Michael Pollan on the Future of American Food Policy

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

With food prices rising, many fear that the era of cheap and abundant food is drawing to a close. Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and Omnivore’s Dilemma, talks about what our next president should do about American food policy. His recent article in the New York Times Magazine is "Farmer in Chief."


Michael Pollan

Comments [20]

Ellis R Lamme from Georgia

Growing your own food to feed your familey in this economy is a necessity to sustain life. The American way of life as we know it is changing and we better get moving before it is to late to do anything about it. We in this nation need to remember the story about the Little Red Hen and the Grasshopper. Play time is over. Let us get to work. We do not need permission to do this. If we wait on goverment we all will starve.

Feb. 14 2009 12:27 PM
Julianne Stirling from Fairfield, CT

How can we get a petition going nominating Michael Pollan for Secretary of Agriculture? We need to get his name before the next President thousands of times. I read his book the Omnivores Dilemma and immediately bought four more to give as gifts. I have written to my congressmen about the industrialization of food and either got no response back, or a response that indicated they have no idea what is goin on. Can we get a congressman/woman on Leonard's show to discuss this?

Oct. 30 2008 08:00 AM
SB from SI, NY

When foods, such as corn, soy, wheat and tomato were genetically modified, many people such as myself suddenly developed allergies and sensitivities to these foods. Why hasn't more research been done to protect the general public from the unhealthy results of tampering with our staple foods? It's not even a matter of eating organically grown corn, soy and wheat. Once these foods were genetically modified, due to cross pollination, it is almost impossible to find unaltered forms of these foods.

Oct. 28 2008 10:30 AM
Tor from NJ

I love how well put his ideas are...
This single interview changed my perspective about farming overall, and, I truly believe that given a position of more power, he'd change the perspectives of millions of people.

Oct. 27 2008 11:13 AM

I concur with the previous posters - Michael Pollan for Secretary of Agriculture!

Oct. 26 2008 11:42 PM
Gerald Ray Smith from Chelsea, Michigan

Michael Pollan has carefully researched the U.S. farm system for some years, and he offers us a set of sound principles that will guide us to a healthier, more sustainable food system. It is important to realize that he is not attacking farmers, but subsidies for unhealthy food and destruction of soil. The push-back is coming primarily from the few giant corporations that profit from poisonous products and unsustainable practices. Thanks to WNYC for airing this interview.

Oct. 24 2008 10:09 AM
db from nyc

I second the movement: Michael Pollan for secretary of agriculture!


Oct. 23 2008 09:50 AM
Phyllis Wrynn from Brooklyn, NY

Michael Pollan is a true hero for deconstructing such an enormously complex and crucial topic and offering that vital information to us. Everything he says makes so much sense! Yes, do NOT allow empty caloried foods to be bought with food stamps. Of course! It's so simple, but utterly transforming as an idea. Read the labels, determine food utility or lack of it and eliminate totally useless foods from the diets of millions of people. I don't care a bit if it sounds elitist. It's excellent policy and just like the bans on smoking and hydrogenated fats, it will allow people to be healthier and save many lives. Yes! Secretary of Agriculture. Perfect!

Oct. 22 2008 08:13 PM
JL from Massachusetts

JP yes by acreage organics are a small part of the overall acreage but:

• Growth in retail sales has equaled 20 percent or more annually since 1990. Organic products are now available in nearly 20,000 natural foods stores, and are sold in 73 percent of all conventional grocery stores. Organics are currently the only sector of the market showing any positive growth over this same period.
• According to the most recent USDA estimates, U.S. certified organic cropland doubled between
1992 and 1997, to 1.3 million acres.
. in 2000 More organic food was sold in conventional supermarkets then anywhere else.

So somehow I think your condescending comments about $6 tomatoes is slightly inaccurate and kind of hyperbolic. May have been true in the 90's but no longer with the (not necessarily good) loosening of organic regulations organic food is available at both McDonalds and at high end markets and restaurants.

