Michelle Obama's Garden Continues To Sprout Criticism

What seems like the least controversial move Michelle Obama could possibly make — planting a garden on the White House lawn — has actually generated its fair share of criticism.

As has been reported before, agribusiness groups are mad that Michelle's garden is organic. The Mid America CropLife Association, which represents agriculture and pesticide companies, says, "fresh foods grown conventionally are wholesome and flavorful yet more economical." Bob Young of the American Farm Bureau Federation concurs. To Michelle, he says, "understand that you're making lifestyle choices here about how you want your food produced. Fine. But don't denigrate the other approaches to food production." His fellow Farm Bureau employee Mary Kay Thatcher adds, "If Michelle Obama was having dinner with me, I'd say the organic garden is a great thing, but use it for education about organic vs. conventional agriculture, the pros and the cons." So basically, Michelle should snap on her rubber gloves and spray her tomatoes with some hexythiazox or lambdacyhalothrin, in the interests of diversity. Or better yet, just get in a little plane and crop-dust the hell out of that shit.

Some people are even taking issue with Michelle's decision to emphasize local food. Xavier Equihua of the Chilean Exporters Association and the Chilean Avocado Committee says local food is "a charming idea and everything, but it's not practical," because local food is seasonal. He asks, "what happens if you want some grapes during the month of December? What are you going to do? Not eat grapes?" Uh, yeah? I like grapes as much as the next person, but they are not essential for survival, and while some transportation of food will always be necessary, it would do us a lot of good if we could return to a more seasonal way of eating. And really, how would Michelle, go about growing a garden that was not local? Outsource it to India? Water her avocado plants in Chile via Skype?

Of course everything Michelle Obama does is going to be scrutinized, and she deserves the opportunity to just plant a fucking garden if she feels like it. On the other hand, as Sadie said in her post on Michelle's stated aversion to cooking, "every word, from someone so admired and imitated, is an opportunity." Just as Michelle getting in the kitchen (and, as Sadie also says, Barack getting in there with her) might show America that cooking, even for busy people, is possible, Michelle's garden could show us that local, organic food is a worthy goal.

Beam points out that the White House's organic garden could stimulate demand for organic food. That might help bring prices down, so that people much poorer than the Obamas could actually afford an organic tomato. Given the dangers of many pesticides (the EPA says, "by their very nature, most pesticides create some risk of harm"), this would be a very good thing. Young and Thatcher make "different approaches to food production" sound like a wonderful rainbow of happy fruits and vegetables — some deliciously augmented with diazinon. But in reality, some "approaches" are healthier — for humans and the environment — than others, and the Obamas would do well to make these approaches more accessible to everyone.

Organic Panic [Slate]

Earlier: Should Michelle Obama Get Back In The Kitchen?