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For the past several weeks, there has been a small but growing movement to call for a national boycott of French wine, cheese, and other products as a way of protesting the fact that France has led opposition to US moves toward using military force to disarm Iraq.

There have been extremes to this argument, of course, with some people saying that it would affect just their personal buying habits and others saying that French fries should be renamed (as one restaurant owner in North Carolina did).

As reported on, consumers participating in a poll on the generally approved by a 7-3 margin the notion that Americans could use their buying power as a legitimate form of political protest.

And while it hasn’t yet reached the stage of being an organized national movement, there remains ample evidence that the anti-French product trend is picking up momentum.

For example:

  • The Capitol Hill dining room for the US House of Representatives has officially changed the menu to read “freedom fries” and “freedom toast,” instead of French fries and French toast. And just last Friday, “Freedom Fries” replaced French fries on the menus in 200-plus Fuddruckers restaurants around the country.

    In the survey referred to above, 53 percent of those responding said that they thought renaming French fries sounded like a pretty good idea.

  • Restaurants located in places as geographically disparate as Nevada and New Jersey have publicly dumped expensive French wines and champagnes with great fanfare, and returned much of their stock to their wholesalers.

  • In Chicago, an independent retailer called Garden Fresh Markets pulled everything French off its shelves, ranging from Evian water to cheeses and mustards.

  • In certain cities where anti-France fervor is running particularly high, French restaurants are seeing a drop-off in reservations.

It is hard to know where this is going to end, and if it will become something even more organized and national in nature. But for the moment at least, it appears that there is more to this trend than many people would have expected.
KC's View:
On this morning, Phil Lempert notes, “Apparently, the antipathy towards France at the moment runs deeper than we thought,” and that “it’s hard to know if this movement will become more organized and national, but there are other food issues that need to be resolved. American disagreements with France and other countries in the European Union over their unwillingness to sell products that include genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is an ongoing issue.”

We agree with that opinion, but would take it one step farther. While we respect the right of retailers and consumers alike to take a political position and to exercise their rights by how they spend their money, we think it is in many ways a specious position.

The people of France are not accountable for the positions of their government. If the French people decided to stop buying American products because of the US government position on Iraq, we’d hear howls of protest from American businesses about how this was an inappropriate response to a political disagreement.

This is a political disagreement about which, it seems to us, the French government doesn’t seem to have the moral or ethical obligation to blindly support the US. That doesn’t mean they are right; it just means that they have a right to their opinion. (There seems to be a fair amount of dissent in the US as well…)

C'est la vie.