Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pollan's Visit to Michigan State Univ.

Food expert raises stir at MSU
Author opposes production practices university supports
Matthew Miller • mrmiller@lsj.com • April 13, 2010

EAST LANSING - Amanda Sollman's question was pointed.

"You're currently standing in the state with the highest rate of unemployment in the country," the Michigan State University agriscience major said, "and a lot of the way that you propose we consume and produce food, whether that's more local, organic, mostly plants, that will inevitably result in higher food prices.

"How do you justify a group of people who can afford these luxuries driving food policy and food production practices for those who can't?"

She was speaking to Michael Pollan, food writer, author of such books as "The Omnivore's Dilemma," "In Defense of Food" and, most recently, "Food Rules.," and perhaps the nation's most influential critic of how we eat and how we grow our food.

The simple fact of Pollan's appearance at MSU - he spoke Monday night at the Wharton Center, and did an hourlong question-and-answer session open only to students that afternoon - was enough to cause ripples in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Read More

Food 'Fight' Comes to MSU
Famed food author Michael Pollan spoke at MSU Monday, but not everyone agrees with his views.
Posted: 11:27 PM Apr 12, 2010

What better way for famed food author Michael Pollan to make his point to a crowd at MSU Monday, than to bring along some groceries.

"This bread has 38 ingredients in it," Pollan said Monday.

Pollan's view -- which he's written about in several books -- is that Americans have lost their relationship with food because it's become over-processed, and thus, less nutritious.

"I agree with what he says," Judy Lindberg, who came to the speech Monday, said. "I like the natural food idea."

The author has also been very critical of the agriculture business as a whole, arguing the food industry does not have the best interests of the public at heart. Pollan spoke to a group at Google headquarters in 2008.

"They load it up," He said in 2008 of manufacturers. "Salt your own food, fatten your own food. You'll do a better job."

Not surprisingly, being MSU is one of the first land grant institutions, several students disagree with Pollan, farmers even came to campus Monday to dispute Pollan's views.

"I view Pollan's food policies as an elitist point of view and man kind, and Americans will pay the price if we follow his policies," Trent Loos said.

Loos, a 6th-generation farmer from Nebraska, also spoke with students Monday. He said he agrees with Pollan's natural view of food, but also says there's nothing wrong with using science to mass produce it, the very thing many MSU students study.

"I see his message as a slap in the face to great land instirutions, like MSU, across the country," Loos said. Read More

As these two articles allude to, Michael Pollan continued his “food scare” tour at Michigan State yesterday, carefully avoiding any critics of his plan to roll back the clock on American agriculture. As usual, he doesn’t seem concerned at all with the fact that his ideas will lead to one-half the population going hungry. That was the estimation of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug. And he freely admits that the food that will be raised will be much more expensive. People need to get passed the polished surface of his presentations and books and dig into the meat of what he is proposing.


Anonymous said...

I attended both of Michael Pollan's events on campus yesterday and will be happy to tell you that it was in fact not a "food scare" tour. And contrary to your statement "he doesn’t seem concerned at all with the fact that his ideas will lead to one-half the population going hungry" he addressed that issue in the afternoon when a student asked him a question relating to that very topic. Please don't make statements about events you did not attend. Things like that perpetuate a division in agriculture that makes constructive conversations difficult to have.

Kaitlyn Nelson said...

Raised on a 5000 acre family farm in South Dakota, I am very passionate about agriculture. I am currently an Agricultural Communications major with an Agronomy minor at Oklahoma State University, and I keep tabs on many of the debates going on in the agricultural industry today. Through one of my Honors writing classes in the English Department at my university, I had the chance to read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. I struggled to finish the book, merely for the fact it goes against everything I believe in. Since then, I have read his other books and followed Pollan's tour. Michael Pollan makes any farmer that is advancing technologically out to be a bad guy that is not concerned about the environment. While there are some farmers who do not care, those are very few and far between. Farmers and ranchers make their living off of the land, and to make a good living, they must take care of the land. Plants and animals must also be kept healthy and happy in order to produce to their capabilities. Yes, farmers and ranchers make money off of their products, but they cannot do so without being shepherds of the land. This fact is very often left out by those against “conventional agriculture,” including Michael Pollan.
Michael Pollan is not directly related to agriculture in anyway. He is merely a journalist and a damn good one when it comes to pulling at people’s heartstrings. He does not always paint a clear picture of modern agriculture, or of the agriculturists. Without the advances in agriculture we are experiencing today, food would be harder to come by and much more expensive. With the world’s population expected to increase by three billion people by 2050, people cannot afford to turn back to farming practices of long ago or the hunter gatherer methods that he suggests in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Please, read what the real agriculturists have to say before going on the judgments of Michael Pollan. He does give a great presentation, and if I didn’t know better, I would believe him too. There is currently less than three percent of the population tied to agriculture in the United States. That 3 percent produces enough food to feed everyone in the country and more. Without agriculture, the United States would not have any other problems. We would not have to worry about politics or any other issues that are on the forefront of our minds because we would constantly be worried about how we would get our next meal. Is that a world you want to live in? I certainly do not.

Trent Loos said...

Excuse me... but I do not believe anyone who is not willing to post comments along with their name can be critical of someone who is willing to speak their mind about the issue...YES I was there Trent Loos

Anonymous said...

Whether or not I post my name has nothing to do with it. I just thought it seemed inappropriate for someone who did not attend the event to make statements about it. And YES, I too was there. I also attended your session Trent because I think it is important to understand how people with differing opinions are viewing some of the same issues. It was....enlightening.

Anonymous said...

"Cheap food seems cheap at the register," he said, as part of his response to Sollman, "but if you look at the real cost in terms of health, in terms of subsidies, all the money that is spent to make that food cheap and the cost of eating it, you realize it isn't so cheap."