Just recently, we've been reading about the sell-out of the big natural and organic corporations to Monsanto and genetically modified crops.
I wish it were just a little bit more surprising. I wish that just once big money and truly natural and organic products could honestly swim in the same pool, but it doesn't seem likely. Oh, sure... there are wonderful companies where the people running them do well, but there is a division, and once we start talking "corporation" and "stock options" the numbers fall off quickly. In all seriousness, we should all know better by now.
We've watched this game for a good long while. Not as long as some, but the last 20 years have told a weary tale of hope and deceit. Hopeful, exuberant people learning to use plants for healthier lives, and deceitful business people seeing dollar signs in those glowing faces.
For me, it started in *I think* 1992, when my sister and I trekked to what I believe was the first Natural Products Expo East and found an entire wholesale show that catered to exactly what we were looking to add to our shops. We were beside ourselves with excitement! Row upon row of booths run by family businesses making and selling their wares, and we were able to talk to the people who blended the teas, made the tinctures, or wrote the book. We found incredible, innovative natural and organic products.
Imagine our surprise when the very next year the whole thing changed, and instead of long-haired hippies in jeans and tie-dye, we found chrome and glass, suits, and booth bunnies selling things like glandulars, body-building formulas, and weight-loss capsules. We were devastated. The big boys had followed the scent of money to be made.
I distinctly remember having a drawn-out argument with some "suit" who stopped us in the aisle offering an "herbal cure for herpes". Really. To begin with, you rarely find the people who actually make things standing in the middle of the aisles hawking and blocking the way - just sayin'... But we took a look at the ingredients and noticed there were no herbs in the list (nevermind the whole CURE thing). It contained vitamins and some amino acids. So we asked him to please point out which of the ingredients he considered to be herbal. He couldn't believe we were being so petty because, you know, what's the diff? You see, he assumed that as shop owners we would be just as interested in pulling the wool over someone's eyes to get their cash as he was. He really couldn't understand how he was insulting our whole industry, and besides, he was just hired for the show to work the booth. He didn't actually know about the product or care if it worked.
About that time, the pharmacist from a large drugstore came in to our shop and really gave us a ribbing for all the HILARIOUS products we carried. Can I tell you how highly amused we were to find that within another month or two, we found that they were carrying many of the same products? Or that from then on, we always saw his boss at the Expo? And of course the CVS that opened a block away from our main shop did the same thing.
And then we took a series of classes covering the various forms of alternative medicine. During one of the classes, we were told about a new chain of grocery stores, where you could walk in and buy anything, sure that it was healthy and natural. Every eye in the room got misty at the mere thought of such a foodie Nirvana. However we were told, they wouldn't be opening in our area because surveys showed we were "not a highly-educated area". Even at that moment, I knew it couldn't be about education. You can scarcely swing a cat without hitting an institution of higher learning around here. It was about money. I'm glad Whole Foods never came to our area because that has meant that we have honest, family-run establishments run by knowledgeable people who have managed to stay in business here! Whole Mart destroys small business the same way WalMart does, except they manage to cost a WHOLE lot more. We have CSA's, herb shops, herb farms, and our grocery stores carry local produce. We have an amazing array of farm markets. We were way better off without the expensive chain, and learned how to shop for ourselves.
In the meantime, I like to think that a lot of people have been learning what they need to know for themselves. Every day I get to converse with readers of The Essential Herbal who are in the process of learning to make their own herbal products - or purchase them from our advertisers who are not big money corporations. I'm proud of spending the last 10 years helping to share that information and getting people together to teach and learn.
That's where it's at, folks. It really is up to the individual.