Friday, June 06, 2008

Michigan WIC forbids organic

From Tom Philpott at Grist:
Evidently, in Michigan -- a state undergoing severe economic strain -- some bureaucrats have bought into the whole notion that organic food is a luxury for the elite.

Check out this extraordinary document [PDF]. It lists product after product available to Michigan WIC recipients -- milk, eggs, carrots, tuna, cheese, boxed cereal, dried beans, peanut butter. And following each one, these words: "No organic allowed." (Never mind that organic tuna doesn't exist.)

Mothers using WIC in Michigan have to be especially careful about eggs. Avoiding organic eggs is only the beginning. Other no-nos include ones that are free-range, cage-free, or enhanced with Omega-3-rich feed. And get this: The eggs have to be white!
I reached Tom's article from a link on Ashley Colpaart's new blog, Epicurean Ideal. Tom points out in his comment section that the most likely reason for the Michigan policy is concern about cost, rather than prejudice against organics per se. But the Michigan brochure's tuna gaffe and the high profile for the repeated "no organic allowed" warning, more prominent than other limitations mentioned in the rules, makes me wonder.

6 comments:

Kei said...

This is a tough one. In an ideal world, we'd be able to make organic available to everyone. But when you're working with extremely circumscribed food dollars, the price premium probably puts organic out of reach for a lot of people. California also expressly forbids the purchase of organics (and oddly, brown eggs) w/ WIC money:
http://www.wicworks.ca.gov/resources/wafl/102240_ShoppingGuideEN__R2.pdf
While some people might see the shady hand of Big Ag/Dairy etc. behind these restrictions, it's probably mostly cost that's driving this. The lack of flexibility to purchase produce is another can of worms...

Anonymous said...

It's just price. Brown eggs for whatever idiotic reason are more expensive also, even though the innards are the same are white eggs.

Anyway, whenever an attempt is make to bring down the price of organic, as Wal-Mart and its suppliers have done, the suppliers are vilified.

Anonymous said...

It makes sound sense from nutritional science, health and public health economics perspectives. Organics offer no nutritional benefit, but higher costs, meaning fewer women and children can be helped for the same public dollars. Political ideologies and market interests (organic industry) have no place in public policies when lives are at stake.

Janet said...

Oh, now, Anonymous 2. Organics do provide a nutritional bonus, according to various studies. Here's a listing from the obviously biased Organic Trade Assn. http://www.ota.com/organic/benefits/nutrition.html, but most of those studies were conducted independently.

Nevertheless, more people helped the better.

Robert said...

Rather than "organic tuna doesn't exist", doesn't Tom Philpott really mean, "all tuna is organic"?

Anonymous said...

I must admit it's a little strange that the states are mandating the poor to eat pesticides and herbicides.