Michael Pollan Tells Organic Gardening Magazine “Organic Is In Danger of Being Co-Opted”

MICHAEL POLLAN TELLS ORGANIC GARDENING MAGAZINE “ORGANIC IS IN DANGER OF BEING CO-OPTED” IN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Award-Winning Author Candidly Discusses What’s Truly Organic, First Lady Michelle Obama, and What He Sees For the Future Beyond Organic

NEW YORK and EMMAUS, PA, October 20, 2009-Award-winning author Michael Pollan speaks candidly about what’s truly organic, First Lady Michelle Obama, and what he sees for the future beyond organic in an exclusive interview that will appear in the November/December/January 2009-2010 issue of Organic Gardening magazine, on newsstands Tuesday, October 20th.

Pollan sat down with Organic Gardening Managing Editor Therese Ciesinski for an interview in his garden situated in the hills of Berkeley, California. During this controversial conversation, Pollan reveals his opinion of what’s truly organic stating that “organic is in danger of being co-opted” and that he’s been on organic factory farms and “…if most organic consumers went to those places, they would feel they were getting ripped off.” He went on to say he thinks “…organic risks a real crisis of perception if the values that they’re selling don’t accurately reflect the practices they’re engaging in. They’re organic by the letter, not organic in spirit.”

Pollan went on to praise First Lady Michelle Obama for her efforts to emphasize the importance of fresh food. “She talks about organic, but she [also] talks about fresh. Basically, getting away from processed food is key. And if you’re eating produce, and it’s not organic, it’s a big step up from eating processed food. All these partial steps are very important.”

During the interview Pollan also discusses what he sees for the future beyond organic, what’s missing from our food chain, and the question, “Can organic feed the world?.”

“Michael Pollan and essayists like him are nightlights in the hallway of the world, guiding us around the issues and controversies of our times; we may not always agree with where he is taking us, but there’s no denying he makes us think and look from different angles, which is why Organic Gardening is pleased to welcome him to our pages for this exclusive interview,” said Ethne Clarke, Editor in Chief of Organic Gardening.

For any image requests or full article PDF, please contact Erin Clinton at 212-808-1683 or Erin.Clinton@Rodale.com.

Select quotes from Michael Pollan’s exclusive interview with Organic Gardening:

Pollan on what’s truly organic…
“Organic is in danger of being co-opted. I’ve been on organic factory farms, and if most organic consumers went to those places, they would feel they were getting ripped off. I think organic risks a real crisis of perception if the values that they’re selling don’t accurately reflect the practices they’re engaging in. They’re organic by the letter, not organic in spirit.”

Pollan on First Lady Michelle Obama…
“The future is [people] really making the connections between food and energy and climate change, and food and health care. Watch what Michelle Obama is doing. That’s really important stuff: her emphasis on fresh food. She talks about organic, but she [also] talks about fresh. Basically, getting away from processed food is key. And if you’re eating produce, and it’s not organic, it’s a big step up from eating processed food. All these partial steps are very important.”

Pollan on what he sees for the future…
“I think we’re going to see a lot of growth in alternative food chains, all of them, local and organic. I think pastured meat production is going to get a lot bigger. The importance of grass as a way to both provide healthy meat that people want and to sequester carbon in the soil [will become better recognized]. I can image in 5 years that there will be grass-fed beef in every supermarket.”

Pollan on the question: Can organic feed the world?
“…Even if you can’t feed the world organically, and I don’t know that you can’t-there are very good arguments that you can-even if you just feed half the world organically, you’d be doing so much for the land, so much for our health, so much for the atmosphere, that it’s well worth doing. So the fact that you might not be able to get all the way does not damn the effort to try. And so I don’t think people should be discouraged by that.”

“But ‘can organic feed the world?’ is a question really up for grabs. The honest answer is, we don’t know. I’ve seen research that suggests with really smart rotations and cover cropping there is enough nitrogen to do it. I also think that if we changed our relationship to meat, we probably could.”

Pollan on what’s missing from our food system…
“…What’s missing from our food system is resiliency. We have efficiency, but resiliency is a different value, and you get resiliency through redundancy. So we need organic, we need local, we need pasture-based, and we probably need industrial as well.”

Pollan on what the big problem is…
“The big problem is monoculture, right? Well, there’s monoculture in the field, there’s monoculture in the diet, and there’s monoculture in the head. And to say it’s got to be all organic, or all local or all grass-fed, is monoculture thinking. The answer is not to replace this sick food chain with one other food chain, because you could have a problem with that food chain. Organic doesn’t solve all of our problems.”

Pollan on if he prefers local foods to organic foods…
“No, I don’t. I support local, because in my experience here in California, local is organic…But if I were a supermarket shopper I would, because you can’t meet farmers face to face and you don’t really know what they’re doing, so to the extent people depend on the supermarket and are not interested in the farmers’ market, we need organic. If people are willing to put in more time and like the farmers’ market experience-because it is more than food that’s on offer there-[then] local, definitely.”

# # #

About Organic Gardening
For 65 years, Rodale’s Organic Gardening magazine has been inspiring and empowering readers with trusted information about how to work in harmony with nature in their gardens, and tread lightly on the environment in all aspects of their lives. As the essential resource for any gardener, Organic Gardening provides the most current and authoritative information available, with a focus on making the process of gardening fun and easy. It’s online property organicgardening.com delivers gardening techniques, solutions, and interactive discussions on organic principles. Organic Gardening leads the way toward a sustainable future with integrity, authority and relevance, providing editorial that shows readers how to care about their health, home and garden safely and naturally.

Contacts

Senior Manager, Communications, Women's Health
Erin Clinton
Erin.Clinton@Rodale.com
212-808-1683
Back to Top