Beauty and the Vegetable

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,-that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

- John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

is refreshing to have a bit of silliness introduced into a world
consumed by weighty problems seeking resolution. For our examples we
turn to West Virginia and the European Union. West Virginia is
concerned with beauty and the European Union is concerned with ugly.

voice for West Virginians concerned with beauty belongs to Jeff
Eldridge of West Virginia, a member of the House of Representatives of
that fair state.
On March 3, 2009, Mr. Eldridge introduced House Bill 2918. The summary
of the Bill says it is a bill banning "the sale of 'Barbie' dolls and
other dolls that influence girls to be beautiful." The bill provides
that "It shall be unlawful in the state to sell "Barbie Dolls" and
other similar dolls that cause girls to place an undue importance on
physical beauty to the detriment of their intellectual and emotional
development." The Bill has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee
where, as of this writing, it resides, if not languishes.

Eldridge's goal, apparently, is to give Barbie a birthday present
she'll not forget-banishment from the state. On March 9 she celebrated
her 50th birthday. Mr. Eldridge believes that even though during
Barbie's lifetime women have achieved much many would not have believed
possible on Barbie's birthday, they would, nonetheless, have gone to
greater heights but for Barbie's pernicious influence.

full blown from Mattel's womb, Barbie did not have to wait until she
grew up to wield her evil influence on girls. She started the minute
she saw the light of day. And a devastating influence it's been. As Mr.
Eldridge explained: "Basically, I introduced legislation because the
Barbie doll, I think, gives emphasis on if you're beautiful, you don't
have to be smart." If any beautiful woman happens upon this column she
can decide for herself whether or not she has forsaken brains for
beauty. All that said, it's clear Mr. Eldridge would applaud the recent
actions of the European Union. Beginning in July 2009 "ugly" will be in
and "beauty" will be out. It started one year ago.

many years the European Union has enforced strict rules not only on the
quality of fruits and vegetables but on their appearance. The rules
dictate the acceptable colors of leeks, the angle of repose of
cucumbers as well as carrot's shapes. The rules apply to cherries,
onions, peas, plums and countless other vegetables. According to a
report in the Times on Line
tons of fruits and vegetables are discarded each year due to absence of
beauty or ideal size. Tim Down, a Bristol UK fruit and vegetable
wholesaler experienced the consequences of these rules first hand. He
"was forced to throw away 520 Chilean kiwis after being told by the
Rural Payments Agency that they did not meet "industry standards." Some
of the kiwis were 4 grams less than the prescribed weight. Talking to Food Navigator
Mr. Down said standards should be implemented in sensible ways. "How
anyone ever sat down in an office in Brussels and got paid an enormous
amount of money to decide on the correct curvature of a cucumber
beggars belief." Mr. Down was referring to Commission Regulation No.
1677/88 of June 15, 1988.

Commission Regulation No. 1677/88
sets the beauty contest rules for cucumbers. Addressing Class I
cucumbers and their beauty, the Regulation specifies that they must "be
reasonably well shaped and practically straight (maximum height of the
arc: 10 mm per 10 cm of the length of cucumber)". If they are slightly
crooked (also defined by reference to their arc) they may be sold if
otherwise "cosmetically perfect." If they fail that test they must be
destroyed or shipped off for processing where beauty is not an issue.
Carrots may not be forked and must be free from secondary roots.
According to a report from the BBC magazine
as a result of the focus on beauty in the fruit and vegetable world
"tones of perfectly-edible produce across the EU is thrown away so that
when you walk into the supermarket all you see is rank after serried
rank of cosmetically perfect fruit and vegetables." Thanks to the
actions of the EU a significant number of members of the fruit and
vegetable kingdom will no long depend on their beauty to find
acceptance on grocers' shelves.

In November 2008 the
European Commission decreed that effective July 1, 2009, consumers
"will be able to purchase 26 items including onions, apricots, Brussel
sprouts, watermelons and cauliflowers with as many knobs, bumps and
curves "as they
Bananas, however, will still be regulated and must be "free from
abnormal curvature of the fingers." Acknowledging that beauty contests
for bananas might also warrant revisiting, Michael Mann, the EC's
agriculture spokesperson told FoodNavigator: "Perhaps we will come back
to bananas in the future." While applauding the actions of the EC in
permitting the sale of fruits with offensive bumps and curves, Mr.
Eldridge no doubt hopes his legislature will ban Barbie because of what
he perceives to be her offensive bumps and curves.

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