Controversy erupts over Michael Pollan's Poly lecture
Harris Ranch Beef chairman calls for 'balanced forum'
BY KATHY JOHNSTON
Nationally known sustainable food expert Michael Pollan will now be part of a panel discussion at Cal Poly on Oct. 15 rather than giving his planned one-hour lecture. The recently announced format change comes on the heels of a letter to Cal Poly President Warren Baker from Harris Ranch Beef Company Chairman David E. Wood, threatening to withdraw a pledged $500,000 donation for a new meat processing facility on the campus.
“I find it unacceptable that the university would provide Michael Pollan an unchallenged forum to promote his stand against conventional agricultural practices,” Wood wrote in a Sept. 23 letter to Baker. The invitation “caused me to rethink my continued financial support of the university,” he wrote.
Pollan is the award-winning author of An Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and appears in a recent documentary, Food, Inc. He is a Knight Professor of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism.
The Sustainable Agriculture Resource Consortium, which invited Pollan to speak at a free lecture at 11 a.m. on Oct. 15 at the Performing Arts Center on campus, will now present “A Conversation with Michael Pollan,” which will also include Gary Smith, Monfort Endowed Chair in meat science at Colorado State University, and Myra Goodman, cofounder of organic vegetable company Earthbound Farms.
Baker replied to Wood in a Sept. 28 letter, “We are diligently working to create a more balanced forum for October 15. … Our singular goal is to provide our students with a full perspective on how the agriculture industry is working to be efficient in its production techniques, and to make sure that our students are familiar with the full range of ideas that are being advanced today.”
Each speaker will make opening comments before accepting written questions from the audience.
Harris Ranch spokesman Michael Smith, assistant to Wood, said in a phone interview from the beef company’s headquarters in Selma that a decision about funding for Cal Poly’s meat facility “has yet to be made.” Smith, a Cal Poly agriculture alumnus, said many alumni will be coming to the forum “as a show of force about the direction the College of Agriculture is taking.”
Smith said, “People across the nation are upset. They are saying enough is enough. This is bigger than Michael Pollan.” Read More
It’s very exciting for me to see that people are willing to stand up and defend agriculture and the need to grow enough food for everyone to eat against Michael Pollan. Three years ago when I would tell people about this guy and the lies and sensationalism that he used against my family and industry, most had never heard of him. Today, people are starting to realize that what he is promoting is reckless elitism. His plans would result in less food produced in a less efficient manner. He has tried to sell his ideas by blatantly misrepresenting the truth about modern production agriculture. And it’s not because he hasn’t seen it for himself. I spent two day with him back in 2002 as he was learning about the beef industry. But rather than sharing that knowledge with consumers, he chose to scare them instead. If he was the high quality writer that he’s given credit for, he wouldn’t have to sensationalize his stories to sell his books. Congratulations to Cal Poly and the alumni, who were instrumental in making sure Pollan’s one-sided half-truths aren’t the only story being told that day.