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Do Healthy Options Lead To Healthy Decisions?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with author Michael Pollan about America’s problematic food policies and what citizens might do for their –- and the nation’s –- health. Pollan said:

“I'm not a puritan about food and I'm not a zealot about it, and there is something called special occasion food that we have in our house. And it's kind of understood that sometimes you go enjoy your fast food, you have your Twinkie, whatever it is. People have done this for thousands of years. There's nothing wrong with doing it. Our problem is we've made special occasion food [into] everyday food and that one in three children are at a fast food outlet every single day... One of the reasons that people in the inner city have such higher rates of diabetes [is that] there is a demand for fresh and healthier food that’s not being served.”

Arguing that nutritious options were too difficult to find, the Los Angeles City Council earlier this year passed a moratorium on any new fast food restaurants in a number of poor neighborhoods with disproportionate rates of diabetes and obesity. Beyond the expected complaints of restaurant chains, the public response was mixed; journalists noted that healthy fare was already easily available from fast food franchises and the area’s three underutilized farmers’ markets, while many community members were skeptical that the ban would prove effective:

“‘[The ban is] stupid. It’s our body, we choose what we put in it,’ Tonya Owens, a 45-year-old nurse assistant, told Reuters... ‘It’s fast and easy. I think people will still come here no matter what,’ [Edwin] Tsai, 23, said."

What do you think?

  • Given nutritious options, will most people make healthy eating decisions? Why or why not?

  • What policies do you propose to improve America’s health? Do you believe that your ideas are politically and logistically feasible?

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    You cannot legislate, browbeat, scare or otherwise Force people to do what another thinks is healthy. Prohibition proved this. About the most unhealthy thing you can take into your body is alcohol or Tylenol - both destroy the liver. And don't tell me drinking wine is healthy, they've already proven it's the grapes that are healthy.

    The only way to get some people to change is make it an elitest or status symbol. Quiche is egg pie. Sweet potatoe (or Yam) pie is healthy - we called in "poor man's pumpkin pie". The elite wouldn't be caught dead eating such "healthy yet po' folk food until given an elitest name.

    Most every food considered healthy is something poor folk ate because it was all that was around. Spinach leaves on your sandwich? Vegetable oil became corn oil. Lard became shortening. Peanut oil is the healthiest and grown in America - and yet costs $12 a gallon.

    Oh - and did you know it takes a gallon and a half of gasoline to make ethanol or biodiesel? No wonder the oil companies love it.

    My husband and I are in complete agreement with Michael Pollan. After taking a food sensitivity tests for various health reasons, we changed the way we eat, mainly buying from the Chicago Green City market. Eliminating all processed and packaged foods in our diet. Not only do we feel better, we dropped a considerable amount of weight. Not by dieting, but by eating healthy and locally. Both of us are in the architectural profession and are amazed at how many architects are so concerned about building green or reducing their carbon footprint. Yet, most architects have the worst diets and don't want to spend the money on good food. Aren't they being hypocrites?

    Klark M,
    Hopefully, this second post will be a more succinct effort to answer your post…
    On the subject of responsibility; I would say that in the past I have bought into a lot of dogmatism that was inconsistent with the teachings of Christ and detrimental to humanity in general. It is my contention that there is nothing wrong with our Constitution or our system of government. It is the perversion of our Constitution and our form of government that is the problem. There is nothing in our constitution that supports greed and avarice. We may all be born equal but from there on in there is a great deal of injustice and inequity.
    I have a great uncle in South Africa who owns gold mines and my grandfather was a wealthy Cornishman but as for me, I have earned every nickel. What I value most is my relationship with other people and using my energy constructively. I read a lot of science fiction and consider myself a futurist. If we can avoid self-destruct; there is no end to what we can accomplish. Reality is designed to provide us with the tools for amazing accomplishments.
    I have read somewhere that people use dry cow pads (manure) for heating their house and then there is the lady who uses reindeer scat (droppings) for jewelry. People can get pretty creative. It is very possible that gases from fermentation could be cleaned up and used to run combustible engines.
    It seems that there are many solutions to our many problems; it is only necessary to have the necessary organization and funding to make it happen. Unfortunately, our misperception of conservative and economics is undermining our ability to respond appropriately to our problems.

    Klark M,
    O'yes, the ironic conflict between the physical and spiritual world...
    While I enjoy my physical existence and try to keep up with the latest technology; I am also concerned with the spiritual aspect of reality. It seems life is a binary system of a physical and a spiritual reality. While my physical being wants action and gratification; my spiritual entity wants peace and joy. Life enhancement is an important element of the world in which I live.
    The ideal society is one that provides the needs of the flesh and the fulfillment of the spirit. It is through the right attitude and the efficient function of society that makes it possible to maximize the quality of life experience.

    Hi Mouvinon, your thoughts on hyperinflation are very interesting, but like I mentioned earlier, I am not an economist. I took a couple classes in college, but for some reason, I could never get into it. I researched hyperinflation on wiki and found that your question about the beans would definitely be a cause of it. Three cheers for globalization.

    David E.- I know you despise the oil lobby commercial "You may own an oil company" as much as I do. Your flying resume betrays out-sized advantages, and some good initiative. You may own a blackberry? Ownership is a strong contradictory theme for a guy who has presented a generally spiritual persona in the archives. Is the sacredness of property part of religion? With your GM background, were you part of mistakes now being admitted? I was part of mistakes in Central America and the Near East, a young man seduced by a little money. Are you asking yourself the same philosophical questions you post, or are you above that? Here's one: Is our flawed Constitution enabling crimes against humanity with it's emphasis on unlimited and sacred ownership? A negative response may indicate that you own an oil company, GM stock or a berry plantation. Do you need any pickers next season? (This is intended as a friendly communication, as over a shared repast.)

    Another mistake: I may have had in mind a Jim Bullis view of recycling human waste, miles of pipelines with Delaware refineries and not the pit toilets, septic tanks, Asian nightsoil and field dumped biosolids of the present day. Sometimes I go science fiction berserk.
    As part of the ecosystem we do need to utilize "everthing" we produce. Can cars run on our waste? I especially wanted to point out how industrial users mingle their effluent into the household stream and make treatment problematic.

    Davd F.-"Hyperinflation"- I was retarded when I said fiscal, I guess I meant monetary. Figgers had some weird socialist-libertarian ideology like Noam Chomsky but more technical. Grady was the insulting instigator and the others were trying to recruit. What I'm worried about is that when the FED and the Treasury electronically mint trillions a dollar depreciation later will be unavoidable. I think Jack Martin was correct in his assumption that fiat money is based only upon pending taxation of future labor (increased value and goods produced). With capital flight and hoarding by the rich, our depleted industry (lack of national self-sufficiency), rising unemployment, and artificially low wages (before the crash) that taxable potential would be difficult to create.
    Paul Krugman told Katie Couric (Cute-trick? CBS anchor) that they have used 8.5 billion (with 1 billion pending) and that 10 billion more bailout and stimulus would be the limit before ?????????
    He didn't exactly say and may not know, but most likely the type of hyperinflation witnessed in the robbery of the Argentinian economy in the 1990s, Weimar Germany under reparations of Zimbabwe today (due to capital flight and curtailed production value.)
    I saw a blog by raymondusa, a person who says all that is sustaining our nation is t-bond purchases overseas. He's documented a pattern recently where Chinese purchases are greatly curtailed but those in Great Britain (a relatively depleted economy) are soaring. Sources like Aljazeera on Utube and raymond (seemingly knowledgeable)say the dollar is being abandoned as a reserve currency, replaced by euro and other means. If the dollar begins plummeting we are toast, because the average American made only 34K before the crash and has no savings.

    As I have related I am a day laborer living in a borrowed trailer who associates with the underclass, so I know times are getting tougher fast. Right wing conspiracy theorists (mostly fascists) say the Amero is slated to replace the dollar. Actually, from what I've read, a recalibrating replacement of paper and electronic currency is one emergency measure often tried by governments to halt hyperinflation, along with strict wage and price controls. If there are Ameros in reserve it may be for such a contingency, and not for some world government conspiracy.

    Every blogger finally reaches the paradox of remaining anonymous while trying to assert sanity and credibility, probably a hopeless task. Let me just say that although my college work is scattered I have traveled the world contracting, what I see here at home is one of the scariest situations ever. Our population is far from fit, and a great number of people are elderly, sick, out of shape and mentally off. I care for a few but am overwhelmed. Most people don't have the time. I assume that the 2 Bush administrations and the Clinton one commited crimes against all Americans. My Mom taught me the sadist adage,"Don't get mad; get even!" She was wrong because social forces are a contrary parameter to individual struggle. Although calm justice is needed, revenge by the people would be suicide now. Community organizing may be our only salvation because we may have to do without money and other things we expect to be generally available. At the same time, the potential for crime and government abuse will be strong. Irene E. told Jim Bullis some of the Figgers went overseas and some went for big salaries. Most of us don't have those options, and if everyone tried to leave or cash out chaos would result. I'm seeing Mexicans and other migrants going back home already. (I'd go to Cuba but I can't stand hot weather anymore.) You know, I could blame Moyers for not addressing these dangers, but I can't even see how he could do the job from WNET with his little staff. We need a critical mass of honest information gathering and proposals- maybe that is what Bill Moyers hopes people on this blog will facilitate? I'm going to try and make such an in-kind contribution by Christmas, a report or some-like for the Journal, maybe a video.

    What would you do if 100 dollars couldn't buy a pound of beans?

    The US should take note of modern Cuban farming practices. With the 1989 fall of the USSR, Cuba lost a reliable source of oil, synthetic fertilizer, and food. The country then had to change its ways of growing food. They did this by creating food gardens in and around cities. Havana grows 70% of it's food within the city. has this to say:

    "And all of this has occurred using just a fraction of the chemicals that agriculture in the “developed” world depends on. Before the crisis hit, Cuba used more than 1 million tons of synthetic fertilizers a year, today it uses about 90,000 tons. During the Soviet period, Cuba applied up to 35,000 tons of herbicides and pesticides a year; today the number is about 1,000 tons. The country is a living example of how to grow food on a large, national scale without being reliant on petroleum based inputs."

    It's quite ironic that due mainly to the stubborn US imposed isolation, Cuba finds itself with a superior food system than the US.

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks so much for all of your work in this field. We've been reading about the ethics of eating meat and we now no longer can look at steak.

    SU Students

    Hi Mouvinon, thanks for the reply. I started coming here in August, so I remember the Figgers member(s) having some good points, yet some odd ones. It’s too bad they were so arrogant and abrupt. I sometimes have the same problem, so I make a conscience effort not to rag on fellow liberals (I apologies if I’ve offended anyone fighting the good fight). I am by no means an economist, but I guess I’m a quick learner, logical with good commonsense and I have a talent of sniffing out bs. I don’t know if you’d noticed, but I love to attack these neocon Wall Street posters, or should I say posers. I feel, with as smart as these guys think they are, their stupidity is a large part of the problem.

    I don’t specifically remember the Figgers folks’ comments on hyperinflation and how it would affect a depression, but I came to my conclusions to an inevitable depression by what I saw after this piece of crap took office in 2001. I guess the two major flags were the rising gas prices and these subprime, no doc loans.

    The price of oil affects almost every aspect of our economy, so when it starts to go up, so does the price of a loaf of bread, a jug of milk, a pair of shoes, almost everything. When it first began to rise, I was concerned, but then when it kept going higher and higher, I knew this would be a problem, an enormous problem.

    Then came the subprime, no doc loans. When I first heard of a no doc loan, I immediately knew that someone was making a conscience effort to get as many people as possible into debt. How could money savvy institutions, like our banks, offer loans to anyone who didn’t have to prove they could pay it back? It didn’t make any sense at all. A no doc loan was a marketing scheme, just like a piece of cheese, to draw in the less fortunate and to trick others into buying more expensive homes.

