This open letter to President Obama from Maria Rodale is the sort of low-hanging fruit that I try to avoid. But I give in to temptation every now and again when the author is someone widely admired within the U.S. food movement and a prominent environmental voice. (In the letter, Rodale identifies herself as “the CEO of the world’s leading health-and-wellness publisher and the granddaughter of the founder of the organic movement in America.”) To truly grasp the comparison she makes between Syria’s murderous regime and multinational agricultural and biotech companies, you have to read this lengthy excerpt:
Yes, Syria has undoubtedly used chemical weapons on its own people. Maybe it was the government; maybe it was the opposition; maybe you know for sure. But here’s what I know for sure: We are no better. We have been using chemical weapons on our own children — and ourselves — for decades, the chemical weapons we use in agriculture to win the war on pests, weeds, and the false need for ever greater yields. While the effects of these “legal” chemical weapons might not be immediate and direct, they are no less deadly. And you, Mr. President, have had an unprecedented opportunity to stop it, but you haven’t. You haven’t. In fact, you have encouraged it. And I am supremely disappointed in that.
What got me thinking about this was one of those Facebook posts where there is a picture of you, Mr. President, talking to a child in a classroom. It’s an adorable picture because I know you genuinely care for children, and it shows. But the bubble coming out of your mouth says, “We are going to war with Syria because they poison their children” which is met with a little girl’s words, “So why don’t you bomb Monsanto, you prick.” Harsh, I know. Perhaps unfair. I know you probably don’t hang out on Facebook much, but it’s getting a lot of “shares” among my friends. Yes, even my liberal friends. I laughed when I first saw it. But the more I think about it, the angrier I get.
We’ve been trying to tell you for years that chemical companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, Bayer Crops Sciences, and others are poisoning our children and our environment with your support and even, it seems, your encouragement. Just because their bodies aren’t lined up wrapped in sheets on the front pages of the newspapers around the world doesn’t mean it’s not true.
This is the sort of insensitive crack-pottery that increasingly defines the organic movement. Huffington Post commenters at her site are incredulous and disgusted. If anybody feels otherwise, I’d like to hear it.