Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan

Pollan speaking at Yale University
Born 6 February 1955 (1955-02-06) (age 56)
Long Island, New York, USA
Occupation Author, Journalist, Professor
Spouse Judith Belzer (m. 1987–present) «start: (1987)»"Marriage: Judith Belzer to Michael Pollan" Location: (linkback://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Pollan)

Michael Pollan (born February 6, 1955)[citation needed] is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.[1] A 2006 New York Times book review describes him as a "liberal foodie intellectual."[2]


Early years

Pollan was born on Long Island, New York to author and financial consultant Stephen Pollan and columnist Corky Pollan.[3] Pollan received a B.A. in English from Bennington College in 1977 and an M.A. in English from Columbia University in 1981.[4]



In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan describes four basic ways that human societies have obtained food: the current industrial system, the big organic operation, the local self-sufficient farm, and the hunter-gatherer. Pollan follows each of these processes—from a group of plants photosynthesizing calories through a series of intermediate stages, ultimately into a meal. Along the way, he suggests that there is a fundamental tension between the logic of nature and the logic of human industry, that the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world, and that industrial eating obscures crucially important ecological relationships and connections. On December 10, 2006 The New York Times named The Omnivore's Dilemma one of the five best nonfiction books of the year. On May 8, 2007, the James Beard Foundation named The Omnivore's Dilemma its 2007 winner for the best food writing. It was the book of focus for the University of Pennsylvania's Reading Project in 2007, and the book of choice for Washington State University's Common Reading Program in 2009-10. An excerpt of the book was published in Mother Jones.[5]

Michael Pollan speaks to the Marin Academy community.

Pollan's discussion of the industrial food chain is in large part a critique of modern agribusiness. According to the book, agribusiness has lost touch with the natural cycles of farming, wherein livestock and crops intertwine in mutually beneficial circles. Pollan's critique of modern agribusiness focuses on what he describes as the overuse of corn for purposes ranging from fattening cattle to massive production of corn oil, high-fructose corn syrup, and other corn derivatives. He describes what he sees as the inefficiencies and other drawbacks of factory farming and gives his assessment of organic food production and what it's like to hunt and gather food. He blames those who set the rules (i.e., politicians in Washington, D.C., bureaucrats at the United States Department of Agriculture, Wall Street capitalists, and agricultural conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland) of what he calls a destructive and precarious agricultural system that has wrought havoc upon the diet, nutrition, and well-being of Americans. Pollan finds hope in Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm in Virginia, which he sees as a model of sustainability in commercial farming. Pollan appears in the documentary film King Corn (2007).

In The Botany of Desire, Pollan explores the concept of co-evolution, specifically of humankind's evolutionary relationship with four plants — apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes — from the dual perspectives of humans and the plants. He uses case examples that fit the archetype of four basic human desires, demonstrating how each of these botanical species are selectively grown, bred, and genetically engineered. The apple reflects the desire for sweetness, the tulip beauty, the marijuana intoxication, and the potato control. Pollan then unravels the narrative of his own experience with each of the plants, which he intertwines with a well-researched exploration into their social history. Each section presents a unique element of human domestication, or the "human bumblebee" as Pollan calls it. These range from the true story of Johnny Appleseed to Pollan's first-hand research with sophisticated marijuana hybrids in Amsterdam, to the alarming and paradigm-shifting possibilities of genetically engineered potatoes.

Pollan speaking at TED in 2007

Pollan's book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, released on January 1, 2008, explores the relationship with what he terms nutritionism and the Western diet, with a focus on late 20th century food advice given by the science community. Pollan holds that consumption of fat and dietary cholesterol do not lead to a higher rate of coronary disease, and that the reductive analysis of food into nutrient components is a flawed paradigm. He questions the view that the point of eating is to promote health, pointing out that this attitude is not universal and that cultures that perceive food as having purposes of pleasure, identity, and sociality may end up with better health. He explains this seeming paradox by vetting, and then validating, the notion that nutritionism and, therefore, the whole Western framework through which we intellectualize the value of food is more a religious and faddish devotion to the mythology of simple solutions than a convincing and reliable conclusion of incontrovertible scientific research. Pollan spends the rest of his book explicating his first three phrases: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." He contends that most of what Americans now buy in supermarkets, fast food stores, and restaurants is not in fact food, and that a practical tip is to eat only those things that people of his grandmother's generation would have recognized as food.