    A subprime loan was a marketing scheme as well, but it wasn’t just bait, it was also the trap. Low teaser rates (1.5% to 3.5% ARM) lured people in and then the rate increases crushed them. Two to five years after realtors and mortgage companies had dressed up and sold these loans, the teaser rates had expired and then most rates went above 9%. This made a monthly payment of $1,000 go up to $2,500. This was the main cause in the rise of foreclosures. To play devil’s advocate, this whole scheme was a work of art. The powers that be used the greed of our less fortunate to buy these loans and the greed of our realtors to sell them. For the most part, nobody asked any questions, so all the orchestrators had to do was just sat back and say “come to papa.”

    (Oh yeah, I just remembered. Increased outsourcing, relocating and the trading deficit were also major red flags to this depression)

    Ok, with the rising gas prices and the mishandling of mortgage loans, I thought this alone would send us into a depression (I’m guessing, but I think about 10 to 20 trillion dollars would be involved). But now with the collapse of Indymac and with AIG on the verge of collapse, I’ve realized that my original estimates were just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks in large part to credit default swap (CDS) betting, we might be confronted with a 50 to 100 trillion dollar problem.

    I don’t know the details of CDS betting, but from what I do understand, insurance companies, like AIG, are the bookies who take bets. Then before the no doc, subprime loans became available, someone (because of globalization, I strongly believe this “someone” are the Saudis, but this is just educated speculation and a whole other can of worms) went to these bookies with a bet where a mortgage company, like Indymac, would have its stock price drop in value. When Indy’s stock fell because of the numerous foreclosures, this someone had just hit the jackpot and now AIG had to pay off on this bet. After AIG had spend its last penny, they still came up short, so Bush/Paulsen gave them a bailout so they could give more money to this special someone.

    Well Mouvinon, this is enough rambling for today. I hope I’ve answered some of your questions. Let me know if I wasn’t clear on anything. See ya in next week’s comments.

    Bravo, Mr. Moyers, welcome back and a terrific show this wee. Michael Pollan has cogently articulated a clear and reasoned basis for a national discussion about how we eat. I'm thrilled to to see you promote it as well. Cheers, b

    Mr. moyers as a small business I always watch your Journal and a long time fan. I was glad you brought up the ' Farmer-gardener ' subject with Mr. Michael Pollan. Since 1980 ( 27 years ago ) we started a 1/4 of an acre garden-farm which supplied our health-oriented restaurant. The garden is part of our home's land which is about 2 1/2 acres. Our customers go crazy about the flavor and freshness of the organic vegetables when in season.
    Yes they knew when our vegetables were market bought and always made a point of it. We grow our vegetables ( about 100 varieties ) for taste, freshness and health. Commercial farmers grow produce to feed the world population and make a profit regardless of the method. Gardening is hard work, and if you calculated every thing that is involved, you will find out it is an expensive hobby. Every pound of tomatoes I grow cost me about $ 8 ( remember I am a US citizen and get paid accordingly ) verses .50 to $1.00 market bought ( wholesale ) . Why do we do it ? first and foremost because we enjoy it, regardless the cost and hard work. Second we feel much healthier, happier and more energetic during the growing season. We lose 15 to 20 pounds of weight when we start eating from our garden and we gain it back, off season, when we switch back to market produce. We noticed our body do not hold and build up fluid during the gardening season. We do not know if that is contributed to the organic gardening ( no chemicals ) or not. Losing about 20 pounds of weight and making 600 t0 800 customers a day happy is a good reason to keep gardening.

    David F.: The Figgers people who used to write on here warned that we could have a Great Depression combined with hyper-inflation if the FED keeps squirting out play money to the wealthy class. This idea frightens me enough that I'm lying awake thinking about such a disaster. Many astute unaffiliated economists warn the irresponsible fiscal profligacy is the main engine of inflation. Even a little inflation when one is counting pennies can kill. Gas is temporarily down but not food or meds. I heard one half-brained idiot on Diane Rheim's show say working class wages are too high and must be on par with China and India for recovery, and to avoid inflation. Why should the poor be sacrificed so the rich can gamble? David, please discuss.

    Dear Bill,

    Thank you for devoting last week's show to the important topic of food. I enjoy your show because it so often dispels harmful myths. Few myths are more harmful, though, than one your guest, Michael Pollan, reinforced when he suggested deer hunting as a "sustainable" way to acquire food that would reduce populations of white-tailed deer in areas that have "too many" of them. Every state in the US that has a management policy for deer populations explicitly manages those populations to provide hunters with as large a deer population to "harvest" as possible. Although millions of deer are killed during the few weeks of the hunting season, hunting actually increases deer populations for the year as a whole, because by killing mostly bucks, hunters greatly increase the doe-to-buck ratio, which defeats the natural population-control mechanism wherein does have only one fawn instead of two when the population reaches a certain density in relation to the available browse. A disproportionately female population results in an unnatural number of fawns produced per adult population, as one male can impregnate numerous females.

    The problem with Mr. Pollan's claim of sustainability is that deer populations are elevated at the expense of other species, including non-hunting humans. Deer thrive on low-growing browse and do not do well in the mature forest ecosystems that many other species depend upon; consequently, most US states spend many millions of dollars per year on habitat manipulation, including heavily subsidized logging, to favor deer at the expense of other species. Hunters also kill predator species, such as wolves and coyotes, because those species compete with them. The main reason wolves are being killed in Alaska, for example, is to keep them from taking large prey the hunters want to kill themselves. Deer-management policies cost the public millions more in highway collisions and crop and property damage caused by artificially elevated deer populations. And let's not forget the environmental consequences of all of the fossil fuels burned up by hunters in trucks, SUVs, and off-road vehicles driven to reach hunting areas; the cost to every other lover of outdoor activity who can't use most public lands during hunting season; and of course, the millions of deer whose lives are cut short either quickly or, all too commonly, agonizingly slowly after they are wounded and run off to die.

    Bill, your show's greatest value is opening people's eyes to realities that most others would rather keep hidden. Please invite a guest to discuss the reality of deer hunting in the United States, with all of its economic, ecological, and ethical implications.

    What policies do you propose to improve America’s health?

    Like I’ve said in previous BMJ blog comments, lobbying is the root to our destruction. So, my first proposal would be to separate all 3 branches of gov. from these money driven lobbyists. Until this is done we won’t be able to make any meaningful laws or policies.

    Next, I’d have all TV food ads, which have been determined as slop, removed from the air. All sugar infested ads, good-bye. Micky Ds, Burger King, see ya. These ads are brainwashing too many of us, so they have to go.

    While removing these negative influences, we could also be educating everyone on proper ways of eating. To me, food shouldn’t be too pleasurable, so we should be taught that we need to eat to live, not the other way around. Like Pollan had mentioned, eating a special occasion food everyday is where we get into trouble.

    Food is by far the worst addiction we have to deal with. Smoking (cigarettes that is) and drinking, as addictive as they are, don’t even come close to overeating. An ex smoker or drinker can go the rest of their life without taking another puff or sip, but an ex food addict has to eat everyday.

    With food being an addiction and making it more difficult for these junkies to get their sugar fixes and cheeseburgers, the nation will have to go through a period of withdraw. With the volume of people, it’ll be much worst than placing public smoking bans on smokers or taking car keys away from alcoholics. Approaching this would get pretty complicated, so maybe I'd consult with Dr. Phil or Pinsky to deal with this matter.

    Do you believe that your ideas are politically and logistically feasible?

    Politically: not a chance.
    Logistically: to me, yes.

    Approximately 92% of farmworkers in the U.S. are immigrants, the overwhelming majority from Mexico. You cannot discuss food policy without talking about the rights of these workers who feed us, many of whom exist in the shadow economy of this country, ripe for exploitation. Most of these workers are here because of U.S. trade policies (e.g., NAFTA) that displaced them by uprooting local economies in favor of global corporate profits. It's time we start considering the human face to our food.

    I have been fortunate in that I have a restless soul and have an interest in many facets of life.
    I have a natural tendency to understand general concepts and have worked with top level management in several areas of social organization.
    I took a logic class when I was working at GM Tech Center and became interested in philosophy. I took a second philosophy class that did a study of Plato's Republic. I had an assignment to write a paper on what I thought would be an ideal society. Since then; I have taken classes in Urban Planning and many other classes in support of a book I have written called Earthland: Meaningful Reality which is an update of Plato's Republic.
    I like posting to the net because of the wide variety of ideas that people share on the net.
    To get back to the subject...
    I having lived in Japan and I am familiar with honey bucket carts and the Asian method of fertilizing. We have a Farmer's Market in town with local Asian food producers and I get a little concerned about what is their method of furtilizing.
    When I first moved to the Northwest, I was impressed with the wild blackberries growing everywhere. I have twenty varieties of berries growing on my property. We make jam and can many berries. When the grandkids pick the berries, they eat half of what they pick.
    While we enjoy fresh produce, the fact of the matter is that most of our food is from the grocery store.
    Because we are dependent on our food supply and it is human nature to ignore precautions; It is necessary that there be systems in place to protect people from contaminated food.
    We are what we eat and good health is essential to a quality life.

    Q: "Given nutritious options, will most people make healthy eating decisions? Why or why not?"

    A: Yes, I think so. In an ideal situation, the body has its preferences and needs which, when we are relaxed and tuned in to it, are easy to translate into food selection. Of course, we are mostly stressed, really tired, anxious and fearful, so we constantly choose comfort foods over nutritious foods. A good burger, fries and a malt can make an awful day bearable! It's a ball of lifestyle wax which can't be dissected into parts.

    Q: "What policies do you propose to improve America’s health? Do you believe that your ideas are politically and logistically feasible?"

    A: All nuclear activities should be stopped immediately and not restarted.
    There is a source which claims that nuclear radiation, from power plants, is responsible for the increased rates of some cancers, early Altzhiemer's and autism. If scientists improved Geiger Counter technology (does anyone think it cannot be improved?) to register higher levels of radiation than it does now, they would recognize this critical danger and save many, many deaths. The political and economic gains from such an advancement would be monumental!

    Mumia W,
    My father-in-law owned property in Texas with a capped oil source. It is my understanding that the government has a hug oil reserve. We need to get our ecomomy on track so that we can invest in new energy sources.
    There is also the technology to protect the environment when drilling for oil but the oil companies would prefer to spend their money on their executives.
    We need to develop other sources of energy such as electric and steam. Oxygen will explode under controlled conditions which means that cars could run on water. We have the technology; all we need is the investment to produce new energy systems. I worked at Ford Engine Development Division in Dearborn, Michigan. I heard there was a patent for a carborator that would get fifty miles to the gallon that was bought by the oil companies and never produced.
    We need to have laws that prevent vested interests from undermining the development and use of technology to improve our lives and our environment.

    Go ahead and write me out that "reality check" Glen Groth. Frederick Engels always said that mindset is determined by one's means of income under capitalism. (Some of us are not under capitalism anymore, as you seem to be.) Let go of your security blanket and quit sucking your meaty thumb. The best developments in human history came when people collectively transcended what had been supposed to be our inalterable nature. (Slavery, sexism and homophobia are examples seemingly in retreat.) What is "your" nature, Glen?

    Thanks David Eddy! You pull other minds upward as you grow.
    1. The answers to your questions are intertwined as are the problems. As with most dilkemmas of our time total involvement in the solution is the only workable strategy. People will have to become more directly involved in producing their own food locally. Have you noticed how dangerous it is to eat out these days? It's just like modern medicine: If you go to the doctor without some knowledge of your health conditions and how they could be treated you are screwed. Most docs will do to you whatever makes money. The same is true of food production. Too many dangerous chances are being taken for profit. I have found a community vegetable garden builds solidarity and understanding. (They also compete with commercial production in myriad ways.)To restore organic human relationships we need the opportunity to work together in a non-monetary way. Scarcity of money and of food are a state of mind. Capitalist predators benefit from such psychic terrorism. Start by feeding people as best you can without charge. (Dinner guests.)
    2. Money fetish. $49K to $74K economists call middle class. What an arbitrary and silly construct! The solution is to make basic food a right, and the opportunity to produce your own food a right. Always pre-empt money values with life values. Economic irrationality based on empathy and love is the escape pod here.

