Last week in The New Yorker, Michael Pollan – a UC-Berkeley journalism professor, an activist, an author, and a journalist — was portrayed as a civil debater who can fairly argue against genetically improved foods (GIFs or GMOs). In reality, Pollan is a radical, science-denier who cannot be taken seriously in the scientific community. To show you just how far off he is, we have put together some of the craziest, most anti-science quotes that Pollan has said in the last few years. (It wasn’t too hard)
1. “No scientific consensus on GMO safety.”
Pollan is quoting a group called European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility making this claim. (Who? We asked the same question.)
Pollan might cherry-pick a handful of denialist researchers, but what do mainstream scientists say? The American Medical Association, The American Association for the Advancement of Science, The National Academy of Sciences, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, The French Academy of Science, The Royal Society of Medicine, The European Commission, the Union of German Academics of Sciences and the Humanities, and the World Health Organization (among others) all agree that GMOs are as safe as conventional foods.
2. “I think there is no good reason to eat [GIFs] right now. All they offer is an unquantifiable potential risk.”
There have been literally thousands of studies on GIFs. And with all the research that’s been done through these studies, the consensus of major world science organizations (as mentioned above) is that GIFs are safe. Furthermore, credible research indicates that they provide environmental benefits including reduced carbon emissions.
There’s probably an “unquantifiable potential risk” that we could be invaded by space aliens, but you don’t see anyone saying that we should invest the world economy in interplanetary defense.
3. “… when I wrote about food I never had to give equal time to the other side. I could say whatever I thought and offer my own conclusions. Say you should buy grass feed beef and organic is better, and these editors in New York didn’t realize there is anyone who disagrees with that point of view. So I felt like I got a free ride for a long time.”
This speaks for itself: Pollan is an ideologue, not a legitimate journalist.
4. “Important NYT story on GM oranges; 2 many industry talking pts, but poses questions: is prob tech? reg? or Monsanto?”
As we noted at the time, this ridiculous bit of shilling was immediately flagged as scientifically illiterate by reputable commentators. Science writers and other Tweeters objected to the sentiments, but Pollan refused to respond to people who disagreed with him. Even Ed Yong, an award-winning science writer, fired off at Pollan saying he took a “cheap shot” for not responding to criticism. But when you live in the ivory tower, true debate isn’t at the top of the agenda.
5. “Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.”
The poor (especially in already impoverished nations) are unable to follow such a rule as it excludes us from eating many inexpensive foods. Everything from blackened salmon (11 ingredients) to homemade cookies (11 ingredients) to potato salad (10 ingredients) can’t be eaten under Pollan’s rule.
6. “Vegetarians are notably healthier than carnivores and they live longer.”
Vegetarians are not healthier than meat-eaters. In 2009, an Oxford study of 64,234 participants found that causes of death for vegetarians and meat eaters were identical. Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that vegan dietary habits “did not comply with the average requirements for some essential nutrients.”
There’s no scientific consensus to support the assertion that vegetarians are healthier than carnivores.