What will the new Whole Foods -- which is to say the Park Lane edition, reportedly to sprawl more than 80,000 square feet when it opens spring 2008 -- be like? Will it be the chain's largest? Will it have a spa? Will it have an organic hybrid-car wash? The Austin-based company is releasing few details other than to say the store will "be one of our larger format stores in the continent" and it will "be unique from other stores in dozens of ways, but at this time we don't know specifically what those ways will be."
What is known definitively is this big Whole Foods will traffic heavily in organic "lifestyle choices." And that's all the organic food segment is really: a lifestyle choice. Contributions to health are dubious. And now a recently released British study exploring the environmental impact on food production concludes the environmental benefits of organic food farming may be elusive as well.
While some organic food production has a lower ecological impact than conventional methods, significant segments of the organic food industry -- milk, tomatoes and chicken -- have far greater adverse impacts. For example, organic milk production requires 80 percent more land and produces roughly 16 percent more greenhouse gas emissions, while organic tomatoes require 10 times the land and close to twice the energy.
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So for those spending the extra dough on this conspicuous lifestyle choice, be aware your terrific social consciousness may be couched on myth -- to the point of social irresponsibility. The rest of us should be good little boys and girls and eat all of our chemicals. --Mark Stuertz