    These are the things David Eddy has advocated on this blog in the preceding months. You answered your own questions, my friend.

    I have great sympathy for the obstinacy of capitalist carnivores like Glen Growth. In short, the need for more vegetarianism is obvious when energy and health are factored in. Meat will always have a place as food but need not be part of the day to day diet except in the coldest climates (which are shrinking at present). Factory breeding and slaughter are wrong no matter the profit. Manure is good fertilizer, but you may have noticed that everybody poops. (7 billion buttholes can't be wrong.)

    Reality check time! We eat animals because it is in our human nature, that isn't going to change anytime soon. Too all of those crying out for the downfall of animal agriculture (of which i am a contriuting member) need to consider that only animals can convert what grows non arable land into food. Eliminating animal agriculture would decrease the world's food supply not increase it.
    The rhetoric about the "corporate take over of agriculture" is non sense. Family farms still make up around 98% of the farm operations in the US and contribute about 87% of production (look it up on the USDA national agriculture statistics service website). Most family farmers enjoy a realitivly symbiotic relationship with agribusiness. On my small farm, i don't have the capability to ship corn to vietnam, but cargill does. I can't develop top notch crop genetics, but monsanto can. Sure the price for farm inputs have always been too high and the price paid for crops too low, but that has always been the case. We farmers wouldn't pay our money to these massive businesses if we didn't see a profitable return from their services. Farmers are not as helpless and stupid as some people would suggest.
    General farm organizations and commodity groups (the often criticized ag lobby) are indeed powerful, but it is easy to be influential when the facts are on your side! I, and other famers pay our dues to these organizations because of people like Michael Pollan.

    Thanks David Eddy. I have some questions that are in a similar vein. How do you provide quality food to billions of people without appropriate energy? What happens when the oil runs out?

    I would like to post a couple of questions...
    How can you provide quality food to billions of people without them having the necessary capital to pay for the food?
    How can you manage a capitalist system if the system does not have sufficient funds to provide the necessary exchange of goods and services?

    If it took our economic wizards a year to figure out we were in a recesssion last December, will we have to wait 'til next Dec. to find that we're in a depression today? Maybe we should teach Fuzzy Math in our schools, so these wizards/enablers could inform us quicker.

    Considered a rare but extreme form of recession, a depression is characterized by abnormal increases in unemployment, restriction of credit, shrinking output and investment, numerous bankruptcies, reduced amounts of trade and commerce, as well as highly volatile relative currency value fluctuations, mostly devaluations. Price deflation or hyperinflation are also common elements of a depression.

    I agree with Michael Pollan that we can feed an increased population if people decreased their consumption of animals, but it doesn't take into consideration the increased pollution, global warming, use of natural resources, and habitat destruction. We live on a finite planet with finite resources. In some areas we're already at the breaking point. We need to seriously work toward population reduction.

    Welcome back, Bill. We are glad for your enjoyable trip abroad as we are for your safe return. Your shoes are difficult to fill but Deborah Amos did a fine job while you were away, and we hope you will consider having her share a piece of the show. We are grateful for your dedication to keeping us informed, Bill, and we look forward to being participants and partakers as the new administration gets to work. Best wishes to you and your staff.

    This was a good program worth watching. I hope President Elect Obama considers him as Sec. of Ag. I am a 4th Generation Dairy farmer. We have a small herd but we feel the pressures of being pushed out of business. My family is always trying new ways to be more friendly to the environment. However, in the state of Wisconsin, since Gov Tommy Thompson Administration, tons of state money has been poured into factory farms. Even Obama supporter and fellow democrat Gov Jim Doyle (who is being considered for a cabinet post) supports money going to factory farms with the claim that "milk is no longer being produced in little red barns." I was very upset because I am a small dairy farmer. I met him one day and told him that I do produce milk in a little red barn and when was he going to stop acting like a republican.

    This was a good show. There is much work to be done. We need a food system that pays a good price for farmers so they can have decent help and decent services. Thank You Bill.

    In the interest of broader discourse regarding agriculture and its alledged connection to obesity as mentioned by Michael Pollan, recent studies indicate that connection is tenuous at best. For a thorough reading of this study and others, click on this link:

    If President-elect Obama does not select Michael Pollan to be the next Secretary of Agriculture then he should at least make Mr. Pollan's writing required reading for the next Secretary. Ditto for the Secretaries of Energy and Commerce. Mr. Pollan understands what Aldo Leopold understood: "There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace".

    Judy Gould's letter sweater. I'm surprised a gentile intellectual like yourself can tolerate the putrid smells of the Farm Bill at work. But then again Good Germans easily stomached the acrid stench of neighboring death camps in the late 30s and 40s. I imagine you in bed with "half a beef." Every supermarket has them, your better half.

    David Taylor: You're correct that if we were all smaller, or had smaller expectations, everything would go farther. That is the the jist of conservation, our best immediate resource. Actually there is enough food. Some of it is ruined by processing and travel, and by the fact we let people without money starve and commit desperate acts.

    But then maybe you meant "fewer" people,intending to suggest the birth control some churches and the Bush administration have opposed. Birth control I consider a good resource for individuals, but maybe not for coercive governments. Do you use birth control Dave? I hope you do. Does it bother you how people starve and turn to terrorism out of hopelessness. Capitalism hasn't worked very well. Killing foreigners hasn't helped our security either.
    Why not write again and say what you really mean. Are you like my sweet actor friend David Taylor or are you really mean when it comes to poverty? I wonder.

    I think we need to raise less people and thereby decrease the need for more food.

    In his open letter to the new President, Michael Pollan freely admits that he doesn't know if the idyllic 19th Century farming practices he is calling for would actually feed our 21st Century population.

    I have been advocating a return to the horse and buggy. So, do you think I should be the new Secretary of Transportation?

    @Renee Fisher, November 30, 2008 10:44 PM;

    Beware that some genetically modified (GM) foods cause food allergies. You may or may not be experiencing that. See .

    As far as I know, it's not easy to find out if a food item has been genetically modified since the government doesn't require notification, and the companies that create them don't want to flag their foods as GM. I've heard that Con-Agra produces a lot of GM foods. If a fruit or vegetable lasts too long to be believable, it might be GM; however, that's mostly guesswork. We need to lobby against GM foods, or to lobby at least that they be flagged as such in the market.

    @Kenneth Bloom, November 30, 2008 9:47 PM;

    You spoke of a government study about food health that was sealed. Has this document been unsealed? Can you post a link to the unsealed version?

    Clifton Middleton: This guy may really live on a farm????
    I like his approach to keeping sewage out of fresh water. (I look forward to his new book,"Pee Your Way to Wealth".) Cliff, the industrial and agribusiness polluters ain't gonna go for dry toilets as long as rate payers subsidize their criminal ways. When a baby messes its nappy it ain't nigh as helpless as the city dweller whose toned up feces is spread over the farmland he eats from. I call the aquatic center below the poop plant Wahoo's Wastewater Rafting.
    Anyway, Cliff, your heart and your stools are apparently in the correct place. I hope to smell more from your fertile intellect. Let me quote an immigrant from New York, "Someday we'll live to forget Flushing."

    Norman Gauss can't go 20 minutes without some CHICKEN. His car is pulled to the Burger King window like a magnet. He dreams of a big walnut in the night tasting like bull testicles. I'll have you know steroid breath that there is protein in broccoli and almost every other fruit, vegetable and grain. Else how could most of the world live on what little meat they can afford. If you must have flesh, take a job in the slaughterhouse, face your needs and pull your weight.
    The problem is not a lack of protein: It is a lack of resolve for food truth and food justice. Suck on that drumstick, Meathead.
    (Vicious insults are a healthy part of the American political diet. T. Jefferson & A. Hamilton- nohard feelings.)

    lee janowsky: Can you see why working class people like me blame upper middleclass people like you (who are also trigger-happy on the post) for our common predicament? In my opinion, your self-serving narrative unveils you as just too damn nice (cowardly, and overly respectful of the rich) to do anything to scare those in power. If handouts are your ultimate answer to people's needs I nominate you to be Obama's food taster in the coming Deluge period. Witness the "let them eat cake" attitude that is the PBS attitude. Pledge early and often to stave off the truth, Bourgeoisie!

    Vegetables, fruits,fats, and protein-rich foods are part of a healthy diet. We can grow vegetables and fruits in our gardens, but how many of us can grow protein-rich foods (eggs, milk, livestock) and fats (dairy, nuts, eggs) in our gardens?

    working in various food pantrys and homeless shelters over the past 20 years and before that living in central america as part of my peace corps stint, I have noticed the effect of politics and food.
    I feel a sense of helpless anger when I see the concerns of profit outweigh the concern of getting food to people who need food to live, let alone making sure the food is healthy so that people may be healthier.

    I have worked, in the past, trying to get healthy food into food pantrys. Now, I work just to get food into food pantrys. This, at time when there is no shortage of food or healthy food... but a shortage of empathy and compassion when it comes to the human beings who have control over resources and access to food but deny those human beings who have lost resources and so their access to food and now live in unsafe circumstances. This is true in part because so many think producing wealth is a greater right for some people than any moral obligation to food, shelter and healthcare for all people.

    Tom B. : I'm glad you also observe the superficial nature of the Journal's method. As I have reviewed the archived posts of these blogs I am struck repeatedly by demands for greater accuracy and depth on Moyer's part. Even more tragic is the attempt to avoid controversy by refusal to address real issues important to our citizenry.
    One blogger compared this apologetic journalism of entertainment to the 1960s documentary works of CBS (a former Moyers' employer). The syndrome of lulling the audience into helpless complacency was termed the "Reasoner effect". Not only ultra conservative conspiracy theorists can be reactionary, but liberal media too, when they are used by elites to head off public anxiety and response. Moyers, while better than most, is extremely guilty of these practices. To whom exactly do you think he answers? Foundations and trusts often represent elite needs.

    Our food, ye gads, our food: where a half-truth can poison and mass-kill, and Moyers stops with starving Africans far away, a popular book by a Berkeley liberal, and designer turkeys. That is truly birdshit when melamine is now in 90% of American infant formula.

    It only goes to illustrate censorship by glut that only freaks like Charlie Sheen and Rosie O'Donnell are allowed to mention the 9/11 mysteries while Moyers dives under his big old select comfort bed.

    American citizens have already been mauled by the economic locomotive driven by elite engineers. Moyers could only joke about the light and the whistle. Patching up the capitalist track will only lead to bigger wrecks later.

    His little attention to energy policy and climate change is merely lip service to the obvious. Gas will go back up when guzzlers begin selling again. It's all in the game.

    If the People should be told any truths, it is these. American Imperialism seeds its own downfall. It is too late to save "the economy" and we must implement a new one using our spending and entrepreneurial behavior. Yep, Pollan gives a hint when he says "Vote with your fork." A better way to put it is,"The U.S. is a done turkey, stick a fork in it," because we have to build up from the gravy and stuffing the wealthy class has left us, and their birdsh*t. I would say the working person's greatest task is "quit respecting people who have money and respect those who come up with good solutions." Also, quit expecting experts and media heads like Moyers to know any more than the people who actually do the necessary work. Don't let them point a camera at us like a 30-30 at a deer. We ain't meat, you bastards. We ain't a towel for your busted dreams. Get to work and do the whole job you were meant to do as journalists. F**k your bosses. There is one show in town, and we are it, LABOR. Money is birdsh*t.

