Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): Michael Pollan

What Michael Pollan gets wrong about Big Ag

Tractor in farm fieldJournalist Michael Pollan deserves credit for elevating the national conversation about food. Over the course of 25 years, his articles and books have thoughtfully contemplated the troubling side effects of the American diet and the way our food is produced.

But his latest piece in the New York Times Magazine reads like a script for a black and white Western, with food companies, agribusiness and commodity producers cast in the role of Bad Guy and local organic farmers and vegans cast as the Men in White Hats.

In Pollan’s script, the bad guys are responsible for everything from America’s weight problem and rising health care costs to widespread environmental degradation and monocultures that threaten national security. If only the law would get on the good guys’ side, he muses.

Food production is actually changing

All industries have issues that continually need to be addressed, and the food industry is no exception.

Agriculture consumes a lot of land and water and emits greenhouse gas emissions that must be curbed. And, yes, our diets have contributed to America’s obesity epidemic.

Except, our food system is changing, more than Pollan acknowledges.

The uptick in consumer demand for local, organic products is promising. So, too, are the contributions that Pollan’s so-called villains – the companies, agribusinesses and commodity farmers who produce what’s on our plate – are making to the environment. They deserve recognition. Read More »

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A national food policy? What the Bittman-Pollan op-ed missed

EDF's David Festa (left) met with farmers in two Yuma area irrigation districts this fall to learn more about irrigation efficiency.

EDF's David Festa (left) met with farmers in two Yuma area irrigation districts this fall to learn more about irrigation efficiency.

Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan have done a huge service with their writing by shining the spotlight on the way we produce and consume what’s on our plate. Together, the two have elevated the national dialogue on food. As they correctly point out in their recent Washington Post op-ed, the food industry touches everything from our health to the environment.

Agriculture sustains us. But agriculture also emits more greenhouse gases than all our cars, trucks, airplanes and trains combined. It consumes more than 80 percent of the world’s fresh water supply and pollutes rivers with fertilizer runoff that creates dead zones downstream. When we clear grasslands and forests to produce more food, we accelerate the loss of biodiversity. And yes, our diets have contributed to a rise in obesity.

The challenge is clear. We need to feed a growing population, but how do we do it without killing the planet in the process?

Read More »

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