An organic food company that has never been shy to tout a liberal-leaning message about its “righteous whole grain” and how organic agriculture is “society’s brightest hope for positive change” (pdf) is campaigning for a very different cause. The company, Eden Organic Foods, is seeking to prevent its employees from using their earned insurance benefits to cover contraception. On March 20, Eden Foods filed suit against the Obama administration for an exemption against the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to cover contraception for its employees.
In the suit, Eden Foods (which is being represented by the Thomas More Center, a conservative Christian law firm based in Michigan) contends that birth control “almost always involve[s] immoral and unnatural practices.” Eden also asserts that “Plan B and Ella can cause the death of the embryo, which is a person.” (As Iris Carman writes in Slate, “studies show that neither Plan B nor Ella interfere with fertilization,” which Catholic teaching defines the beginning of life.)
Eden Foods’ support for what Amanda Marcotte on Pandagon calls “paleoconservative politics” more often associated with right-wing religious leaders might seem surprising to its many liberal customers. The company’s promotional literature talks about “revolution” and its lawsuit says that its “products, methods, and accomplishments are described by critics as: tasteful, nutritious, wholesome, principled, unrivaled, nurturing, pure.” With the company’s new suit, CEO Michael Potter (a prominent voice in debates about the labeling of organic foods and of GMOs) is seeking “another form of purityť in support of for his 128 employees.”
In emphasizing the purity of its products, Eden is not just promoting a message about what’s good for people’s health and for the planet, but what’s “good” in a moral sense. Why engage in non-procreative sex when you could just practice abstinence, keep yourself “pure” and avoid any moral contamination? “For all the good stuff in the organic food movement, there’s also a sector of people that get into it that have strong reactionary tendencies,” Marcotte writes, highlighting that, for more than a few, the organic food movement, is not based solely in environmental concerns but in ideological beliefs.
Similar arguments have been used by anti-vaccine proponents, who argue that the prick of a vaccine injures and violates the very sanctity of their “innocent” children. More than a few have sought out “treatments” from practitioners of alternative medicine, whose treatments can include a diet based on organic foods and free of wheat, dairy and other substances.
Eden Foods is hardly the only organic products company run by someone with “conservative Christian obsessions.” As Marcotte notes, the company’s very name invokes nothing less than humans in their Garden of Eden prelapsarian state. Promised Land Dairy also quietly points to its owner’s religious belief and conservative agenda; this company is run by someone who “has financed Rick Perry through his entire career,” Marcotte writes.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has “publicly campaigned against the Affordable Care Act, including recently referring to it as ‘fascism.’” In Germany, far-right extremists have been seeking to infiltrate that country’s eco-movement, long the preserve of its decidedly left-leaning Greens.
When it comes to products said to be “pure” and free from the evils of modern society’s chemicals, we need to scrutinize more than just the ingredients on the labels.
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