    Irene Emerson, thanks for filling me in on Jack and Grady. They are missed.

    Curiously, while we did not completely agree on the best way forward, I very much appreciated their sense of the human condition.

    I hope Jack will someday see some part of the Internet as a good thing and that he once was an appreciated part of it.

    I second the notion that you should have David Blume on the program for a second take on sustainable agriculture. He is a leading expert, and unlike Pollan, is a farmer and alternative fuel expert. In fact, a panel discussion about Sustaiainable Ag and Energy Technology with Blume, Pollan, and Thomas Friedman would be an excellent start to a broader scope.
    Keep up the good work. All of you there at The Journal should be proud of your efforts.

    Jim Bullis asked for Jack Martin. Coincidentally, Jack and Coley (Whitesides) moved to Berlin where he is studying the organic agricultural development and she is studying the health care system in Eastern Germany.(Actually, you'd recognize them as illegal aliens or homeless bums.) His entire group abandoned the internet as hyper-commercial (inorganic?). They use it only for cheaper telephone service. Colleagues Grady Lee Howard and Gladiola Victrola live in Edison, NJ where he works as a lobbyist for Morgan Stanley and she in the theater. A new director will soon be named and there will be a Figgers Institute website in January.
    I inherited their cats and garden by taking over their house lease. I just put the asparagus to bed and pulled the last root crops. Jim Bullis might be interested to know that Jack participated in the Adams-Morgan Self Reliance movement in the 1970s and was an adherent of the thought of Ivan Illich. Jack helped excavate the pavement to build urban gardens in the heart of Washington, D.C. Illich may be the most conservative humanist who ever lived, but his writing is healthfood for thought. Imagine a world without professionals with a maximum groundspeed of 20, where all are part time farmers. Jack seems to believe socialism is a transitional step toward libertarian utopia and that people in their present state are the diseased monocrops and Frankenfood of a depraved capitalist sadism. A guru once told him in Tibet,"Strive not to be Superman, but Supra-Human, part of all good things." He kept that posted on the bulletin board and seemed to take it to heart. He cried more than is usual for an American man. I understand why he gave up here in NC. A recent church marquee read, "With Anti-Christ in office, Revelations much easier to believe." We have evolved as a populace hungry for disaster and news of disaster when the truth is we could share justice and plenty by surrendering our demented and selfish pleasures. When a Bojangles goes up on the corner of a farm field, a coal train thunders past or a nuclear plant melts down, just remember, it was powered by the hardness of your heart.

    As someone who is allergic to several kinds of food additives, it is a continual struggle against the temptation of settling for “easy and cheap” processed foods. The culture of “fast” food even here, in rural America, is almost overwhelming. However, the times are changing. Despite living in the center of an area where so many sympathize with, if not participate in, agribusiness, commodity farming, and farm subsidies, I am encouraged and pleasantly surprised at the increasing choices of organic and healthy foods in our local markets. Amazingly, the healthy food movement seems to be making inroads, even here. I applaud it and agree that we need to vote with our forks and our wallets to make the biggest difference in the health of ourselves and our children. We need to take responsibility and teach our kids by our example that it makes a difference what we put in our bodies.

    Bill Moyer & Michael Pollan,
    I live in east central Iowa. I use to live in the country (in Iowa) and could not grow fruit trees because of the broad leaf over-spray would kill the trees. I have since moved to a more urban home to have a MORE uncontaminated garden. When I retire I will move to an area that does not have so many intrusive farmers. In 1936 the US Government did a study about how to replace the missing nutrients in the soil. They had a plan that would replace the lost nutrients for health food and produce twice the output per acre. All of this without the intensive oil inputs that create food that has no nutrition value. The US government sealed the study because the change would upset the whole agricultural and medical system. When you replace the nutrients would improve the health and the longevity of people. It, of course, would remove the need for insecticides and pesticides also. I now know how to make nutritious food for my family. KenOB

    I wish Mr. Pollan were a candidate for the Department of Agriculture, and I hope our next Agriculture Secretary takes the local food movement to heart. Stop farm subsidies, and shift the growth of food back to the local communities. The only food we should be trucking from long distances are pineapples and other tropical fruit. Americans have been spoiled by eating whatever they want when they want it, and we need to go back to respecting the seasons again. Also, they need to look at regulating Farmer's Markets and make sure they're not just disguised greengrocers moving their enterprise outdoors, and actually are regional farmers. I often find myself having to ask the seller, "did you grow this produce yourself?"

    Yeaa Stanley

    WOSU chose to serve up decade old leftovers rather than some fresh, healthy, nutritious fare, so I likewise was unable to consume and digest the Pollan interview. Reading the posts reminds me of an old Polish joke where the bright young university student comes to visit the farm. Settling on the porch of the farmhouse with the elderly farmer, the two notice the animals exiting through the gate left open by the collegian. The farmer turns to the scholar and says: “This is not the university. Here you have to think.”

    And now that I am warmed up, please Bill Moyers, ask harder questions. Guests on your show should expect to be challenged more. I respectfully suggest that your could dispense with your practice of being such a good host.

    But I should also say I appreciate your policy of giving voice to critics on this blog.

    And Kathleen, I can tell you with great confidence that the country would be much better served if Obama did not spend his time hoeing weeds out of the "white house garden."

    Of course the job could be economically done by GS7 civil servants. (more sarcasm drips from the screen)

    And Andrea, since you and Pollan know nothing about the fishing business, you think that the choice of where to process fish should be put in hands of government? Reality is that US labor is not competitive with Chinese. This is a big problem.

    Of course, there is nothing sustainable about wild salmon as a basic foodstuff of the world population. There is an absolute need for farmed fish just as we domesticated the cow when we killed off all our wild moose (Sarah Palin's forebears were really busy in those days.) And ever since cattle feed lots have stunk horribly. As a kid when we drove through the Iowa countryside, a stock family joke was, "Smell that fresh country air." But listen to the outcry about the pollution of fish farms. We have to do these things right, but we really need to get working on them.

    And lets not pay attention to people who have no idea what they are talking about.

    Where is Jack Martin when we need a dose of realism?

    Here we have an ex editor of Harpers telling us about surviving by raising vegetables. This can be done on a few empty lots in a big city?

    Of course gardening is possible in a suburban community, but might I remind us of how this runs counter to the need for efficient transportation that relies on centralized living and working patterns.

    Oh what fond memories I have (sarcasm drips) of being made to hoe weeds in the large garden that my depression trained father maintained in a small Iowa town. (Sarcasm continues.) And my mother would tell of her joy at canning vegetables that are only available for a short time in the hottest of summer days.

    At least, I know how to do it if I have to. But my father's garden was a lot bigger than my backyard today.

    But come on, the last time I went to a "farmer's" market the good looking vegetables (on close examination) came from Mexico and Chile, the scrawny, underripe and rare stuff seemed to be local, and the organic stuff was even less attractive.

    Pollan brings up a good point about the absurdity of fishing supposedly "sustainable" Alaskan salmon and then sending it to China to be processed and sent back to the US. The groups that certify "sustainable" seafood don't consider the amount of food miles the seafood is travelling. In reality, very few seafood items are truly "sustainable" though many people think that fish is a good alternative to red meat and poultry. Yet I would assert that the majority of fish products are just as unsustainable, unhealthy (because of mercury and other contaminants from the ocean), and inhumane (because of what happens to the fish themselves and the large amounts of marine mammals, seabirds, and turtles that get caught in the nets and die) than other animal products. I think adopting a vegetarian diet is by far the most sustainable and humane way to eat, especially one that depends on local and organic produce, grains and legumes.

    Any food "czar" that is appointed should also have some power over the seafood industry as well. Currently, seafood falls under other agencies than the USDA. Reforming the fishing industry and stopping subsidies to industrial fishing operations and to aquaculture is one of the most important tasks for any politician that wants to contribute to a healthier people and healthier planet.

    What a great interview this was with Michael Pollan. Thank you for bringing this important topic to the forefront. It is astounding how many issues are inextricably connected with the growing, marketing and consumption of our food.

    What was not discussed in the program were these two vital elements in the tangled web of food/life: children are no longer being taught nutrition nor are they being taught how to cook in our schools.

    About the time computers invaded our lives, schools began dropping these classes in favor of computer, sports, business and upper level studies instended for those going to college. Certainly it was understandable that these things were interesting and desirable but what wasn't considered was what the loss of home ec curricula would do to our population over the long term.

    Back when I was in school, (makes me sound ancient which I am not) it was more or less understood that not everyone would be going to college. Apparently this was the justification for offering home economics classes - to educate kids (girls mostly) in areas that would benefit them in their presumably non-collegiate future lives. While nearly all girls attended these classes and learned at least the basics in the kitchen and about the diet, even then, the boys were left out, as if eating or cooking would never matter for them. That was an oversight but one rooted in the sexism of the times I suppose.

    Well, haven't we yet figured out that EVERYONE has to eat? EVERYONE needs to be able to prepare their own foods and EVERYONE needs to be able to make healthy food choices to maintain optimal health?

    In my view, we cut off out noses to spite out faces with these insane choices to dump home economics (cooking and nutrition) in favor of education focused on business skills, academia or, in the worst case, for outright play (sports). Worse, back in my time, we chose to withhold this vital home ec information from 50% of the students, the boys, as if they would never have to cook or feed themselves.

    One would think that part of school curriculum should include all relevant life skills: cooking, nutrition, gardening, food storage, budgeting, banking, even housekeeping in addition to the vaunted gym/sports class. Aren't these the things that every one of us will have to undertake in life? None of us can rely on having someone else provide these services for us throughout our lives and we can clearly see how ignorance of nutrition has helped get us into the health crises we now suffer in this country.

    I applaud Mr Pollan for suggesting the new president make a White House garden. It would be a start on the way to justifying the importance of understanding and being connected to providing sustenance for ourselves. I can only pray that might be a beginning for us to change some of our terribly misguided ways.

    First thing we have to do is get rid of all these studies that have plagued us over the past few years. The anti-tobacconist lobby started this trend by publishing unsubstantiated studies. Nowadays we have conflicting studies coming at us two or three times a week. Yes, a well balanced diet is ideal combined with exercise and a good lifestyle. Our number one source of obesity and a multitude of other health problems is the automobile. We drive our children to and from school and then let them vegetate in front of a computer of TV screen. We drive to and from work using our fossil fueled cars. Any errands (no matter how close) must be done by car! The number one killer in North America is the car. Take into account the lives lost in traffic accidents, add to that the lives lost because of air pollution, add to that the lives lost through bizarre weather caused by pollution and finally add to that the deaths caused by obesity. Politicians, doctors and the various health agencies wont admit to this as they all drive cars.

    An enormously valuable talk with Michael Pollan. Two suggestions: Imagine the acreage devoted to useless but expensive lawns! Visit beautiful sustainable farming in Amish country, specifically Lancaster County, PA.

    Really, I think we need someone who has both some broad agricultural experience as sec'y of agriculture, but food tsar: that's an excellent idea and an excellent post for Mr. Pollan. If such a post could be modeled after the Surgeon General post as C. Everett Koop defined it, it would be truly useful, that is,as a "bully pulpit" from which the tsar actively educated.

    One wonders about food lobbyists: would a tsar be able to override Coke, for instance, to point out the role sodas play in health problems, or McDonald's, or Kelloggs or General Mills? Here in Mexico, the government actually does actively educate about the problems of junk food, though in poorer communities, where junk is cheaper than good stuff, more easily available and addictively pleasing to the palate it is still a tough road to go down to get people to change eating habits.

    Amen to BloggerRadio. The concept of a Food Czar as someone who can connect the dots the way Michael Pollan did this week is a great idea and one that Obama and Company should consider.

    The topics of food production, healthcare and education are each so overwhelming that it is not hard to see how myopia sets in.

