WSW: Michael Pollan on Food's Connection to Health, Environment and Culture

Nov 3, 2014

Credit U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wikimedia Commons


Michael Pollan says our current food system is not a product of the "free market." 

He says the rules set by government policy are very important, and hard to change. Pollan says food is linked to health and many of the top diseases that lead to death. He says the government, under heavy influence from corporate interests, is subsidizing the foods that are the least healthy. 

Michael Pollan
Credit Fran Collin

Pollan is the author of several books on food. He is also a Journalism Professor at the University of California-Berkley. Pollan will speak Thursday at Miller Auditorium, as part of Western Michigan University's Center for the Humanities "Healing Arts" series. He will hold a "Community Conversation About Food" for the Kalamazoo Community Foundation's 2014 Community Meeting.      

That foods that aren't good for us are the most inexpensive "is not an accident" according to Pollan. He says government subsidies for corn and soy subsidizes an unhealthy diet. Pollan says the latest farm bill includes some incentives for fresh fruits and vegetables. But he says most subsidies from the government pays for food that the government tells us not to eat. 

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Asked about nutritional science and good sources of information, Pollan says "ask your grandmother." He wrote an essay for the New York Times in 2007 that advised "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Anecdotally, Pollan says he sees some evidence that those words have stuck. He says many people tell him of dramatic weight loss and improving health after reading those words. But Pollan says it's easier to sell convenient food that isn't good for you, than it is to sell the staples of a healthy diet.