Sunday, September 27, 2009

Michael Pollan's visit to UW Madison

Thursday evening started off with a delicious sustainable dinner at Pop’s, the southeast dining hall. The food was all locally grown and cooked in honor of the Michael Pollan lecture later in the evening. I wish we could have more dining hall meals like that.
Next on the agenda was the Michael Pollan lecture. You can tell he’s going to be a big deal when you have three different people get up to introduce him. At the beginning of his lecture, you could tell he was a little nervous because he kept drinking the provided water next to the podium. As the lecture progressed however, he definitely was feeling more comfortable speaking to some seven thousand people filling over half of the Kohl Center. During his speech, he predicted the statement, “Omega 6 fatty acid would be the next nutrient attacked by scientists.” He believes “that the nutrition scientists will think that omega 6 fatty acid will try to push out the blessed omega 3 fatty acid molecules out of vital body cells.”
At one point during his presentation, he asked the audience members to list off some key nutrients that scientist are promoting at this time. One audience member’s response was “olive oil.” Pollan responded jokingly “that olive oil isn’t a nutrient.” Pollan did agree however, that nutritional scientists are promoting the use of olive oil over vegetable oil. Another point in the evening was when he brought out the food he purchased earlier in the evening to talk about. He talked about how the fewer ingredients it has the more organic the food is. Pollan also discussed how packaging plays a huge role in selling food. He explained that manufacturers can manipulate the labels to say anything they want it to say. For instance, he held up an ice cream and the label said now made with only five ingredients. He then stated that even before people found out about the fewer ingredients the healthier it is for you, the ice cream still only contained five ingredients in it. He made some very thought provoking points throughout the evening. Another one of these points is when he brought up the farmers. The farmers who do the most labor intensive work in creating the food is the people who get paid the least. The people who create the packaging receive more profits on the food by an outstanding percentage in the billions than the farmers receive. The farmers in the audience were so appreciative of him bringing up this topic, that at this point during his speech all the farmers wearing the green t-shirts responded with tremendous clapping and whistling. The points he brought up were not only expanded thoughts on his book, but also new insights as well. The speech was very informative, but also fun and intriguing to listen to at the same time.
The audience response to Michael Pollan was overwhelmingly positive. He received two standing ovations. One was right after his speech and the other was after the brief question and answer portion of the evening. Overall, I would say the night was a complete success.

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