    However, someone who knows how each area interacts with and impacts the other would be extremely valuable.

    I would nominate Mr. Pollan for the job. He has the common sense and self-effacing personality that is both refreshing and valuable to all of us in these increasingly gloomy times.

    The Water Crisis and Food, A Practical Solution

    The Water crisis is the most serious problem humanity has ever faced. Water pollution has infused the entire food chain with neurotoxins, poisons and pharmaceuticals, all of which damage the health and survivability of man and planet. The cause is our modern, water based sewer system. We flush all of our disposables down the drain, into the sewer system where more chemicals are added and then finally pumped back into our water system. Water based sewer systems are the prime polluters and our use of them has proved to be full of unintended and unanticipated horrors. The use of water based sewer system wastes and contaminates the entire water supply with pollutants and nutrients that if captured and recycled, could provide sufficient agricultural nutrients to ensure a sustainable food supply.

    One practical solution to the water shortage is to replace our centralized water based sewer system with on site, waterless toilets and recycle grey water. Grey water is the water from the kitchen and shower and can be recycled, on site and reused for landscaping. This will reduce our demand on the water source by 80 percent while simultaneously creating a sustainable, renewable, agricultural resource, namely, organic nitrogen.
    No Mix toilets collect urine and feces in separate places, the toilet bowl has two drains, one, in the front for the urine and one in the back for the feces. The feces are dry composted and the urine is processed for agricultural purposes. Separating toilets protect the water supply and provide a renewable, safe, low cost source of nitrogen, enough to greatly reduce our dependence on foreign natural gas and oil. The important key is to separate the valuable, nitrogen rich urine, human urine is 18% organic nitrogen, at the source, before it is mixed with feces and before it is flushed into the water supply.

    The economic potential of capturing human urine is stunning. Human urine is 18% organic nitrogen and has been used in agriculture for thousands of years. Sweden, Germany, Holland and many other countries have been using and processing human urine for agricultural purposes and to protect the environment from water based sewer systems. Human urine is the only renewable, sustainable and economically feasible source of nitrogen available to humanity and it is free.

    What is the economic value of human urine? Here is how it works, the value of comparative petroleum derived fertilizer with the same 18% nitrogen content is approximately $10.00 a gallon and requires a massive polluting industry that is not renewable. The average person produces 2 liters of urine a day or roughly $5.00 worth of organic nitrogen. A city like Miami flushes down the drain 10 to 20 million dollars worth of nitrogen a day and spends another fortune to do it. Integrated Recycling is the future of our economy and could replace taxation in funding community services. The cities will become fertilizer factories and urban and suburban farming and food production could provide a sustainable, local food supply. Schools and churches could be nurseries and local gardening centers, hubs of city and urban agriculture and recycling. This could be a sustainable, local system that is a renewable doable foundation for local economies. Local food production is the basis of all economies and the missing component in modern cities.

    This kind of integrated recycling is highly profitable and turns three life threatening problems, water shortage, water pollution and imported oil into one sustainable, environmentally positive and economically beneficial solution.
    Water based sewer systems unnecessarily wastes and pollutes our most valuable resource, clean water. There is only one water supply for the entire earth. We share this single resource with 6.5 billion other humans and with all living organisms. Water should be regarded as our most important natural resource and shared birthright. Water is the first thing mankind must agree to share according to the highest collective principle. Water is the tie that binds us together, for better or for worse.
    Water is the blood of the earth and a true sacrament, something we all share, something that is absolutely necessary for life. We should not pollute the water supply with chemicals, insecticides or human disposables that can and should be recycled to insure a healthy and sustainable future.

    Modern, water based sewer systems could be the worst idea mankind has ever adopted. Common sense informs us not to defecate in the drinking water but that is exactly what we currently do in every city of the land. We do it without thinking. That is the problem. We are not thinking right. It is possible, conceivable, that the water crisis could be THE reason people begin to think of ourselves as truly united with everyone else on the planet, known and unknown, united in our fears, hopes and desires. 6.5 billion Separate destinies have become one destiny for us all …

    For the millions of moms who are concerned about school lunch, the movement is forming. Better School Food is a non-profit health advocacy group consisting of health professionals, educators and concerned parents. We offer support, information and strategies to assist those in advocating for a better food environment wherever kids meet and eat: preschools, childcare centers, K-12, after school programs and summer camps. Better food is the smart way to decrease the cost of healthcare in this country. Along with more local, seasonal real food, we need to boost the Food IQ of everyone who eats. Schools are the right place to focus this energy.

    Two recent films will help to build your Food IQ too:
    King Corn and Two Angry Moms

    Your interview with Michael Pollan was very informative. It was gratifying to hear him discuss how everything is connected. You can't talk about energy, health and the economy without discussing our ridiculous farm policies and our eating habits.

    He's quite right about having the power to make changes ourselves, just by what we choose to buy and eat. I was somewhat dismayed at his dancing around the topic of vegetarianism without ever being able to state it directly. A great deal of our resources do go into growing food that then is given to animals at a great loss of efficiency. Eating plant food directly is much better for our own health and that of the planet. And the way we treat the animals that are used for food is horrific.

    I would love to hear you follow this up with an interview with someone who could discuss in depth how detrimental animal agribusiness is.

    Michael Pollan makes an important contribution to the cultural shift back to healthy foods and gardens. However, his comment that planting a garden "sounds kind of sweet and old lady-like" indicates that he has some growing to do himself. Perhaps these women are wise and in touch with the earth, rather than his stereotype of Granny in a sun hat.

    Bravo for L.A! Evidently, the City of Los Angeles is more informed than most consumers out there. Need I admit that this was my first acquaintance with Michael Pollan?

    (blush :)

    So who's going to be the first to call President Elect Obama and let him know about this guy for Agriculture Secretary? Let cook more. Can't wait to see the White House Garden, WOW, what an inspiration.

    Now, I can feel much better about some of the prices posted for fresh, locally grown food. In this light, shopping is now a small contribution to the community!

    Wow, this guy Pollan is SANE - how refreshing.

    Thank you Mr Moyers, for the privilege of this new information.

    (And thank you to the Los Angeles City Council for showing you care!)

    As Pollan said, "vote with your fork." And holidays are OK. I cooked a full turkey dinner Thursday. I ate nothing yesterday but pie. Tomorrow it's back to healthy peasant food. I'll be rolling up two week's worth of bean/pulse/rice/squash burritos in flour tortillas. All spiced up it's pretty tasty and keeps me working all day long. I constantly change the recipe so it never gets boring.

    Get in control of what goes down your gullet. It's the least you can do. Taking the stairs wouldn't hurt either.

    I am a fifth generation
    small family farmer committed to sustainable agriculture so I watched Bill Moyer's interview with Michael Pollan with great interest. Michael Pollan has many things right. There is no need for carrots to be trucked in from point afar when they are perfectly capable of being grown in the consumer's own community. His comment on the need to protect amaerica's prime farmland from development was spot on. But with that said, Mr. Pollan is no agriculture expert and the intellectuals of this country would do themselves a great service to consider the other side of the food issue.
    What Pollan fails to recognize that modern agricultural commodities have never been produced using less land, less fertilzer, less water, less labor, less fuel and fewer animals. Pollan has never sufficiently demonstrated using sound science that modern agriculture will not be able to meet the demands of a ballooning world population and a shrinking pool of natural resources.
    Nor does he demonstrate that his vision for agriculture would accomplish this daunting task with any superiority. Pollan seems to suggest that the american farmer is either a simple minded bumkin that needs to be sheltered from reality while being told what and how to produce, or a ruthless businessman focused on profit above all else. In his world the consumer is better qualified to dictate the housing and feeding needs of farm animals than the people who have dedicated their professional and personal lives to doing just that. This is what truly makes my blood boil.
    The American people are blessed with the world's best farmland, the best farmers, the best agricultural infrastructure utilizing the most advanced technology. I believe it is our humanitarian obligation to the hungry masses of the world that we do not do as Pollan suggests and return to "the way things were". Does this mean that we do away with agribusiness oversight, environmental regulation and the family farm? I don't believe so.
    Lastly I would like to personally invite Bill Moyers to my century old farm to visit myself and some red blooded american farmers to get a grasp on reality. If that is not feasible I would at least challenge Mr. Moyers to invite leaders of the grassroots organizations, such as Farm Bureau, on to his program to discuss the way things really are on America's farms. Now i have rambled on too long, i have cows to milk in the morning.

    Before I watched this edition of the Journal I had no clue who Michael Pollan is ... now I'm thinking of digging up the front yard and plowing the lower 40 (so-to-speak). If Mr. Pollan can inspire this old geezer, he damn-sure is someone that Obama should consider for Secretary of Agriculture. If not that, then "Food Czar"! All that clarity and logic was refreshing.

    Perhaps rather than teaching kids insignificant things in school, we need to fund in depth nutrtition classes - why is it important I eat vegetables and fruit? Show them the effects of a lifetime of junk food. Diabetes, heart disease, etc. Get them growing (organic) veggie gardens in school while they are young and their tastebuds are still open to such things. Then, your market will mature deciding for themselves that healthy food is better and what business survives or fails. You can't legislate it, but yes, you can encourage the supermarkets, farmers' markets and small farmers to come to town. But, if no one teaches the kids today why a fast food choice should be a "treat" or not daily meal menus, they won't know. I know many an adult that doesn't understand and probably isn't teaching it to thier kids cuz they weren't taught. It is sad. Very sad, but knowledge is power.

    It is important to remember, local, organic, and/or big business, water is an essential part of this process. I was disappointed the issue was not mentioned. We are continually learning what chemicals (endocrine disruptors etc) are in the water being used by all (check out perchlorate for one), and are just now beginning to research and understand the cumulative effects they have on learning, growth and development. Yet they are in the same concentrations in the plants grown organically or not, because of the water used to grow them. Not only are our water supplies polluted by unregulated chemicals, but water itself is becoming a scarce commodity. Let's not forget to think about and solve this challenge as well. Eating contaminated greens can be cumulatively detrimental, especially for our children.

    P.S. Thank you Mr and Mrs. Moyers. I've been a life long viewer (all of 24 now) and can't thank you enough for reminding me of the privilege and pleasures of being raised savoring so much of life, especially the world of ideas.

    Mr. Pollan, I enjoyed your segment on the Journal.

    Banning fast food restaurants is not the right option. Doing that might reduce some "bad" food options, but it does nothing to improve the number of good food options. However, I agree with your idea that the government might create incentives for supermarkets to move into poorer neighborhoods.

    We need to get the foxes out of the Chicken houses in all of the areas where the quality of people’s lives are concerned.
    “Conflict of interest” has a damaging effect on people’s lives and there must be laws to prevent these situations. There must be a constant vigil to prevent sociopaths in high places from causing death and destruction.

    Michael Polland has inspired me to plant my own garden. I can't wait to get my hands in the earth and grow healthy food for myself and my neighborhood..thank you Mr. Polland!

    When I first read John Robbins' book "Diet for a New America" (1987), I began to look carefully at what foods I ate, why I ate them, and what effect my decisions had on others as well as on me. My first "self discovery" lead me to the question--why should an animal have to die that I might live (eat). There are so many food alternatives which have more flavor, better texture, and aesthetic presentation than meat. But that is a personal decision which I would not impose on anyone else. I then looked at why I ate the foods I did consume. Nutrition, taste, social interaction, and aesthetic pleasure. All of these could be accomplished with a simple--but not plain--plant based diet. Lastly, I pondered what effect my decision to eat local (as much as possible), seasonal, and chemical free foods had on my health and how did that help/hinder those around me. We have a thriving local farmer's market network in our area which is providing a living wage to the small farmers in our area. My health has been excellent (part genetic I'm sure). The thriving social interaction in our market environment is very impressive, and rural land values are remaining quite stable.
    Bill, your interview with Mr. Pollan brought me full circle and rekindled my hope that all people will ask the serious questions of themselves and make informed decisions about their food choices. I did not get the impression during the interview that Mr. Pollan was proselytizing a position, but rather was getting the viewing public to ask serious questions about choices for their personal health and for the health of their greater community. Excellent program
    Marv R

    I just want to know how high school students taking my chemistry class in a suburban area of the city can ask me, "where do french fries come from?" The base food matter being a potato was foreign to them. Wow!

