Michael Pollan Feels the Heat

130328_FoodPoliceBadge picMichael Pollan of the University of California-Berkeley School of Journalism has had quite a week – and not in a good way.  He is taking fire from all sides after instigating an all-out Twitter war by putting his anti-corporate agenda ahead of scientific innovation over attempts to save the Florida citrus crop. At the same time, Missouri farmers ripped the self-appointed foodie king for his self-righteousness in The American.

Pollan Tweeted in response to a story by New York Times science writer Amy Harmon exploring the use of genetic engineering — yes, the unfairly maligned “GMO” — to save Florida oranges from a devastating disease. The story received high praise from many in the scientific community, including National Geographic’s executive environment editor Dennis Dimick, who called it a ”Must Read,” and environmental journalist Marc Gunther who characterized it as a “Terrific story.”

But not Pollan. Perhaps because the story didn’t bash biotechnology, he took a blatant cheap shot at Harmon, accusing her of being a mouthpiece for big industry by using “2 many industry talking pts [sic].” That didn’t sit well with the scientific community. The full onslaught can be found at Pollan’s Twitter page, but a few of our favorites:

@amy_harmon @michaelpollan sadly seems he’s not comnfortable w/ facts unless they’re spun to support organic industry. Always ginding an axe – Val Giddings, biotechnology expert

calling @amy_harmon, as fair a sciece writer as there is, a shill for her GMO oranges story is new low in @michaepollan’s anti-GMO crusade – Michael Eisen, Harvard educated biologist

But it didn’t stop there. Once it became apparent that Pollan was too sheepish to respond to criticism, others began antagonizing him even further. From Ed Yong, an award-winning science writer: “So, @michaelpollan fires a cheap shot at @amy_harmon’s thorough, nuanced reporting on GMOs, then won’t even engage w/ criticism? Oy.”

And we’re pretty sure Pollan didn’t enjoy seeing an article in The American mocking a recent puff-piece interview of him published in Smithsonian Magazine. Two farmers from rural Missouri didn’t mince words in letting Pollan know how they could care less what a big city elitist thinks of GMOs and industrially-produced foods:

[Our family dinner table] this weekend included sweet corn grown ‘industrially’ on our farm, tomatoes from the most fungus resistant hybrid varieties we could find . . . and a hamburger from a local rancher’s herd. . . . We’ll continue to help produce large quantities of reasonably priced food that satisfies the wants and needs of a large number of people; that’s the actual crime we in the food industry have committed.

Amen. While we doubt these offensives from both the scientific community and rural farmers will do much in the way of changing Pollan’s views, it sure is refreshing every once in a while to see his attacks on those who doesn’t comply with his Bay Area ethics rebuked.

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