust legislation and a better regulatory process. Calling and writing elected officials may prove to be a much more cost-efficient type of activism than shopping at Fresh Fields.
Chevy Chase, Md.