    Large numbers of people in many parts of the country already are committed to growing gardens, buying locally, helping others and setting a new direction. In Maine, we have schools with substantial gardens and programs that pay for themselves. Let's bring teams of Master Gardeners to the White House and get those gardens growing!

    Thank you Bill Moyers for the most riveting interview we've seen on your show (and that's saying something!). Contrary to what some posters here say Pollan has a thorough grasp of this subject matter. Check out his books and other writings, then get on the Whole Foods John Mackey blog and look at the exchanges between these two brilliant folks at the cutting edge of food in this country. Then check out Barbara Kingsolver's lovely "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." Let's hope the Obama administration is listening!

    In order to get a more in depth understanding of Michael Pollan's arguments about "agriculture" it is necessary to read his book, "Omnivore's Dilemma". He very much supports the farmer, but agribusiness has forced the farmer to abandon the old traditional farm, in order to feed the needs of large corporations. This is the area he would like to see change. The farmer benefits from his premises, as well as the local economy.

    Oh, puhleese! Pollan is another journalistic zealot who has learned just enough about food and nutrition to be dangerous and misleading. I'm the first to applaud the consumption of more fresh, locally grown food, and I know the impact food habits can have on chronic disease, but that change can't be imposed from the top down. I also know many ways exist to eat more healthfully. Even McDonald's offers some decent choices, i.e. plain hamburger/grilled chicken sandwich (not supersized), side salad, and milk or juice. It isn't the same as from scratch, but Pollan implies no good choices exist anywhere but places he has designated. In California, WIC vouchers can be used at farmers' markets, legislation has been enacted to limit fat, sodium, and sugar in school lunches, and the town of Davis has created a program by which farmers can sell their product directly to the school district. Part of the necessity for feed lots - I agree they smell putrid -is the price of beef has dropped, so cattle are fattened to get a higher price for the "middle man". However, one can go to any grocery store and ask to purchase half a beef (to put in the freezer), and they'll get locally grown, grass fed beef. Instead of being Sec. of Agriculture, Pollan could revise his writing to clarify the actual facts!

    I sat watching Bill M and Michael Pollan and waited for the inevitable ethanol put down. It came but was just mentioned in passing. Please people understand that all fermenting corn does is remove the starch which does no good in animal feed anyway. What is left over after fermentation and distillation is an excellent animal feed, fertilizer or can be used to produce methane. The mistake that Mr. Pollan and other admirable people who advocate change make is in assuming that we all will become vegetarians in the future and thus corn will no longer be a predominant crop. Right now we are throwing away a valuable energy material, that is starch; by feeding it to animals. I hope that in the future Mr. Moyers will have the leading advocate for ethanol and sustainable agriculture-David Blume on his show.

    I agree with Michael Pollan that there needs to be a complete overhaul of the school lunch program. Having worked in schools for almost 10 years, I am appalled at how we are mainstreaming and normalizing fast foods into our kids diet. Shouldn't nutrition be a basic component of education?

    Mr. Moyer, I feel you need to have someone on who "knows something about true agriculture". If America follows the instruction of Mr. Pollen, the main people that would be hurting is the small family farmer and not the "mega farms" that he spoke of. I come from a line of farmers and we struggle to keep the farm in the family after 100 years. To blame agriculture for America's problem is a slap in the face to every hard working farmer that works from sun up to sun down because they love the land, the animals and the satisfaction of a hard days work. Not because they are getting rich off of what they do.
    The notion of agriculture causing obesity is crazy. In most cases people allow themselves to become obese. We are the most informed nation on earth. We have everyone from doctors to movie stars telling what is good and not good to eat. Do we listen? We no longer have to go out and actually work! We can set at a desk and order whatever we want, need or desire. We don't even have to get off the couch to change the channel. Our children no longer have "chores" to do that would keep them away from the computer, TV, video games. Perhaps if we got rid of the electronics industry we would be better off. Wow, that sounds about as crazy as Mr. Pollen!! Maybe we should stop pointing the fingers at others and PEOPLE SHOULD TAKE RESPONSIBILTY FOR THEMSELVES.
    I admire President elect Obama, but if he would appoint Mr. Pollen as Secretary of Agriculture, I think he would loose all credibility.

    In Boulder, CO, I've been using water-reservoir deck planters for many years for our veggies. Two 2'x2' planters get two crops of beans each, enough to freeze several gallons. Two more for tomatoes allows canning many pints. Some 2'x3' planters for broccoli, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, perpetual Swiss chard, and other veggies for summer eating.

    One point missed in your conversation with Michael Pollan was the politics of water, especially in California. Take a drive north from Sacramento and you will see more unused farmland than used. As President-elect considers projects for rebuilding our infrastructure he might consider desalination plants and a pipeline to deliver potable water much like gas and oil is delivered.

    Michael Pollan for Secretary of Agriculture? You have to be joking.

    Bill, I've watched your program for many years and rarely disagree with you. But this suggestion belies your lack of indepth understanding of agriculture, its history and evolution through the last two hundred years.

    As for his alleged expertise, Mr. Pollan's ephiphany while driving past a feedlot is not the equivalent of being knowledgable about agriculture, let alone be able to address nutritional issues confronting consumers.

    Pollan's passion about consumers taking personal responsibility for their nutritional needs and their health is a good place to start to begin changing the dietary habits of urban folks towards healthier choices, but it does not qualify him as an expert beyond that.

    As one who actually makes a living in agriculture, I certainly hope President-elect, Barak Obama, has the gift to recognize when not to take advice from people who have not done their homework, yet claim to know all about agriculture.

    Thank you for bringing to light the obvious. We are what we eat.
    Teaching the next generation that fast food is good by providing soda machines and processed food in our schools is criminal! Look around this holiday season at all the young fat butts in the malls, it is really sad. Then think about the cost of health care for all these future diabetics.
    I hope President elect Obama and Rep. Pilosi were watching this interview with Mr. Pollan. Health care gets much cheaper when people take responsibility for their own bodies. Not to mention having a more enjoyable life.
    I hope "change" really does mean change Mr. Obama. This is a great opportunity to make that happen, appoint someone less tied to the Agribusiness PAC.
    Thank you,

    It is too bad that Mr Moyers did not visit the Scandianvian countries. Perhaps, he would have gotten a different picture than he did get when he visited the countries where there is sun and warmth.

    Thanks Bill for the wonderful program with Michael Pollan!

    And to Ward, there is certainly a movement afoot! I am the editor of a food policy news site, Civil Eats -, which is just launching, and which hopes to create a space for discussion of the health, energy, environment and community issues as they relate to food. Please visit us soon and give us your thoughts!

    Paula Crossfield

    Thanks for covering this issue. If everyone grew a garden, no matter how small our diet, health and physical bodies would be transformed. There is always surplus in a garden and it would help create a sense of community with ones neighbors. Even in containers on balconies people can grow food. Next spring everyone who watched your program could commit to growing a garden! Change begins at home. I'm planning to expand mine and collaborate with my neighbors. jane PDX, Oregon

    My comment is about Bill's experience on his trip abroad. The people he met in Europe and Africa were euphoric about Barack's election and felt this would somehow lead to an improvement in their own faltering economies. Bill did not want to tell them that in his opinion America's own economic downward spiral did not leave much room for hope.

    I think he is wrong. The financial meltdown and Obama's election are a win for deliberative and rational thought. Transparency in national and international affairs has received a tremendous boost. Corruption and sound bite ideology have been deeply wounded. After Sarah Palin initially gave the GOP ticket a large increaqe in the polls, Bob Herbert of the New York Times said "I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail." Fortunately the forces of dimwittedness were beaten back. I think there will be a strong trickle down effect towards good government throughout the world.

    Europe was disbelieving when America re-elected George Bush in 2004. Their current euphoria is justified not because we will shower them with dollars but because we have regained our sanity.

    I was thrilled to see Michael Pollan on your show Friday. We need to get more people familiar with his writings & philosophy. If only we could narrowcast this show to Congress!

    If any of you had the opportunity to watch this Bill Moyers' show on PBS last night, you may have been horrified to hear what bad food we are all eating. Everything we eat is loaded with high fructose corn syrup, which our pancreas cannot process, therefore does not create enough insulin, which causes type 2 diabetes and other horrible health problems such as obesity and heart disease. The huge farm lobby, is financed by huge rich corporations, that receive millions of dollars in federal subsidies that keeps that cheap bad and unhealthy fast food coming.

    Corn fed cattle on large feed lots are creating unhealthy beef for our tables. Piles and piles of manure and piles of piles of corn can be found on these horrible feed lots, where cattle are crammed in to be fed up for slaughter.

    Even our eggs from the grocery store are a problem as huge corporations keep the chickens in small cages just to capture their eggs as they drop them. To keep them from pecking each other to death, because of the terrible close quarters in which they are kept, their beaks are burned off....with no anesthetic.

    Just as bad is the plight of pigs, also kept packed together until they are frantic. To keep pigs from trying to bite one another's tails off, their tails are pinched off with pliers, again, with no anesthetic.

    The entire show may be available at now. Check it out. It may change the way you eat.

    Because of Bob's newly diagnosed diabetes, we check every label and we have found very little food without high fructose corn syrup. Even our bread is loaded with it. Most of the bread from the market has it listed as the second ingredient, which indicates that it is the second largest ingredient. I may buy another bread maker and begin making our bread again. I gave mine to Scott's (ex) wife several years ago since they had family.

    The new administration will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of their new administration: unless this is done, we will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues that were campaigned on — but as we try to address them we will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and we will have to change it if we hope to solve them.

    Farm subsidies, which are mainly paid to rich farm corporations, keep fast food cheap and fast food available. Something needs to be done about the future farm bill. Our best recourse as consumers at this point is to read labels and cook at home where we do have some control over the ingredients in the food we eat.

    Fresh fruits and vegetables shouldn't be over-priced so that only the wealthy (who have health insurance by the way) can afford them. There is a difference between "supermarket fresh" and off the tree fresh. Supermarket fresh is all we get in my area.

    Farmers Markets are becoming big business. I rememeber vegetable stands run by farmers - these were popular long before it became the "In" thing. Gardening is big business - just listen to gardening shows and read the books and you'll quickly become intimidated. Organic foods are big business - why does something that supposedly doesn't use the costly pesticides and supposedly uses proper crop rotation - suddenly cost more?

    No matter where I've lived - even in a tiny studio apartment - I've managed to grow something. Throw away the gardening books, turn off the tv - get a pot, put dirt in it, some seeds, water and Voila! - you are growing your own food. Green beans - tomatoes..... you can even grow your own sweet corn in a container. Don't forget canning! All those extra vegetables can be canned, frozen or preserved for enjoyment in the winter.

    I hope to have a veggie stand this year since I've more space. Tomatoes - 10 cents a pound, sweet corn - 12 for a $1.00.... after all, all it will cost me is the price of seeds and my time. Name somthing else that is soothing to the soul, involves healthy exercise and you get to eat your own hard work.

    Mr. Michael Pollan insight and knowledge of food and its connected dots is mentally stimulating, and informatively refreshing. President elect Barack Obama should seriously consider scheduling a meeting with him for the benefit and concern of our future ingeneral particularly for the sake of health and agriculture.
    Mr. Pollan continue your awesome involvement and focus on your passionate interest plus you willingness to both share and enlighten us all.

