Whose Choice?

Published on: 10:58AM Feb 29, 2012

So it turns out that Monday, February 27, was “Occupy Our Food Supply” day.  Other than a few emails from counterparts in the food and ag sector, I didn’t much notice any occupational activities, although supposedly there have been a bunch of them, such as a group getting together on Facebook to harangue the CEO of Cargill.

This general theme – that our food system is in crisis and in desperate need of repair – is by now a familiar refrain.  In fact, speaking of refrains, we also were treated recently to the Chipotle video that was developed last summer and used again on the Grammies.  Guess what, Willie Nelson is one of the leading backers of Occupy Our Food Supply.

Even though the “Occupy _____” (insert your grievance here) appears close to having jumped the shark, there’s still something appealing, in this era of flash mobs and Facebook likes, to banding together to “fight the Man” – even if you’re fighting a small business man, or woman, or merely picking a fight against some larger force that you think you can define and paint in Manichean terms, but really cannot.  I made reference to this dynamic in a post from last December, when I pointed out that all sectors of the economy tend to have their large actors, as well as their small ones – and that we need to have both.  Chipotle, which was once owned by McDonald’s, is hardly a small business, although it’s become the poster child for the right way to serve burritos to the masses.

It’s interesting to note that Vandana Shiva, one of the OOFS movers and shakers, is an Indian woman attacking…another Indian woman, Indra Nooyi, who is the CEO of PepsiCo.  Perhaps that’s progress, when it’s not just Woody Harrelson and Michael Pollan leading the charge against other white guys.

I’ll repeat a question I asked in my December posting, a query that the OOFS folks, and others who are upset about the status quo, really need to answer:  How, exactly, if feed grain and oilseed production in the U.S. [and I’ll add meat in there as well, even though many of the OOFS leaders and followers are vegans] are truly the result of food cabals, are they hurting the availability and quality of the food supply?  Is the problem too much availability of food, or too little? 

Yes, there are some food deserts in urban areas, but can it really be claimed with a straight face that any more than a small portion of our population truly has no access to “the right” foods, be they organic, fresh, local, vegan, sustainable, or Jack’s magic beans?  Or is the issue really that choice, and the exercise of free will for that matter, is good for some, but not others?