With the increase in the price of and availability of fuel and other petroleum based subsidized crop amendments I think the "real farmers" who have used monocrops and large scale industrial feedlot techniques you so quickly rush to defend may become an endangered species unless they reinvent themselves as the stewards of several diversified and ecologically connected small businesses. as you mention without large government subsidies they aren't really doing so well anyway and are at the mercy of nature and climate conditions just like the rest of us.

Oct. 22 2008 04:00 PM
anonyme from NY NY

JP from Hackensack: That's exactly the problem - mass food is not sustainable and is potentially toxic to boot - also nutritionally a joke as well, with all teh processing that makes it a national food chain- we have to localize. Cheap food has very little content and often a lot of toxicity.

Oct. 22 2008 03:58 PM
JP from Hackensack


Small family farms are great for the local farmer’s market. But they really don’t even make a dent in the food chain on a national scale. Right now organic farming is more of a hobby then actually coming close to feeding the nation. Most people can’t afford organic $6 tomatoes.

You really need to spend some time in the mid west where the real farming is done. I suggest a week in Iowa. It’s the scariest because it’s the most developed state in the country because it has so much farmland. What you call factory farms are actually family farms. There is just no such thing as a small family farm out there anymore and it’s been gone since about the 70’s. Corn and soy are comedies and that’s all they grow. The farmer does not get to set the price. Dry year? To bad… To much rain? To bad… subsidies or not, the farmer literally has to get every bit out of every acre on his farm just to make ends meet. The idea that farmers of these 1000 plus acre farms are driving around in Cadillac’s are just not true.

In the real time existence of Iowa and other mid west states, If you want these 1000 acre plus farms to go organic then you have to make organic farming competitive with commercial farming. You can’t just break up these “factory farms” or put them out of business and you cant demand that people pay $6 tomatoes when they can’t afford it. That’s going backwards.

Oct. 22 2008 03:07 PM
Kai from NYC

@ JP

We are already giving huge subsidies to US agriculture (primarily big ag.) Why not direct subsidies away from factory farmers and direct them to the sustainable/organic family farms that can be considered as such by owning a certain number of acres, make under a certain gross income, etc.

As always, society and everything therein is a human construct, and any values a society wills can be created in that image.

Even is if it is incredibly difficult, if sustainable/organic ag. is what is wanted in the US, it can be so.

Oct. 22 2008 02:01 PM
Sheree from Manhattan

Thank you for having Michael Pollan on your show. He has thought so deeply and written so clearly on these essential topics. Amen, Pollan Fan from Brooklyn.

Oct. 22 2008 01:58 PM
Pollan Fan from Brooklyn

Michael Pollan for secretary of agriculture!

Oct. 22 2008 01:55 PM
mc from manhattan

Give me a break. You can't purchase a lot of healthy foods on food assistance programs.

Oct. 22 2008 01:53 PM
JP from Hackensack

So what do you do with all the family farms (real farmers) in the mid west? Most of them are 1000 plus acres. How do they make a profit on these farms when their profit margins are extremely thin and would disappear if they had to use current organic farming practices.

Oct. 22 2008 01:52 PM

should food stamps cover seeds and garden supplies for folks who want to grow their own veggies?

Oct. 22 2008 01:49 PM

how might improvements in information technology and increased understanding of biology help with moving towards more sustainable agriculture?

Oct. 22 2008 01:47 PM
Kathy from Long Island, NY

According to Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," California tomato growers are (or were) reimbursed for their shipping costs by the US government (aka our tax dollars) so they didn't have to factor shipping into the cost of their produce. Is that no longer the case?

Oct. 22 2008 01:44 PM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

The corn-growers are now running ads to combat the growing opposition to high fructose corn syrup. It usually involves somebody objecting to food with it and then being unable to explain why.

Oct. 22 2008 01:34 PM

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