mafiaUse our pesticide, or the spinach gets it.I’m no expert on the mafia, but I have seen the first two Godfather movies and Goodfellas, oh, a few times. One thing I’ve learned: “protection” is a major mob racket. It works like this: a thug drops by your shop monthly and makes small talk. You hand him some cash, and your shop runs smoothly. You refuse to pay, and … things go wrong.

I’ve been thinking about protection rackets ever since an agrichemical industry group chided Michelle Obama for not using “crop protection” products on her White House garden. The group famously wrote a letter (intercepted by Jill of La Vida Locavore) urging the First Lady to do so back in March.

I just found out that Croplife.org, the industry’s Web site, also launched a “letter writing campaign” among members. “The garden is a great idea and the photo op of the First Lady and local elementary schoolchildren digging up the ground was precious,” the campaign informs Croplife readers. But … “did you realize that it will be an organic garden?”

An organic garden–one that fails to utilize the agrichem industry’s products? That simply won’t do:

What message does that send the general public about the agriculture industry that the majority of you are so proud to serve? What message does that send to the non-farming public about an important and integral part of growing safe and abundant crops to feed and clothe the world — crop protection products?

So Croplife urges members to drop a line to Ms. Obama:

I hope that you will take a moment to consider how important that message is to your livelihood, your passion for agriculture, and your growers’ future — and send your own letter, sharing the benefits of modern, conventional agriculture. Help allay any fears by providing a specific example of how what you do on a daily basis, including custom application and/or the sale of crop protection products and fertilizers, has saved a crop and/or improved yields to benefit more Americans.

So far, the First Lady seems to be holdiing out on using “crop protection.” Does that mean that some really scary insects are going to come eat her spinach?