Agribusiness Attacks “Omnivore” Michael Pollan

Even if agribusiness could shut Michael Pollan up, the outspoken author of Omnivore’s Dilemma and a journalism professor at University of California, Berkeley, it still has the Los Angeles Times to contend with.

Last week, the Times blasted California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo for downgrading a scheduled Pollan lecture because it received pressure from David E. Wood, a university donor who happens to be chairman of the Harris Ranch Beef Co.

“Agribusiness gets plenty of opportunities to preach its point of view at agriculture schools such as Cal Poly, where the likes of Monsanto and Cargill fund research,” the Times wrote, calling the 800-acre Harris Ranch, near Coalinga, whose “smell assaults passersby long before the panorama of thousands of cattle packed atop layers of their own manure,”–“Cowschwitz.” Ouch.

And agribusiness has the University of Wisconsin-Madison to deal with.

The land grant, ag-based university, in the middle of dairyland, clearly doesn’t remember its roots. It gave Pollan’s In Defense of Food, another anti-agbiz screed according to industry, free to all incoming freshmen as part of its common book read program where everyone reads the same book, Go Big Read, in August.

“I have not seen the students this excited about something in years,” Irwin Goodman, horticulture professor and vice dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences told the Associated Press as the James Beard Award-winning book was discussed in French and political science classes and included in an exhibit on the history of food.

Protesting farmers who came to hear Pollan speak at the university’s 17,000-seat Kohl Center in September wearing matching green T-shirts which said “In Defense of Farming: Eat Food. Be Healthy. Thank Farmers.” were clearly outnumbered. So were bumper stickers reading No Food; No Farms and Don’t Criticize Farmers With Your Mouth Full in the parking lot.

Students get all their facts from writers like Pollan, the farmers, who were bussed in by Madison-based feed company Vita Plus, told the Capital Times. They have never visited a farm for first-hand knowledge of food production and don’t know what they’re talking about.

pigs

But efforts to open farms to the public are not always successful.

This month United Egg Producers’ “Opening the Barn Doors” media tour at Morning Fresh Farms in northern Colorado, for example, only confirmed the size of today’s egg farm that make humane conditions impossible (36 barns; 23,000 birds each, 23 million dozen eggs a year) and raised further questions about environmental blight by showing the press wearing white HazMat suits to enter the barns. (See: You want us to eat WHAT?)

Last month the American Egg Board rolled out a kid-focused “The Good Egg” campaign which includes sponsorship of Sesame Street, a Cookie Monster product placement and a feel good virtual tour to soften public opinion about egg farms. But nowhere does the campaign address the daily grinding up of newborn males even as they hatch at the hatcheries which supply egg farms to provide the industry with only females–a practice that United Egg Producers confirms is routine. Does the Cookie Monster know about that?

Nor can all that crowding and all those chemicals be good for you, Pollan has written and many studies suggest.

But agribusiness is also combating last year’s American Institute for Cancer Research and World Cancer Research Fund study that found the link between processed meats and colon cancer so strong, the organizations advised consumers to change their eating habits.

Trent Loos, an outspoken columnist with the agbiz weekly, Feedstuffs, says nitrosamines, found in processed or cured meat and widely believed carcinogenic, may actually be good for you, preventing and treating “cardiovascular and other diseases associated with nitric oxide insufficiency in the diet.”

“Nitric oxide is an important signaling molecule in the human body to regulate numerous physiological functions including blood flow to tissues and organs,” write Loos of research conducted by Dr. Nathan Bryan at the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Texas, Houston. “The regular intake of nitrite-containing food appears to ensure that blood and tissue levels of nitrite and nitric oxide pools in the body are maintained at adequate levels.”

Some of the ag press has even picked up the theory–but don’t expect a Pollan book called In Defense of Nitrites anytime soon.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. Her first book, titled Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, has just been released by Prometheus Books. She can be reached at: martharosenberg@sbcglobal.net. Read other articles by Martha.

2 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. kalidas said on October 21st, 2009 at 2:29pm #

    This is ONE years worth of animal slaughter on this earth.

    – 45,895 million (45.9 billion) chickens
    — 2,262 million (2.3 billion) ducks
    — 1,244 million (1.2 billion) pigs
    — 857 million rabbits
    — 691 million turkeys
    — 533 million geese
    — 515 million sheep
    — 345 million goats
    — 292 million cows and calves (for beef and veal)
    — 65 million other rodents (not including rabbits)
    — 63 million pigeons and other birds
    — 23 million buffalo
    — 4 million horses
    — 3 million donkeys and mules
    — 2 million camels (and other camelids)

    There is, by the laws of material nature a karmic reaction to this tidal wave of misery and death inflicted upon these innocent creatures.

    “To be nonviolent to human beings and to be a killer or enemy of the poor animals is Satan’s philosophy. In this age there is always enmity against poor animals, and therefore the poor creatures are always anxious. The reaction of the poor animals is being forced on human society, and therefore there is always strain of cold or hot war between men, individually, collectively or nationally.” A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.10.6)

  2. skippy said on October 22nd, 2009 at 11:37am #

    All you animal rights people need to start asking your selfs some questions. You are heading for a train wreck. Are you aware that 300 million acres of grain is planted world wide? Are you aware that the 300 million acres of grain are used to feed all the animals (Food chain an otherwise)? Are you aware that the animals eat genetically spliced grain? Are you aware that if humans eat that crain it could cause death? Are you aware there a limited amount of land and grain seed available for human grain production? Are you aware that even if humans could eat unaltered grain from the above 300 million acres that the price would skyrocket. The grain is altered with insecticide and herbicide without it labor cost wood push prices 100 times what they are. Dont any of you look before you leap?