[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
>Controversy erupts over Michael Pollan's Poly lecture
>Harris Ranch Beef chairman calls for 'balanced forum'
>BY KATHY JOHNSTON
>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
>"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. 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 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
>"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. 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 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
>They have likewise questioned whether they
>should continue to support the university," his
>Wood suggested that Rutherford should be removed
>from teaching a required class called "Issues in
>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."
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