09 March 2007

On Paper it Seemed Reasonable...

So.... last night, the NBC comedies were all repeats, as was CSI. Instead, at 8:00 I watched NOVA, all about Typhoid Mary and then I went out, and CBC was running Ideas, part two in its series Organics Go Mainstream (one of those times where I turned off the van but wanted to sit in the parking lot for an extra 5 or 10 minutes, listening).

What I found fascinating about both was the complications that came from government intervention.

Mary Mallon was quarantined without the benefit of a trial (and when she finally won a trial, she lost, out of fear for public backlash). She later won her freedom, but disregarded the conditions of her release, setting off another outbreak and ending in her being quarantined for the remainder of her life. The interesting part was the ethical issues of the way the Public Health Department was able to completely ignore Mallon's most basic rights in the first place.

In the case of organics, the questions come in the debate around the certification of farms and foods. The biggest debate has been over synthetic additives to processed food (purists argue that by definition, processed is not organic). But the argument that struck a note with me was one farmer who refuses to be certified, although he follows very careful sustainable practices. One thing he does, though, would likely disqualify him from certification: when he buys additional feed corn for his livestock and poultry, he buys local first, "organic" second. And this may be the next battle for organics, because it also ties in to global warming initiatives to reduce one's carbon footprint -- if you are consciously shopping for organic food but it is being shipped 3,000 miles to your local heath food market, it kind of defeats its purpose.

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