Friday, September 01, 2006

Organic Wall-Mart?

The recent news of Wall-Mart going “Organic” has sparked many applauses and much criticism. The effects of the world’s largest company going organic will have unprecedented effects on small farmers and the local economy. Co-operatives such as Organic Valley and groups such as Organic Consumers Association have shown much weariness towards the big move, citing the past effects Wall-Mart has had with local farmers and markets.

In her recent article, Liza Featherstone (The Nation.) brilliantly constructs a clear picture of the effects of this massive change in the organic consumer market. Small farmers and local markets will be profoundly effected by such a move my Wall-Mart because of the eminent loss of customers to lowers prices because any consumers complain of the high price of organic products, but that price is well worth the good effects. “Organic is not overpriced; rather, conventional food is cheap because its costs are passed along to the environment, small farmers and the health of those who eat it,” later stating that the reason consumers can’t afford the food is because they aren’t paid enough and don’t have health insurance, further continuing the debate for national health care, and fair wages.

Featherstone later explains the effects not only on small farmers, but also on quality and standards. Many shoppers will be happy to find affordable organic food on Wall-Mart shelves but, she asks consumers to recognize that the lowering in price means lowering in quality. “Wal-Mart's low prices would, ultimately, mean lower standards,” she says, sitting Horizon’s organic milk production which resembles more of a conventional milk factory because of their cruel treatment of Cows. The Cornucopia Institute's Mark Kastel points out: "Standing in 90-degree heat. No shade, no water. These animals are living very short lives.”

Not only does Wall-Marts conquest on organic food have an effect on local farmers, and the quality of the food produced, but also on the environment; citing that most of Wall-Marts organic food will travel thousands of miles, accentuating the problem of our energy and global warming crisis.

The effects are not all negative, for many positive effects exists such as transforming thousands of acres of farmland into organic environmentally friendly land, but the problems associated with such a massive store like Wall-Mart cannot be excused.

To read the Liza Featherstone’s article “Is Wal-Mart Big Green or Big Mean?” click here.

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