The agrochemical industry will not win the hearts and minds (and stomachs) of Americans, especially when the health of our children is on the line. So they have turned their latest attempt to bring Americans back to blind trust in conventional foods by focusing on our collective class resentments. A more sinister message has taken hold, likening a diet of conventional foods to "The 99% Diet" and a chemical-free organic diet as "elitist."
In Time magazine, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who once told millions of viewers, "I want you to eat organic foods" and "your kids deserve better than to be part of a national chemistry experiment," has seemingly changed his tune and turned the decision to buy organic foods into a political and class issue.
Not only did Dr. Oz write that conventional foods are nutritionally equal to organic foods (he never mentions pesticide contamination), he calls organic foods "elitist." Suddenly, a middle-class mother who decides to pay extra for a safe haven from pesticide contamination is called "snooty" and a "food snob" by the very same celebrity physician who once urged her to protect her children from agricultural chemicals by choosing organic.
Of course, the scientific evidence has not changed since Dr. Oz told us to buy organic. The study, for example, that showed statistically significant higher rates of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children with higher levels of dietary pesticide exposure has not disappeared, and is considered as scientifically sound and convincing today as it was when it was first published in 2010 and reported in media outlets including Time.
The conventional food advocates are now attempting to dissuade Americans from buying organic foods by turning the issue into one of class and privilege. The tactic is to paint food as a reflection of one's position in society, like owning a Mercedes or fancy yacht, rather than a question of health and safety--organic food is painted not as a safe haven from pesticides, but as an elitist food for the "1%." Would any of us 99%'ers want to be considered a "snob?"
Middle-class Americans who prioritize personal finances and choose to protect their children from harmful pesticide residues should be proud of this decision, and should not be bullied or shamed by Oz. Our children, as Dr. Oz once noted, should not serve as the human equivalents of lab rats. Rather than malign organic foods as elitist, we must recognize the very real and indisputable health benefits of organics and work to make pure, wholesome, uncontaminated foods more accessible and affordable for all.
Charlotte Vallaeys, M.S., M.T.S.
Director, Farm and Food Policy
The Cornucopia Institute