Winter Apple Blues (or, How to Spin a Healthy Controversy)

The latest from my kitchen is, I have some new apples. This news is similar to previous reports from the kitchen, but although I have new apples frequently, it’s still news.

These new apples are organic. I didn’t read the details, but they’re different than just a regular apple.

First, they come in a plastic bag with graphics, and it says “organic” in big letters; there’s even a fancy plastic bag zipper. Second, they are smaller than regular apples. These organic apples have little holes in them, and are also less shiny and good-looking than regular apples.

Oh, and they cost more.

So, they’re organic. In order to learn more, I pretended to have a conversation with Lou Johnson, President of the Organic Apple Association, a watchdog group that protects the organic apple industry from unfair trade practices. Lou lives in Texas “off the grid,” in a small camper.

Me: Hi Lou, thanks for chatting with me today!

Lou: Yes, Mark, thanks for coming to my little place!

Me: So, Lou, what is an organic apple?

Lou: Well, Mark, it’s a premium apple. Far healthier for the consumer and much more difficult to grow.

Me: Awesome. So, an organic apple is one that is better than a regular apple?

Lou: You could say that!

Me: I did, just now. (laughter) Well, Lou, I wanted to know if they were better, because I wanted to know if they were better because they are organic.

Lou: Yes.

Me: Aren’t all apples organic?

Lou: … (pause) … Well, yes. … But organic apples … means we don’t use pesticides. Those are bad.

Me: Pests are bad.

Lou: (laughter) Yes, pests are bad! … No! No, pesticides are bad! Pests aren’t so great, either! (laughs again)

Me: I guess I’m wondering, is there anything wrong with non-organic apples? I mean, I like the little plastic bag with the zipper, and I’d get these for company, you know?

Lou: Yes, they’re good for company. People love them.

Me: Lou, help me out. What’s the difference between an organic apple and all the others?

Lou: I don’t follow.

Me: They’re all organic?

Lou: Yes.

Me: Did God make these apples better?

Lou: (a little perturbed) No. It’s not about that.

Me: God made ‘em all good.

Lou: Yes, I think so. I love apples.

Me: (smiles) I’m sure you do! … Who are you trying to sell these things to?

Lou: They’re premium apples, Mark.

Me: People in limousines?

Lou: They could be.

Me: Lou, let me ask you … do you have a car?

Lou: Yes, I do!

Me: And what kind of gas do you put in it? Unleaded?

Lou: Yea.

Me: Did you know they add the lead to the gas? It’s not really unleaded, it’s normal. They just make it sound like they went through some process to remove the lead, when all they did was put less in, then they charge more for it.

Lou: Wow.

Me: Yea. Interesting, huh?

Lou: Well, you learn something every day!

Me: So, most apples are made by God, and I don’t think they needed any improvement. Then we came along and sprayed some stuff on them that might not be as healthy as a spray-free apple, then the apple-sellers decided to charge more for the ones that didn’t get sprayed, and call them organic?

Lou: What are you getting at?

Me: They’re normal. That’s all. They should cost less. They’re small, not even shiny.

Lou: There are lots of kinds of apples.

Me: You see, Lou, I don’t have any problem with your organic apples. They’re lovely. But you should call them “grown naturally” or something like that. Something a little less … deceptive. All apples are organic. We love being healthy, but there’s no reason for me to think your apple is any better than any other. Especially since you call it “organic.” I’m not dumb.

Lou: It’s a legal thing, too, Mark. You see, “organic” means no pesticides.

Me: Thanks for telling me. How about instead of writing on the package “organic,” you just put “normal?”

Lou: We’re proud of our apples, you know.

Me: I am too! And they’re not yours. They’re God’s!

Lou: Oh, no! (smiles) They’re ours. We sell them.

Me: I thought you were just brokers of healthiness.

Lou: We do that, too.

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