Industrial Agriculture and What NOT to Read During Summer Vacation

Washington State University assigned Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma to all incoming freshmen as required summer reading.  The idea: to spur a debate about industrial agriculture and its impact on American society.  Great idea, right?  I guess not.  Citing “budget constraints,” the university has withdrawn the book.

According to this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (pay site, but you can get a cheap day pass…), not everyone buys the administration’s explanation for this turnabout, especially since the university had already purchased 4,000 copies of the book.

The article notes:

“What we were told is that when the committee picked The Omnivore’s Dilemma, because of the politics of the agriculture industry, we would not be having a common reading, and that President Floyd decided that this was not a battle he wanted to wage,” said one person who had knowledge of the program and asked not to be named because of fear of job loss.

Jeff Sellen, an instructor at the university who sat on a committee in charge of implementing the reading program, says members of that panel were told “we could not call it a ‘common reading.'”

“I think that was important because it would be less official and would maybe fly underneath the radar,” he says. “It was obvious that it was political.”

I don’t know what the reason(s) were; I only know what I read.  But I sure wish those Washington State freshmen were reading this book…

–David Cassuto

Give Michael Pollan Some Rules for Eating Well

Michael Pollan (of Omnivore’s Dilemma & In Defense of Food fame), is looking for rules for eating well.  He says:

Will you send me a food rule you try to live by? Something perhaps passed down by your parents or grandparents? Or something you’ve come up with to tell your children – or yourself?

I will post your suggestions on my Web site and plan to include the best in a collection of food rules I’m now compiling. Thanks in advance for your contribution.

Given the size of Pollan’s audience and his commitment to exploring the ethics of food, this might be an excellent opportunity for those of us who hope to change the American way of eating to offer some suggestions for how to do so.