Friday, April 25, 2014

Religious Extremism - A New Form

This story from a couple of years ago was mentioned again this week.  A mother asked for advice from an on-line advice column when faced with pressure from other mothers to provide only organic snacks for the children in her daughter’s playgroup.  She was surprised and insulted, and afraid of being excluded from future gatherings based on the disapproving and scolding tone of e-mails she received.

From a more recent “mommy blog” comes a similar complaint:  “Unfortunately, as of last session, I'm now the ‘bad mommy’ at Playgroup…I have been notified by society that I have some black marks on my parenting record:  I don't carry all organic snacks with me at all times…”

Another site gives advice to mothers enrolling their child in a playgroup.  “One of the first things that the other mothers will judge you on is the snacks and drinks that you bring. If you pull a few organic snacks or homemade fruit leather out of your bag, they will assume that you are a good mother.”  Merely looking up “organic snacks” and “playgroups” on the Internet yields a host of examples where the two are closely linked, playgroups and daycare list organic snacks as a benefit, almost as a requirement to be considered a responsible choice.

Now consider this recent article from the Washington Post summarizing the current science on organic foods.  It is consistent with many other sources and with all I have learned in Master Gardener training sessions and seminars.  Various food categories are discussed separately and summarized in “bottom line” sections which I have compiled below with emphasis added:

Milk – “Organic milk has higher omega-3 fat levels, but probably not enough to make a difference. Exposure to pesticides, contaminants or hormones is not a significant risk in either organic or conventional milk.”
Produce – “While there may be no significant nutritional difference between organic and conventional produce, organic does have lower levels of pesticide residue. However, there isn’t universal agreement on the risk those residues pose.”
Meat – “There doesn’t seem to be much difference, health-wise, between organic or conventional meats. Grass-fed beef has a slight edge over grain-fed because of higher omega-3 levels, but the amounts are probably too small to affect human health.”
Eggs – “There are no significant differences affecting health between organic and conventional eggs.”
Fish – “There’s not enough research comparing organic and conventional fish to draw any conclusions about their health benefits.”

In summary, there is no science to back the adamant preference.  The behavior is more of a belief system akin to some form of religious zeal, the disciples of organic trying to pressure and convert others to their faith.  I even found a sort of Bible for the movement called Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times.  (Commandments are in the form of suggestions like this one:  “Start a play group for your young children…where healthy, organic snacks are offered…”)

It’s understandable when corporations spread this propaganda, but when neighbors attack neighbors for not following the same faith-based system, it amounts to nothing more than bigotry, no better than persecution of Christians or Jews; And it ought to be viewed as such and condemned with the same vigor by all those who strongly advocate for tolerance and inclusion.

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