I have avoided Whole Foods since founder and CEO John Mackey went Galt over health insurance. It turns out he was not alone in marketing organic food with a heaping helping of fruit cake philosophy.
I was chatting with a friend in a local grocery store when she noticed the packages of Eden Foods quinoa in my cart. "You know the guy that owns that company thinks contraception is immoral and sued the government over the Affordable Care Act?" It was news to me, but I did a little googling when I got home. Sure enough, the CEO was nutty as charged.
Salon has two recent articles on the neopuritanism of Eden Foods founder and CEO Michael Potter.
That is, Eden Foods — an organic food company with no shortage of liberal customers — has quietly pursued a decidedly right-wing agenda, suing the Obama administration for exemption from the mandate to cover contraception for its employees under the Affordable Care Act. In court filings, Eden Foods, represented by the conservative Thomas More Law Center, alleges that its rights have been violated under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
Eden Foods, which did not respond to a request for comment, says in its filing that the company believes of birth control that “these procedures almost always involve immoral and unnatural practices.” The complaint also says that “Plaintiffs believe that Plan B and ‘ella’ can cause the death of the embryo, which is a person.”
Carmon goes on to describe the disconnect between marketing aimed at promoting sustainable food as a liberating force while fighting prescription contraceptives as evil in court. The disconnect is perhaps even greater than she presents.
Michael Potter has clearly marketed himself as something of an old hippie selling health food. That schtick comes through clearly in a New York Times article about organic labeling that featured Potter and Eden Foods.
More than 40 years ago, Mr. Potter bought into a hippie cafe and “whole earth” grocery here that has since morphed into a major organic foods producer and wholesaler, Eden Foods.Who knows how much of this personal narrative is real and how much is just clever marketing. Not that it matters. I am far more interested in his current attempt to poke holes in contraception coverage.
But one morning last May, he hopped on his motorcycle and took off across the Plains to challenge what organic food — or as he might have it, so-called organic food — has become since his tie-dye days in the Haight district of San Francisco.
Potter claims the wall of silence Irin Carmon encountered while writing her article last week was an oversight. After the article was published, he did respond to questions. He probably should have kept his mouth shut.
“Because I’m a man, number one and it’s really none of my business what women do,” Potter said. So, then, why bother suing? “Because I don’t care if the federal government is telling me to buy my employees Jack Daniel’s or birth control. What gives them the right to tell me that I have to do that? That’s my issue, that’s what I object to, and that’s the beginning and end of the story.” He added, “I’m not trying to get birth control out of Rite Aid or Wal-Mart, but don’t tell me I gotta pay for it.”Eden Foods sued the government for an exemption to the contraception coverage requirement by invoking religious freedom, implying it impinged on his personal beliefs as company owner. When asked to clarify his views, he first pretends to be a poor libertarian and then goes on to equate hormone treatments with abortion.
Well, he said, he opposes “using abortion as birth control, definitely.” But the mandate doesn’t cover abortion, I reminded him, only contraception, and emergency contraception is not abortion.When confronted with the fact that maternity care was much more expensive than contraception, Potter was not interested in math.
I floated by him the fact that contraceptive coverage is cheaper to pay for than, say, maternity coverage.And speaking of warm fuzzies. It is Obama that is really in his employee's bedrooms.
Potter replied, “One’s got a little more warmth and fuzziness to it than the other, for crying out loud.”
“I’m not in your bedroom,” he clarified. “Obama’s in your bedroom.”I am allergic to nuts, at least the religious conservative kind, so I am more than happy to avoid Eden Foods. From now on, I work will harder to find Bob's Red Mill.