|Vivenne Westwood channeled her
inner Marie Antoinette:
“Let them eat less!”
The story is well known (and completely fictional) and it went a little like this: Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, hosted a lavish party at the palace, which was unfortunately ill-timed to coincide with one of the worst economic times in the country. Peasants were unable to afford even the main staple of their diet – bread. When a 18th century reporter informed the Queen that the peasants were starving while she was hosting her grand party, she allegedly quipped, “Let them eat cake!”
As all things go around, this time the witty response came from Vivienne Westwood, a millionaire fashion designer from Great Britain. While attending a protest of GMOs on Downing Street in London, the designer responded that people who could not afford to purchase organic foods should simply “eat less.”
According to Telegraph:
When a BBC Radio 5 Live interviewer suggested that “not everybody can afford to eat organic food”, Dame Vivienne replied: “Eat less!”
Told that many people in Britain are visiting food banks because they don’t have enough to put on their tables, so “to eat less isn’t an option”, Dame Vivienne was dismissive.
“They don’t have any choice – this is the point, isn’t it,” she said.
I suppose that’s one way to get around organic’s poor yield problem – just let poor people starve!
Ms. Westwood went on to say:
“If there was a movement to produce more organic food and less of the horrible food, then organic food would obviously be a good value price, wouldn’t it?”
No, it wouldn’t. The problem with organic production is that it does not yield as much food as conventional production. Considerably less – a study published in Nature found that organic foods yield 34% less than comparable conventional crops. Switching to an all organic production system would mean we have less food with the same demand that we have now. Even an elementary economics lesson demonstrates that food prices would rise (lower supplies + high demand = higher prices).
That means if we want to switch to all organic production we have two options: convert more land for agricultural use or stop feeding 34% of people that are eating now (read: “Let them starve!”). Even that might not be enough, especially because the study found that in organic wheat, which makes up a large part of most people’s diet, yields are particularly poor.
Of course, creating more farms isn’t all that easy either, and it is definitely against the trend. Between 2002 and 2007, the United States lost over 4 million acres of farmland to development. Urban sprawl has been literally confiscating our fields. If we’re serious about switching to all organic production and still feeding everyone, we need to find a way to reverse that trend and find somewhere to get more farmland. Unfortunately, that would mean that we are going end up destroying more forests and encroaching on land that is currently left its natural state. That is certainly not an environmentally sustainable way to grow our agricultural sector. Besides, why take such an approach when there are technological advances that are completely safe?
Ms. Westwood obviously prefers just letting people starve. And why not? She’s a millionaire and probably never had to worry about where her next meal was coming from. If only the wealthy can afford enough food, then she’ll be perfectly full and content.
You know what? I have an even better idea.
Let’s have farmers focus on being really sustainable. That is, producing as much food for any many people as possible while working to protect the environment and our natural resources. To me, that is exactly the goal that conventional farmers strive for when making production choices. We are implementing new technologies, production methods, and ideas to keep our fields in good condition, our yields high, and our food nutritious. In that way, everyone can have healthy, affordable, and nutritious food.
Ms. Westwood is now denying that she made such a statement (but of course!) and claims she was taken out of context. Unfortunately for her, the BBC reporter recorded the statement for his radio show, and the recording clearly says otherwise. (You can hear it for yourself here. Beware: she’s full of lots of rubbish.)
Ms. Westwood, who I’m quite sure has probably never stepped foot on a farm, should shut her fashionable trap about agriculture and other issues she’s ignorant on.
Or, as I should say:”Let her shut up!“
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.