Whole Foods and Pseudoscience

business_ethics_highlights_2From its worship of all things organic, to its aisles full of homeopathic and naturopathic remedies, Whole Foods Market is easily the most high-profile purveyor of pseudo-science in America today. The chain makes a lot of money (US$12.9 billion in revenue in 2013, for example) selling stuff to consumers who presumably believe not just that the goji juice is yummy, but that it’s objectively wonderful from a health point of view. In other words, the company is making a lot of money off of false beliefs.

Question 1: Is it unethical to make money off of such false beliefs?

Question 2: Does it matter if the folks behind Whole Foods (and especially its visionary CEO, John Mackey) sincerely believe in the claims they make (or imply) about organic foods, anti-oxidant juices, homeopathy, etc.?
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LINK: Whole Foods: America’s Temple of Pseudoscience (by Michael Schulson for Daily Beast)

…there’s a lot in your average Whole Foods that’s resolutely pseudoscientific. The homeopathy section has plenty of Latin words and mathematical terms, but many of its remedies are so diluted that, statistically speaking, they may not contain a single molecule of the substance they purport to deliver. The book section—yep, Whole Foods sells books—boasts many M.D.’s among its authors, along with titles like The Coconut Oil Miracle and Herbal Medicine, Healing, and Cancer, which was written by a theologian and based on what the author calls the Eclectic Triphasic Medical System.

You can buy chocolate with “a meld of rich goji berries and ashwagandha root to strengthen your immune system,” and bottles of ChlorOxygen chlorophyll concentrate, which “builds better blood.” There’s cereal with the kind of ingredients that are “made in a kitchen—not in a lab,” and tea designed to heal the human heart….

What do you think?


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