[permaculture] Michael Pollan @ Cal Poly: "dustup" with beef industry! (new times)

Wesley Roe and Santa Barbara Permaculture Network lakinroe at silcom.com
Sat Oct 10 09:31:33 EDT 2009

Begin forwarded message:

>Times SLO | Publishing Local News and 
>Entertainment for over 20 years in San Luis 
>Obispo County
>Controversy erupts over Michael Pollan's Poly lecture
>Harris Ranch Beef chairman calls for 'balanced forum'
>Award-winning environmental journalist Kathy 
>Johnston can be reached 
>at <mailto:kjohnston at newtimesslo.com>kjohnston at newtimesslo.com.
>- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
>Nationally known sustainable food expert Michael 
>Pollan will now be part of a panel discussion at 
>Cal Poly on Oct. 15 rather than giving his 
>planned one-hour lecture. The recently announced 
>format change comes on the heels of a letter to 
>Cal Poly President Warren Baker from Harris 
>Ranch Beef Company Chairman David E. Wood, 
>threatening to withdraw a pledged $500,000 
>donation for a new meat processing facility on 
>the campus.
>"I find it unacceptable that the university 
>would provide Michael Pollan an unchallenged 
>forum to promote his stand against conventional 
>agricultural practices," Wood wrote in a Sept. 
>23 letter to Baker. The invitation "caused me to 
>rethink my continued financial support of the 
>university," he wrote.
>Pollan is the award-winning author of "An 
>Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food," 
>and appears in a recent documentary, Food, Inc. 
>He is a Knight Professor of Journalism at 
>University of California, Berkeley, Graduate 
>School of Journalism.
>The Sustainable Agriculture Resource Consortium, 
>which invited Pollan to speak at a free lecture 
>at 11 a.m. on Oct. 15 at the Performing Arts 
>Center on campus, will now present "A 
>Conversation with Michael Pollan," which will 
>also include Gary Smith, Monfort Endowed Chair 
>in meat science at Colorado State University, 
>and Myra Goodman, cofounder of organic vegetable 
>company Earthbound Farms.
>Baker replied to Wood in a Sept. 28 letter, "We 
>are diligently working to create a more balanced 
>forum for October 15. Š Our singular goal is to 
>provide our students with a full perspective on 
>how the agriculture industry is working to be 
>efficient in its production techniques, and to 
>make sure that our students are familiar with 
>the full range of ideas that are being advanced 
>Baker's letter also stated his appreciation for 
>Harris Ranch's financial support, noting, "It's 
>your prerogative to direct it elsewhere if you 
>are so inclined. It is possible such a decision 
>may result in the delay of Cal Poly's 
>construction of a meat processing center Š In 
>the end, I fervently hope that you choose to 
>support Cal Poly."
>According to the dean of the College of 
>Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences, 
>David Wehner, the decision to change Pollan's 
>lecture format to include a representative from 
>the beef production industry did not necessarily 
>result from the Harris Ranch letter.
>"We had planned to have some kind of panel, 
>whether it was on the same day, the next day, or 
>a week later," he told New Times.
>Wehner said he is "not worried" about Harris 
>Ranch withdrawing funding from Cal Poly, adding, 
>"It's their prerogative. If they pull it, they 
>pull it." The new $5 million meat processing 
>facility is about to go out for construction 
>bids, he said.
>It was Pollan's decision to join a panel 
>discussion, rather than speaking beforehand, the 
>dean said.
>"A fair number of students will already have 
>read Michael Pollan's writings. Having a 
>discussion with him is actually going to be more 
>valuable," Wehner said. "It's a sustainability 
>event, and we wanted to hear about how the 
>industry is doing more with less-less water, 
>less fertilizer, less pesticide."
>Each speaker will make opening comments before 
>accepting written questions from the audience.
>Harris Ranch spokesman Michael Smith, assistant 
>to Wood, said in a phone interview from the beef 
>company's headquarters in Selma that a decision 
>about funding for Cal Poly's meat facility "has 
>yet to be made." Smith, a Cal Poly agriculture 
>alumnus, said many alumni will be coming to the 
>forum "as a show of force about the direction 
>the College of Agriculture is taking."
>Smith said, "People across the nation are upset. 
>They are saying enough is enough. This is bigger 
>than Michael Pollan."
>The Sustainable Agriculture Resource 
>Consortium's director, Hunter Francis, said with 
>the new format, "the audience will hear 
>something they won't hear anywhere else." The 
>newly added industry representatives, he said, 
>will attract a wider audience to the event.
>"Our goal is to involve as many people as 
>possible in discussions on how to improve the 
>sustainability of our agriculture production and 
>food system. People really seem ready to have 
>this discussion. Michael Pollan has raised many 
>people's awareness," Francis said.
>The letter from Harris Ranch Beef Company did 
>not surprise him, since Pollan is critical of 
>production agriculture. "Harris Ranch is facing 
>their own challenges with regulations, water 
>resources, and the economy," he added.
>In a follow-up letter to President Baker dated 
>Sept. 30, Wood and Smith of Harris Ranch wrote, 
>"We applaud Cal Poly for negotiating a 
>'compromise format' for the exchange of ideas 
>and representation of opposing views. Š The 
>views of elitists like Michael Pollan can no 
>longer go unchallenged."
>Their letter also stated, "We find it 
>incredulous that the Sustainable Agriculture 
>Resource Consortium Š has been allowed to 
>operate as an autonomous entity" that made an 
>independent decision to invite Pollan to speak. 
>The Harris Ranch representatives pointed out, 
>"Effective September 25th, SARC now officially 
>answers to CAFES [College of Agriculture, Food 
>and Environmental Sciences]."
>The sustainability group has been working for 
>some time to become an official Sustainability 
>Center under the agriculture college, according 
>to Francis. That process is nearing completion.
>Wood's letter to Baker also criticized the 
>viewpoint of Animal Science Department professor 
>Rob Rutherford, a sheep specialist who is 
>chairman of the California Sheep Commission and 
>president of the California Wool Growers 
>Association. Smith of Harris Ranch had a phone 
>conversation with Rutherford about 
>sustainability, and Rutherford's opinions 
>"provided me with both displeasure and outright 
>anger towards the university," Wood wrote.
>"I have shared Mr. Rutherford's opinions with a 
>number of Cal Poly graduates, donors, and others 
>in the ag industry. They are uniformly shocked Š 
>They have likewise questioned whether they 
>should continue to support the university," his 
>letter stated.
>Wood suggested that Rutherford should be removed 
>from teaching a required class called "Issues in 
>Animal Agriculture."
>Rutherford later told New Times the faculty 
>recently voted, in an unrelated action, to 
>eliminate the requirement for that class but to 
>keep offering it.
>Regarding the evolving word "sustainability," 
>Rutherford said, "We're trying to sustain 
>civilization. It's a matter of using the tools 
>at our disposal in an effective fashion, to feed 
>people and all organisms far, far into the 
>He added, "The purpose of a university-the root 
>word is universe-is to explore as many different 
>ideas as we can. Students ought to be capable of 
>critical thinking and analysis."
>Rutherford welcomes the idea of a Sustainability 
>Center at Cal Poly, not just for organic farming 
>but also for architecture and engineering.
>"I'm certain it will cause conversations. I think that's what we're about."
>  >>

More information about the permaculture mailing list