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After reading your attack on Fresh Fields and organic agriculture (“You Aren’t What You Eat,” 1/21), I was compelled to respond. For starters, organic food doesn’t have to be so expensive. It’s expensive at Fresh Fields only because people are willing to pay their prices. If people organized themselves to demand better prices, as cooperatives do, quality food would be more accessible for everyone. Even then, organics will always appear relatively expensive, in large part because of the economies of scale available to conventional agribusiness. Its food production and distribution apparatus, controlled by a handful of industrial giants, is insanely subsidized. It’s unfair then to bemoan how expensive health food can be while the price of nutritionally bankrupt food is kept artificially low, and at such peril.
Pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are nasty not because of the residues they leave on fruit and vegetables, but because of the effect they have on migrant workers and the environment. Never mind the consumer—workers in Mexico and elsewhere are routinely exposed to toxic chemicals in the field. Millions of tons of topsoil are squandered in this country by farming methods that push the land to the brink of exhaustion. Rivers and lakes are routinely ruined by chemical runoff. Meanwhile, thousands of acres of fertile land are devoured by development as small family farms are plowed under by big business.
These legitimate concerns are lost in your cynical analysis. It is troubling to see organics and health food co-opted and commercialized by corporations like Fresh Fields, but, although it is no panacea, it at least gives market power to a movement trying to address some serious issues.