In 2009, his most recent book, Food Rules: An Eater's Manual was published. This short work is a condensed version of his previous efforts, intended to provide a simple framework for healthy and sustainable diet. It is divided into three sections, further explicating Pollan's principles of "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." It includes his rules (i.e., "let others sample your food" and "the whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead").

Pollan has contributed to Greater Good, a social psychology magazine published by the Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley. His article "Edible Ethics" discusses the intersection of ethical eating and social psychology.

In his 1998 book A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder, Pollan methodically traced the design and construction of the out-building where he writes. The 2008 re-release of this book was re-titled A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams.

Other work

Pollan is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, a former executive editor for Harper's Magazine, and author of five books: In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (2008) The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006), The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World (2001), A Place of My Own (1997), and Second Nature A Gardener's Education (1991).

His recent work has dealt with the practices of the meat industry, and he has written a number of articles on trends in American agriculture. He has received the Reuters World Conservation Union Global Awards in environmental journalism, the James Beard Foundation Awards for best magazine series in 2003, and the Genesis Award from the American Humane Association. His articles have been anthologized in Best American Science Writing (2004), Best American Essays (1990 and 2003), The Animals: Practicing Complexity (2006) and the Norton Book of Nature Writing (1990).

Pollan co-starred in the documentary, Food, Inc. (2008), for which he was also a consultant. In 2010 Pollan was interviewed for the film Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?, a feature length documentary about honey bees and colony collapse disorder.[6]

Personal life

Pollan is married to landscape painter Judith Belzer; the couple met while attending Bennington College. They have a son, Isaac.[7][8] Pollan's sister is actress Tracy Pollan, the wife of Michael J. Fox.


Writing in the American Enterprise Institute's magazine, Blake Hurst argues that Pollan offers a shallow assessment of factory farming that does not take cost into account.[9] Daniel Engber criticized Pollan in Slate for arguing that food is too complex a subject to study scientifically and blaming reductionism for today's health ills, while at the same time using nutritional research to justify his own diet advice. He compares Pollan's "straight-forward" anti-scientific method based on only rhetoric to that used by health gurus of history who have peddled diet scams.[10]




  1. ^ Graduate School of Journalism (2008). "Faculty: Michael Pollan". UC Berkeley. http://journalism.berkeley.edu/faculty/pollan. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  2. ^ David Kamp (August 23, 2006). "'The Omnivore's Dilemma,' by Michael Pollan: Deconstructing Dinner". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/23/books/review/23kamp.html?_r=1. 
  3. ^ Helen Wagenvoord (May 2, 2004). "The High Price of Cheap Food". The San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/05/02/CMGE560U5I1.DTL. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  4. ^ Russell Schoch (January 4, 2004). "Q & A: A Conversation with Michael Pollan". California Monthly. http://michaelpollan.com/interviews/q-a-a-conversation-with-michael-pollan/. Retrieved 2011-09-12. 
  5. ^ Pollan, Michael (May 2006). "No Bar Code". Mother Jones. http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2006/05/no_bar_code.html. Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  6. ^ Michael Pollan. Queen of the Sun.
  7. ^ Price, Catherine (2007-05-07). "How Michael Pollan Ruined My Life". The San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2006/05/07/INGRFIL0AK1.DTL. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  8. ^ Chapman, Sasha (2008-08-30). "Slow down, you're eating too fast". The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/GIS.Servlets.HTMLTemplate?tf=tgam/common/SearchFullStoryPrint.html&cf=tgam/common/GenericSearch.cfg&configFileLoc=tgam/config&encoded_keywords=food&option=&current_row=6&start_row=6&num_rows=1&search_results_start=1. Retrieved 2008-09-21. [dead link]
  9. ^ Hurst, Blake. "The Omnivore’s Delusion: Against the Agri-intellectuals". http://www.american.com/archive/2009/july/the-omnivore2019s-delusion-against-the-agri-intellectuals. 
  10. ^ Engber, Daniel. "Survival of the Yummiest: Should we buy Michael Pollan's nutritional Darwinism?". http://www.slate.com/id/2158736. 

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