Is Bio Besser? pt.2

Being an expat at large one tends to watch an awful lot of CNN or BBC World Service (but CNN is better these days, have you noticed that?)

We just moved to a new Wohnung, and while putting together new Ikea record shelves today we saw a clip on CNN about Paul Mackey, Whole Foods CEO

If you click the link above, you can read a short transcript, but it's better to watch the clip on the site so you can see how shifty Mackey looks when the interviewer asks if it's possible to maintain those original values when you are a big company and shareholders are pushing for profits.

Also amusing are the images of goofy guys spinning pizza dough as he talks about how his business model is built on the imagination of the individual.

Final snipey remark: when she describes Mackey as 'sitting on an organic throne' all I could think was that maybe he'd been eating too much organic Larb.

It's all very well to be so high & mighty about big companies when you are putting together Ikea shelves and about to drill in a Habitat toilet roll holder. These Swedish companies are to the world what Whole Foods may be destined to become once they expand into Europe (they are opening in Kensington, London next... though the one due to open before that I believe is in El Segundo... insert joke about wallet here).

My inner bargain hunter is always at war with my instinct that mass-production should not be trusted (and the hell that is Ikea really underscores that feeling... we got a few nice things that will no doubt fall apart in a year or two and their so-called famous swedish meatballs made me quite sick).
I believe I am the worst kind of hypocrite: I like things to be available and cheap. Therefore I am a cheap hypocrite. And I fell for the old Swedish meatballs trick which also makes me guillable.

And no, I still didn't read Omnivore's Dialemma, but I must!


    Well Omnivore's Dialemma will only confirm your astute intuitions. I once saw an interview with him on Bloomsberg TV. It had some footage of him coming home to his new age baby boomer wife who says to him "you're just way too manic for me man, go and do some yoga and then you can talk to me" in a deeply irritating Californian accent. Ick.


    So to answer you question, no bio isn't necessarily better than buying locally from a farmers market but it is better than industrially produced food, but only marginally and you have to put up with the idea that you are keeping a incredibly annoying Calfornian baby boomer couple and their yoga instructure and probably the odd psychic healer, in the way in which they have become accustomed....

    That should be enough to put you off.

    But it doesn't most people, apparently people queue in New York to get into Wholefoods. Yes they queue for a supermarket.

    But, I've come to realise it's all about the symbolic value. People aren't buying "cauliflower" so much as they believe that they are buying their way to a better environmentally and socially just world. And in that way they feel more virtuous. (I've been reading Marcel Mauss's "The Gift" recently and am preparing a "bitch piece" on Angelina Jolie) Anyway the point it that when people buy organics, especially in the places in which they buy organics they feel like they are a better person for it. They are in many ways buying virtue. And apparently New Yorkers need it more than anyone....and can afford more of it than most...

    The question is whether these values can be bought through a market mechanism or whether they require something say stricter regulation over industry by government...i.e. political will.

    that's my little lecture for the evening

    nigh nigh


    very interesting&amusing comments... (LoL about the shrill yoga lady)

    it's interesting that places like Wholefoods or Biomarkt appeal to such a broad range of people... it's exactly as you say, buying values while keeping the hippie vibe to a palatable minimum.
    In the same way Ikea offers individual kitset design to the masses...

    I've never been to Wholefoods (though I've heard good things about Trader Joe's orange juice)

    I've always had the impression that Americans like to have hundreds of options. Like sandwich shops have about 60 different toppings and supermarkets have hundreds of cereals, soya milks, yoghurts etc of course all available in gallon sizes.
    I guess the vegans deserve their range of endless edible consumables...

    political will... you mean celebrities can't save us all??
    I got power strips with power-saving switches because I saw Daryl Hannah recommend them on CNN. That's how sad I am.

    Is organic shopping the new alternative to going to church?


    maybe......the problem with the conspicuous consumption and purchasing of socially responsible products is that only the wealthy can afford them (relatively wealthy and yes that includes you and I) meaning that only the wealthy get to appear to be socially responsible and virtuous, while the poor can only ever appear to be environmentally irresponsible and morally corrupt. If I may get all academic on your arse, a succinct way to put this is to paraphrase an article I just read called The Moral Politics of Foreign Aid, where the author says that what begins as a material hierachy (i.e. rich versus poor) is transformed into a moral hierachy (good versus bad) through such mechanisms, anyway it's all food for thought for all us people earning above a slave wage. If we were really commited to ecological and social responsibility perhaps we'd all agree to be taxed more on our ipods and incomes?


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