    You presented a fantastic program with Michael Pollan, thank you. I wish he had had the temerity to answer your question about "taking the grandkids to McDonalds occasionally" with a more proactive response. The problem with that kind of "special event" meal is that it reinforces a bad choice, McDonalds and its sodium and sugar-laced offerings, when there are plenty of ma and pa burger joints that at the very least support a local economy and often provide significantly healthier food. While healthier food may not be the point in the sort of outing we are talking about, taking the grandkids to a franchised diabetes parlor doesn't strike me as a way to inculcate the values that I have to assume you would like to promote. I am not immune to the attraction of a potato chip but there are potato chip choices, and when that "special urge" demands some fried salt, I choose the best out there. The next time your grandchildren want that delinquent little treat, take them to a boutique grease stand that maybe uses ground chuck for the patties and real ice cream for the shakes. You may start a tradition.

    After reading Michael Pollan's books, I totally changed the way my husband and I eat. My doctor was astounded and very pleased with the results: cholesterol dropped from 234 to 189 and A1c from 7.1 to 5.1 in less that a year. This was my first ever completely normal blood lab report.

    Pollan is correct that eating differently, and mostly locally does work. This method will probably have added many more years to my life.

    OK Michael Pollan I am ready to go! My dreams are filled with visions of the White House Garden, ever since I read your letter to The First Farmer. Lets dig out some of that lawn which is probably loaded with toxic chemicals and haul in some luscious dark fertile compost. Many of us here in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom are growing and cooking our own delicious, nutrtious food. I cook at a small college dedicated to sustainable agriculture where students are always looking for internships-why not the White House Garden. For that matter some of this garden could be a community garden. I am ready to do my part to make this dream a reality. Where do I start? I have inspiration and many ideas. How many of us need to show up in Washington this spring with truck loads of compost, sod cutters, shovels, seeds, starter plants, and rolled up sleeves?

    I could not watch Bill Moyer's Journal this week on WOSU Channel 34 as I usually do; I had to seek it out online. Why is WOSU not broadcasting this show? I'm much more interested in hearing Bill Moyers talk with Michael Pollan about local, sustainable farming than in listening to an evening of Doo Wop. Of course, OSU is one of the centers of research supporting corporate agribusiness. Are we witnessing an abandonment of academic support for the free exchange of ideas in the face of economic or political pressure?

    I think it is important to remember that cooking, securing food staples, and food preparation in the past "thousands of years" were mostly labeled "women's work," and were accomplished by people who were often being sustained by their partners' (mostly men's) salaries and wages, and were not compensated at the same rates as those in any other profession.

    The popularity of fast food is more complicated than just taste and convenience; where the family used to "employ" women (and sometimes men or children) as either wives/managers or housekeepers, those duties are now being carried out in, a more productive and effective way, although still horribly underpaid, in the fast food industry.

    I am not saying that the problems Pollan discusses do not exist, but that some of the solutions of the past are not as available to us now--most households cannot survive without two incomes, and the "managers" of many households, male and female, have to hold more than two jobs in addition to the preparation of food.

    The prospects of gardening in these situations, and sometimes even getting to an available farmer's market, is difficult if not impossible.

    Again, the poor suffer most, and ironically, they are the ones who are trying to make a living by working in the food service industries.

    Pollan would do well to educate himself, and all of us, about how these realistic barriers can be addressed, and say less about how so many of us are watching food shows instead of cooking food. He is assuming that his listeners have an amount of leisure time already dedicated to an interest in food that simply isn't available to a large section of the US.

    The interview with Michael Pollan and the farmers market video were for me one of the most hopeful programs I have seen in recent time. Pollan puts change within reach--as near as our own yard. Thank you. And yes, I'd like to see him be secretary of agriculture!

    Yet again, WOSU Columbus did not air the program. Fortunately, I've seen Mr. Pollan on other university channels on 'Dish Network', and I have Internet access.I would suggest people seek out the video's. I think they are more lively than his interviews.(no offense, Bill) Good show. What's more important than eating well?

    I thought the program was informative, engaging, and quite interesting to listen to. Im inspired! Bravo!

    Mr. Moyers and Mr. Pollan did a disservice to diabetics everywhere. Perhaps a little more education about diabetes and a little less left wing Puritanism would be in order. Have either of these gentlemen ever heard of genetics?

    I am very inspired. This guy rocks. I eat very little meat. I was saddned about Turkeys this year, as to how many we kill and how we treat them. Did I eat Turkey this year? Yes, I did. Do I know where it came from and how that Turkey was killed or treated? No.

    Is it possible for me to produce a veggie garden on my roof top in the Tenderloin of SF? I want to do this. I think I can grow my own tomatoes and produce on the roof of my apartment. We've got the space anyway. Liza

    I just finished watching your journal on food. As a farm girl who has a farmer's market booth, I must cheer you on--HEAR, HEAR!

    Buy fresh, buy local has become a watch phrase for many here. We do have the vouchers for senior citizens, and we offer mini classes every week to help more people learn what to do with the food they can buy from our farmers.

    While this may sound odd, Louisiana is perhaps lucky to be such a poor state; many people here continue to grow some of their herbs and vegetables,as well as some of our fruit. Almost everyone has green onions, parsley, a few tomato and bell pepper plants, if not in a "garden," at least in a flower bed or flower pot. We are blessed with a 12-month growing season, but what we do can be done in other ways in other places.

    And Louisianians still cook. What Mr.Pollan said about the impact of just cooking daily cannot be overstated. It makes a difference, saves money, and produces food instead of "nutritional products."

    I SO wish this program could be required viewing for everyone who eats! Thanks for the work that went into this program.

    Finally Bill, you got a real innovative thinker on your program with many implications. However, the food problem is just one of many innovations that we are going to need to deal with. Sadly, we are in a world of experts but experts are only experts in their one field. The real innovator we need is someone who is an expert in nothing but with an overall view and vision of what is wrong with us, our civilization and our economics. I proffered you mine, but seemingly you are too busy with experts.

    Sincerely Jack Waddington

    To be substantive, I have to voice my doubt here. It's all very well for the prosperous educated who patronize Whole Foods (inc.), but there are hundreds of millions of people who, for practical purposes, aren't going to get to the farmer's markets, or even the mass chain store's produce section, until sometime after this generation of children is all grown up (if ever).

    Better this: a fast food chain named "Dude, Eat Your Greens!" (Now, damnit, I claim copyright on this name and collaborator on this concept.) I can fix a pot of greens which will be, by the estimation of most ghetto people, slammin good. Mass produce that, offer additions such as some broccoli salad, barbeque beans, and whatnot, and position the drivethroughs where they can swing by after picking up dinner at the golden arches. Make it *better* than the golden arches. They will come.

    Build on it. I'm suspicious of a lot of these guys hollering about market forces, but by golly I tell ya market forces would prove this one out.

    Unfortunately, I lack the energy and financing. Anybody want a backup idea man?

    davy B

    About "the nation’s –- health"

    Pollan and Moyers highlighted information that has been discussed for several years now. They both are almost mainline media people. Why doesn't the American consumer get it? Why are we in such a rush? We don't have time to cook a meal because we work two jobs to try to take care of our children, who have to rush of to daycare so we can go to work to pay for day care and the convenient food we have to eat.

    If we know that it is the PACs that are dictating our food production and we know the American public is not healthy why can't we fix it? It seems irresponsible and almost immoral to brush this off.

    I am not sure that voting with our fork will do it. Sounds cute and all. However, it does not appear that enough people understand the extent of this problem.

    I have never heard of any group of activist in this country that is trying to change the way America grows it food or eats.

    The two of you should get some people together and start a "movement", fan club, activist group, food blog or something.

    I would help. I know several others that feel this way. Obama may help but I am worried about his PACs already. This is the right time to make a change.
    I am not a media person but I have a computer and a DSL. Let’s make a difference. Any thoughts on what to do first? Broccoli will not grow in Palm Springs.

    We need a thesis statement, a banner, maybe: Eat Local, it Taste Better. Start some local groups. Can't you two get something going?

    Many people would change their diet to something more healthy once they have the knowledge to do so. Just look at the popularity of farmers markets, Whole Foods, and foods that are labeled as healthy.

    An education campaign is needed. The government needs only to reprint the brochure of the Weston Price Foundation and send it to every household. Michael Pollan admits in The Omnivore's Dilemma that he got many of his ideas from the Weston Price Foundation. Weston Price was a dentist in the 1930s who traveled the world studying the diets and health of isolated cultures that had not yet switched to processed foods. Everywhere he went, people who had stayed on their traditional diets had straight, uncrowded teeth, few or no cavities - and they had never been to a dentist or used a toothbrush in their life. Diabetes, heart disease, allergies, etc. didn't exist among these "primitive" peoples. Yet all the people who had switched to processed foods had health problems - cavities, crooked teeth, great susceptibility to tuberculosis, flu, colds, etc.

    Of course if the Government did this, it would put the pharmaceutical companies out of business. Not to mention supermarkets, fast-food chains, big dairy, big livestock, many doctors and dental practicioners, and for-profit health care. It would turn our entire system on its head. Okay so the Government isn't to do that. Too many rich people would be hurt.

    Bill, could you at least do a show on the National Animal Identification System which would destroy the few small farms left in this country?

    Mr. Pollan has the right idea to decentralize our farming system. Unfortunately he is looking at a large, central organization (the Federal government) to lead the way, even while pointing out the obvious conflict of the department of agriculture and the corporate agribusiness that rules it.

    The fastest, easiest way to fix farming in the way he suggests is to push the responsibility for farming out to the states. Most, if not all, states have some form of farming, most (if not all) have their own departments of agriculture, and it would allow 50 different (but similar) experiments in the best way to produce food. Not every solution would be perfect (and of course, not every state has great legislatures), but it would be a start.

    And I can almost guarantee it would lead to a preference to locally grown food over imports.

    That was a very nicely done program with Michael Pollan.

    There were many common sense ideas presented during the show, and they underscore one facet of our society that can make amazing improvements, across many different areas, in the overall quality of life for many people.

    The best part of it all? These are not new ideas; plus, they represent a mindset shift from the rationalization of processed food eating to the recognition that eating healthier, home-cooked meals is actually a time- and money-saver in the long run.

    Kudos on a well-done and timely show!

    Earthie the commenter, you are my inspiration this week. Bill Moyers often makes my heart soar with the quality of insight he brings, but this week Earthie is my kind of gal. I wish she were my neighbor.

    davy B

    The program with author Michael Pollan was inspiring.

    A condensing poem on food.

    To prepare food that will be the body of energy of a loved one is spiritual.
    To provide food for humanity is fundamental to life on Earth.
    Our contribution is our energy.
    We are all here together.
    We are one.


    Terry J. DuBose
    Little Rock, Arkansas
    Friday, November 28, 2008

    Bill Moyers, you bring on the most informative guests to enlighten us. THANK YOU!

    I come from a family of 14, needless to say we were raised as vegetarians because we could not afford meats, except for once or twice a month. I use to believe we were poor, but as I got older, I realized we had the best diet ever.

    When I met my ex, he was raised on a farm and his dad ALWAYS grew a garden, and he taught me. To this day, 40 years later, I STILL grow a small garden and preserve/can and freeze what I can from it. Even in small spaces, you can always grow a tomato, & pepper plant. I try to grow & preserve what I buy a lot of from the grocery store, with the exception of meats. I believe if I raise small animals, having to slaughter them, would turn me off from ever eating meats again!

    It is truly amazing, planting & watching your garden grow from TINY seeds, you're in wonderment; wondering how such a tiny thing can grow so big and produce so much. When you really think about it, knowing it requires worms, bugs, bees & soil, that we truly are from and of the earth; yet our government allows big business to corrupt and destroy our earth, all while they have their private farms to ensure they get the best of everything! I'll never understand this kind of evil, greed & selfishness.

    Gardening is something many of us can do rather easily, if people really cared about their health, and well being.

