On September 25th, Jamie Oliver, British celebrity chef, media personality, and self-styled “food campaigner”, published a blog post entitled, “Vote for Organic Food”. And with it, sadly, he demonstrated his dire lack of knowledge about agriculture, plant breeding, the food system, and the reality of the landscape of life for average families. And the worst part is, Oliver has a massive platform; everything he writes is immediately disseminated to millions of fans.
“Organic food is natural food, where nature has been allowed to do its thing”, Oliver’s Facebook page declared above the link to the blog post. “Putting natural ingredients into our bodies is only going to be a good thing.”
The celebrity food activist is either cleverly disingenuous, or has no idea what the word “natural” means. Admittedly I’m not a “roughing it” kind of gal; when nature is doing its thing, you’ll often find me running for the comfort of air conditioning and a delicious bowl of microwaved leftover stir fry. My followers alerted me to Oliver’s post, so I responded as follows:
Though Oliver and/or his social media managers have responded to several of the comments on the thread, my message has yet to receive a reply from the chef or his social media team. My message, which has the most likes and responses and thus has certainly been seen by Oliver’s Facebook team, was a brief explanation of why the “organic is natural” trope is completely fallacious. I was pleased to see several comments along these lines:
Indeed, encouraging families to eat varied diets high in fruits and veggies is important. Instead, Oliver’s blog post claims, “We know so little still about how the body works, but we do know that variety and freshness give us the most nutritional benefits – it makes sense to me that eating organic food, at its freshest, will support that.”
Variety is certainly important, but the word “freshness” means little when it comes to nutrition. In fact, frozen fruits and veggies are often just as, if not more nutritious than fresh, non-frozen counterparts, not to mention more affordable. Further, the idea that organic gives the most nutritional benefits because it “makes sense” to Oliver is little more than empty drivel. “Making sense” does not equal scientific data. The “appeal to nature” is not a fact, it’s a fallacy.
What’s more disappointing than Oliver disseminating misinformation about organic foods, which are no more nutritious, safe, or “natural” than conventionally grown or genetically engineered foods, is his lack of response to farmers and other experts.
Rather than responding to me, and to others offering sensible commentary about organic and conventional farming, Oliver chose to reply to other commenters, encouraging people to simply “grow their own” food when organic isn’t affordable. Does this sound like a realistic choice for the majority of people? Hardly.
Jamie – my offer remains open, and I hope you’ll take me up on it. I am happy to put you in touch with farmers, plant geneticists, toxicologists, and scientists, truly some of the most knowledgeable and respected experts and communicators in the food and farming arena. I imagine some valuable dialogue and learning could ensue all around and, truly, what’s better than that?
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons