Signs of hope in the American food system
By Michael Pollan, author, reprinted from The Washington Post
In the 10 years since I wrote “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” many things about the American food system have changed for the better, but perhaps the most important development — and potentially the most challenging to the long-term survival of that system — is the fact that the question at the heart of my book has moved to the heart of our culture.
I hasten to add this is not my doing. When I wrote the book, Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation” and Marion Nestle’s “Food Politics” had already helped pique the curiosity of Americans about the system that fed them. Yet, in general, all writers can really do is lift a sensitive finger to the cultural breeze and sense a coming change in the weather; very seldom do they actually change it themselves. (Or as one of my mentors once explained, “Journalists are at best short-term visionaries. Any more than that, no one would read them.”)
In fact, during the four years I spent researching the book, most of the time I felt like I was late to the story. Something about the public’s attitude toward food and farming was already shifting underfoot, and I became convinced my book was going to be dated on arrival. Food safety scandals, such as mad cow disease in England and outbreaks of E. coli contamination in fast food hamburgers in America, had raised disturbing questions about how we were producing meat. At the same time, climbing rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes had led many to wonder if perhaps Americans had developed a national eating disorder of some kind. Food, which is supposed to sustain us and give us pleasure, was making people anxious and sick. Why?Read more