As the US Department of Agriculture prepares to phase in a new set of rules on which foods may be labeled “organic,” at least one segment of the population seems to think all the fuss is more trouble than it’s worth.
This week in Berkeley, California — home to the modern organic food movement and Alice Waters, its high-priestess — the local public high school announced that it will soon discontinue its much-vaunted organic lunch program. “From the very start, it never caught on,” says school board member Terry Doran.
Berkeley High was apparently faced with lots of real-world hurdles in its attempt to bring in organic meals from the surrounding area. For starters, says The San Francisco Chronicle, the program “couldn’t raise enough money selling students the fancy meals at $3 to $4 apiece — the typical price of school meals.” Even with $400,000 in subsidies from the political fringe-dwelling Center for Ecoliteracy, organic food just proved too expensive to keep on the menu.
Even with high-profile backing from publications like Newsweek (last week’s cover story was little more than a marketing pitch dressed up like news), the real world always seems to catch up with organic food marketers. In the United Kingdom, where the Scottish parliament is debating its agricultural future, an Edinburgh University professor recently told lawmakers that organic farming is a waste of land, money and fossil fuel, with “no scientific support” for claims that its products were healthier or safer.”