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I come at this from quite a different viewpoint, perhaps.

First, my family background is deeply embedded with “alternative health” and nutrition. My paternal grandfather was a dentist who became entranced with Kellogg of the cereal family. Kellogg was a Dr. who believed that “colonics” (a euphemism for enemas) would prevent almost every health problem--a bit of quackery still promoted today; my grandfather switched over from pulling teeth to putting nozzles in another part of people’s anatomy. I suspect he was fairly full of you know what.

My parents drifted away from the colonics infatuation (though I got a few as a kid) and became entranced with “health food,” organic gardening, and similar obsessions. They were convinced that fluoride was a deadly poison, that laetrile was a cure for cancer suppressed by the American Medical Association, and that immunizations against diseases such as polio were a fiendish and unnecessary plot by the medical “establishment.”

Looking back on my childhood; especially the decision to keep the five of us (my four siblings and myself) from being vaccinated against polio at the height of the polio epidemics of the 50s was the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with our health. (Though none of us caught it, so maybe they were right.)

On the other hand, over time, after rebelling against my parents, I’ve tried to integrate what might have been and useful in spite of their often quackery-ridden ideas into a more sensible and practical world view. I think the industrialization of American agriculture, the corn-syruping of our mass merchandized food, our mad scientist playing with genetic modification of our crops to be another kind of quackery.

I suspect 80% of the organic foods movement is probably quackery, or if not quackery, wishful thinking, but the other 20% is probably important. I would rather eat food not sprayed with pesticides. I would rather eat food grown by a farmer near where I live I can look in the eye at a farmer’s market or by myself (though the health benefit may come more from the exercise I get growing it than from the marvels of what I grew) than I would food grown in China.

I belong to and shop at a fairly large consumer food coop. I own some Whole Foods stock, and I stop and shop there once in a while to keep an eye on my investment, but for many reasons I much prefer the co-op. I also own some “preferred stock” in Organic Valley, a producer’s co-op; although they call it a “preferred stock” it functions much more like a CD than a stock or even a bond.

In many of my jobs, I have worked for entrepreneurs (though more in computer-related areas than food). In my experience, they are brilliant and hard working and arrogant and dangerous and toxic and self-infatuated people. Although I don’t have any personal experience with Mackey, he sounds like he would fit in with the rogues’ galley of people I’ve worked for and with. It’s pretty typical for an entrepreneur to launch a company brilliantly and then outlive his usefulness. In many cases, the company has to dump the initial genius on the way to becoming a “grown-up” company. Is it that time for Whole Foods to grow up?
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