    I've raised 2 children, and single, yet, you can come to my house anyday, and find perhaps all burners going, preparing this and that from scratch! People look at me as if I'm crazy, but you can believe, I'm not the one complaining about this or that ailment, nor on meds to control this or that illness. It's amazing how COMMON SENSE escapes so many people.

    Quite frankly, we do NOT need the government involvement, unless its on a GRAND scale; then again, its how they got involved and corrupted farming!

    They put children on meds to slow down their natural active behavior, then they wonder why we have so many obese children; heck its almost against the law to have naturally active and CURIOUS children.

    You know what troubled me deeply, knowing the Haitian People are starving; I wondering, why aren't these people growing what they can, as seeds are so very cheap. I wondered why no one asked us to contribute inexpensive items like this; why always send money, when the majority of the population aren't benefiting from the donations; why not send something they can easily use and process.

    I've been a Democrat ALL my life, but have very conservative ways; Conservative in the way I live, spend money, the way I dress, THINK, and CONSERVE as much as I can from my garden. To me, this is the DEFINITION of being a CONSERVATIVE.

    I could never be a member of the Republican Party, for they would kick me to the curb for being an INDEPENDENT THINKER, don't believe in following, unless its for something GOOD; you could NEVER get me to do HARM to others, and TAKE from them, unless we bartered for something in EXCHANGE, you know like, in exchange for our technology, or just be old fashion, and PAY FOR IT!

    Dear Bill Moyers...& Michael Pollan,

    Thank You! Once again you've done it, giving us a great program with great ideas. I live in a city, I have a 'lot' of land, and I started to think...why should I just have St. Augustine grass?
    I let the grass die, and I started planting a variety of plants, now I have lemons, grapefruits, kumquat, loquat, swiss chard, all kinds of beautiful aromatic tasty herbs, and I recently planted broccoli, cabbage, rhubarb...we'll see how it goes, but it's fun different! I think most of us have been brainwashed for so long into having a 'lawn', that we don't think to grow our own food, instead of a stupid useless lawn, or...,
    some see it as a sign of not being 'classy' enough or rich enough if you plant your own vegetable, & prefer to have a company come mow + blow the leaves etc. I'm thinking of getting chickens so I can have my own eggs. Anyway, thanks Bill, thanks Michael Pollan!!! gp

    I sure hope our President-elect and Michelle Obama caught this important broadcast. I agree with Mr. Pollan on the linkage of our diet to the diseases that plague Americans today. Barack Obama is now well- positioned to become a transformational leader. And finding ways - like those suggested by Mr. Pollan, which can make Americans healthier, should be one of the high priority goals of the new administration.

    Well, one thing that the new admin can and should do is to lift the tariff on sugar, and outlaw high fructose corn syrup, which as a result of it is now in nearly everything. Also, one should not get the idea from this that fresh fruit and vegetables in the supermarket are better for you than canned or frozen versions of the same, because they are not. They have usually been sitting around for weeks and in the process lost much of their nutrients. In addition, they were picked well before they were ripe, and taste terrible. Farmer's mkts and stands are not always what they seem, as well, like the bargains in overstock stores. Too, you cannot blame suppliers and not demanders, or vice versa. This is like the gas business; it take two to tango. But I have always wondered why we do not have farms near our cities like the Europeans do, and it is because of the incredible concentration of our population as much as anything. Nothing could be a surer sign of the decline of our civilization, even if our ppl don't live in shanty towns like they do in other places. Agriculture evolved to sustain a population that had outgrown its natural resources and involved a change of diet from the beginning, but also a change of personality, religion, society and govt - a movement towards monarchy/democracy or capitalism, which has now shifted and squandered so much of our natural wealth that it threatens not only our extinction, but the destruction of the planet. It is necessary to do something about that.

    Back to college and work, our three children left with the leftover Thanksgiving foods. And of course, they praised the flavors. But, oh how proud a feeling when they reflected of how much of our own safe, nutritious, organic food was within the meal.

    Michael Pollan's words is the essence of healthy common sense.

    Backyard gardener.

    I know exactly what Michael Pollan has experienced when he drove through a feedlot. When my husband and I drive through Dodge City along highway 50 on our trips to Colorado from Wichita, we dread the stench and the knowledge that cows are on top of each other - with their feces and urine. It is for that reason that we rarely buy beef and when we do, we go for grass-fed beef.

    I live on about 15 acres, 5 or so of which is in pasture. My two neighbors cut and bale the hay from my field, and use the hay (along with their own) to feed their cattle. Some of their beef is sold at the local farmers market, so I get to eat some of my own hay! It tastes much better this way.

    There is agribusiness who do receive tons of 'aid' and no one screams but if the poor look for help, well too bad. Not only do we not grow enough for our country, we import crap from China than that same part of government do not check it and says oh well eat it and die for we can not do our jobs of providing safty in checking the food. The government also claim that they can not tell who makes over the limit since they do not have access to their income. Shouldn't they have to 'prove' they earn a certain amount and deserve compensation? Where is the accountability?

    My thoughts on Micheal Pollan:

    These food experts will further destroy this Country! The people choose with their vote, or dollar, who will be the sellers of food and not by government policy.

    Footnote: n89 from the book, ”Plea For Liberty”, published in 1891...
    89. [89] Hygiene has, in fact, become an official career. Those who fill the posts given by the State, seek to make themselves indispensable. One of the most distinguished of French doctors wrote to me recently that it will be necessary to make a new '89' against the tyranny of hygiene, and to risk a revolution in order to gain our liberty of eating and drinking, and to limit the busybodydom of Sanitarians in the concerns of our private life.

    I remember food when it tasted like food! I can barely eat meat that is purchased from a supermarket. There seems to be a tug of war between the nutritional value of our food and its safety, vis-a-vis the pesiticides, antibiotics, etc. used. Sadly, so many issues are competing for our future President's attention; I don't think our nation's food supply will make it to the dinner plate of priorities. I wholeheartedly agree that our food system needs reform. Food safety is paramount. Much is at stake. When President-Elect Obama looks for economic solutions, he should consider the economic value of the businesses that could be created by local farmers. And, by the way, his health care budget could be reduced by healthy eating. Seems like a win, win situation to me!

    Thank you for this opportunity to share my views. My experiences with 'farmer's markets' is multifaceted. First of all, there is a social factor that does not exist when walking down aisles in a store. I socialize with other customers as well as with farmers.

    Also, this is a metaphor for self-realization in that I go because it is something I realize is beneficial to the farmers, the enviroment, as well as to myself.

    This is - of course - economical because it involves less of a process of packaging, processing, transporting, etc... Therefore, it is of benefit to the farmers and to myself. All in all, this is a no-lose situation.

    Thank you for this opportunity.

    I just listened to Bill's conversation with Michael Pollan. Is Bill as naive as he sounds sometimes or is he trying to steer the viewer away from the all important fact that we have a fascist corporate government and that is the root of most of our crucial problems. Even though Pollan tells Bill that the Agricultural Department is the problem and that it is run by AgriBusiness in the first place, still Bill suggests at the end of the segment that Pollan would make a great Secretary. Huh? This is about as insincere and stupid as saying that viewer donations make up the lion's share of how programs are funded.

    For 5 years, I have grown sprouts at home in my laundry room over the washer and drier . For the cost of seeds I have wonderfull fresh food with no transportation costs. There is a history to this.
    Sprouts from the Romans to the people in the great depression.

    Check out the internet for the ways

    Thank you Bill for a very informative hour with Mr. Pollard..
    I listened rapt on his every syllable

    I was pleased to hear a reference to the "Victory Gardens" started by Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a great lady and had wonderful ideas for us. I think we need more local gardens, community gardens, buy local emphasis, support for local food production. We need to grow food closer to where people live.

    Great program! Michael Pollan is certainly a person to be listened to - and I hope president-elect Obama is listening.

    Eleanor Kuhl
    Cortez, Colorado

    You are an idiot. If an alert viewer watches the video of your interview with Bill Moyers, they will see that you said "no one eats these things" in reference to soy and corn as direct food sources. You did not qualify that statement in any way. Listen to the interview. My family does not eat processed foods. We do not eat "fast food." We do eat edamame and fresh corn. These are healthy food sources. My family grows both on our 250 year old small family farm. I have a degree from UC Berkeley. You've embarrassed me. Bill Moyers sat there like a biased, pandering celebrity with an agenda to promote and didn't challenge your assertion. You are the reason UC Berkeley often has to defend itself from accusations of being an extremist, ignorant, inflammatory source of misinformation. I went to school there. I know better. You embarrass me. My wife has a degree in journalism from Missouri and is likewise embarrassed about the degenration of her profession caused by liberal bigots like Moyers. Shame on you both for not at least trying to tell the truth. If you think the American public is so stupid you need to "scare" them into doing the right thing by lying to them and skewing the information you provide, you are worse than stupid.

    Mr. Pollen you are great ! I hope this President listens.

    According to one major author on health and nutrition; a study at a sugar refinery showed that only workers whose station was after the bleach was added had diabetes. All of them had it. No one who was stationed before the bleach had diabetes. All the workers were partaking of the product as it came from the fields through the plant.

    If we eliminate non-bleached corn syrup and other non-bleached sweeteners, that will just increase the use of bleached sugar. What we need is to eliminate the bleached sugar, bleached flour and products that include them from our grocery shelves.

    Michael Couch

    I just started growing wheatgrass in my basement!!! We purchased a shelving unit, three grow lights, trays, organic soil and plant food. Once I get this going, I plan to explore other vegetables!

    The writers solutions have merit that we can focus on. I like the idea of food stamps for healthy food. And a positive incentive would be to have stamps that that can be used at the farmers markets. In addition the insurance companies should be challenged to invest in the health of the community by offsetting the cost of the farmers market. On the west coast Kaiser Permanente supports markets. The writers reminded me of the potential of community gardens also. However, I don't understand how a policy that is designed to help is pure and simple discrimination.

    To once again single out and target any group and pass laws that ban what businesses can be opened in their neighhborhood is discrimination. Pure and Simple.

    I try to eat healthy, but when you can feed a group of kids snacks at $1.99 for junk food and fill their craving - and apples cost $1.99 a pound - then rethink the solution. This applies to all healthy foods - the better for you they are, the more expensive. Thus - food growers/producers and society encourages the trend Not to eat healthy despite all it's grandiose talk.

    You can buy an orange and split it 8 ways - or buy a bag of chips and see which goes further to putting food in an empty tummy.

    This is targeting the poor - once again they get penalized for not living in the right neighborhood or having the right economic status. So let's see - pollution goes up as people drive cars farther to get to a fast food restuarant! Shame on Los Angeles!!

    The Real Soulution - how about a food stamp bonus that goes strictly for fruit and vegetables? A simple card that is used for that purchase only? This leaves more for other healthy foods even if pre-packaged like Meat, oatmeal, milk etc.

    How about each person having access to pots/containers/soil/seeds to grow some of their own foods - whether vegetables or herbs? Don't punish - encourage and teach.

    I have to admit, I'm beginning to doubt the safety and healthiness of ALL commercial foods, not just fast food. It seems as though many Americans - not all of us, of course - would be better off growing their own meat and vegetables. Come to think of it, it almost seems as though several of us would also be better off using beasts of burden for travel, too. I actually know people that do both, and they really do seem to enjoy the purity and simplicity of an agrarian lifestyle.

    There is a documentary called "King Corn" that will change the way you eat and think.

    The bread basket of America aint worth eatin, imagine that.


    We ourselves pay for what we eat. Maybe someone else (insurance Company, government) pays for the health care. It has become so expensive no one less than Warren Buffet or Bill Gates can carry that burden themselves. But that does affect how we decide to spend our money.

    For myself, my wife and I are fortunate enough to have enough land to raise a good portion of our food ourselves and the health to keep on doing it.

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