Dear WIC: Why aren’t organics allowed for poor pregnant women and babies?


Originally Published at Nutritional Anarchy

Have you ever felt “shamed” by someone who hasn’t done enough research to realize the benefits of organic food?  Because of the higher price tag, it seems as though it is the territory of well-to-do families with lots of money on their hands. Some folks roll their eyes and act as though it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world to pay double the price for an untainted apple or milk free from hormones.  Despite the well-documented negative effects of pesticides, hormones, processed foods, and GMOs, opting for organics is seen by many as a frivolous expense.

Apparently, if you’re poor, you should eat what they give you, whether it is tainted or not.  In fact, products targeting lower income shoppers tend to be loaded with GMOs. This is not a question about whether or not you support welfare and social assistance – because people are getting that money regardless of the opinion of those who might like to see things done differently. The question is, if women on WIC are given X amount of dollars to supplement their food budgets, shouldn’t they be allowed to choose the healthiest options that they can purchase with their allotments, given that the whole point of the program is supposed to be good nutrition?

Interestingly enough, the US government plays a role in making organics out of reach too.  WIC (Women Infants and Children) is program that provides supplemental food for low income women and their offspring if they are thought to be at nutritional risk. However, despite rampant evidence that GMOs and pesticides are incredibly harmful, particularly for those the program purports to be “nourishing”, in most cases organic choices are strictly not allowed. Melissa Melton  did some research on this topic:

The USDA’s WIC program is supposed to be a nutritional education program for pregnant women, infants, and children under five considered to be a “nutritional risk”. The program gives out grocery store vouchers that barely allow these women to have any organic food at all, and depending on what state a woman lives in, it might be none.

I decided to call my local WIC office to ask why that is, considering it’s an “nutrition education” program and studies show that pesticides increase the risks for all kinds of diseases and cancer, and they are especially bad for pregnant women and growing fetuses. If organic isn’t even an option, how are these women supposed to learn about it to even make a choice on whether or not it might be healthier for them and their infants and children?

Why is the government treating organics like they are a “boutique food” that only wealthy people are allowed, and in the process, passing along that notion to poor pregnant women and setting their babies up for a lifetime of potential health problems under the guise of “nutrition education”?

Big Agri, Big Food, and Big Biotech want you to believe that their offerings are every bit as good as the produce raised without pesticides by the family farmer down the road from you.

Remember last year when Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant suggested that opting for organic food was pure snobbery?

Monsanto is attempting to marginalize opponents while polishing their own dingy reputation.  “There is this strange kind of reverse elitism: If I’m going to do this, then everything else shouldn’t exist,” said Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant. “There is space in the supermarket shelf for all of us.”

Grant said in a rather condescending interview:

Some people lose sight of the bigger global picture, the CEO said.

“This place is getting busier and more crowded,” Grant said. “As long as you’ve got money in your back pocket and you drive your station wagon to the supermarket on weekends, then it’s out of sight out of mind, so far.”

Opponents on social media are capitalizing on an increased public interest in how their food is produced, Grant said.

“And the sad piece of this is, it ends up either or,” Grant said. “So you get conventional agriculture or broad scale or however you define it, and organic. I think we’re going to look back on this period and say, ‘How on earth did that ever become the fight that it became.’”

“In the U.S., we have a system that works,” Grant said. (Bloomberg)

And why, exactly does that system work?

Perhaps it is the “elitism” displayed by Monsanto as it pads the pockets of US Congressmen and other elected officials.  Perhaps it is the “elitism” of being beyond the law and actually writing the text of their own protection acts.  Perhaps it is even the simple “elitism” of the employees of Monsanto, who are served organic food in the company cafeterias. (source)

Check out “What to Eat When You’re Broke” for suggestions on how to make the best possible choices when your budget is limited.