Been There, Heard Michael Pollan

I’m a huge Michael Pollan fan – for his excellent writing, his top-notch reporting and his dry wit. He spoke last night in San Francisco. Here are a few of his meatier (grass-fed, of course) thoughts:
“As we have spent less of our national income on food, we have seen ourselves spend more and more on health care.” “You have as many neurons in your digestive tract as in your spinal column. What are they thinking?” “Sex is the only thing we lie about more [than our food intake].” “Big nutritional studies are off by 20-30%. Nutritional science is about where surgery was in 1650.” We are focusing on finding the “evil nutrient” in the Western diet, rather than the “elephant in the room” – the diet itself. We have framed it as a battle between “blessed nutrients” vs. “evil nutrients.” “As soon as you demonize one nutrient, you give a free pass to other nutrients.” For example, when fats were evil, we binged on carbs, like the infamous Snackwells. Supermarkets are filled with too many “edible food-like substances” that never go bad. “Those bacteria and fungi are still in touch with their food instincts” and won’t go near that stuff in the center of the store. The health care industry will save $500,000 for every case of Type 2 diabetes we can prevent. But that will only become important if the health care industry can’t cherry pick and has to cover everyone. “If any one wall stands between us and changing the system, it’s the House Committee on Agriculture.” Why can’t there be committee members who represent eaters, not just agricultural states? “There’s this unholy alliance between the hunger lobby and the corn lobby. One leaves food stamps alone and the other leaves agricultural subsidies alone.”
Since I’ve been doing work with the San Francisco Food Bank, this statement really saddens me. He’s referring to past farm bills, which also have included all the funding for food stamps and other food assistance programs. It’s ridiculous to link these two agendas, and nobody wants quality food more than hunger advocates. The unfortunate truth is, the “hunger lobby” has been forced to sleep with the devil, because they’d rather do that than watch people go hungry. There’s a real lack of attention to hunger issues by those seeking to reform our food systems – and those in poverty would be severely affected by an upward adjustment of food prices. It’s crucial that food advocates and hunger advocates join together to make sure everyone has food that is good, clean and fair. OK, end of editorial. More Pollan:
We need to connect the dots between production, health and climate change when it comes to food. Creating a “food czar” might help do that. “The Department of Agriculture treats food as a production problem.”
What’s Pollan working on at the moment?
“I have a young readers’ edition of The Omnivore’s Dilemma coming up in the fall.”
He’s also been asked by doctors to put together his rules for eating (aside from the seven-word mantra on the cover of In Defense of Food – “Eat food. Not to much. Mostly plants.”) If you have a personal food rule you’d like to share, you can email it to
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