This year, renowned journalist, author, and food intellectual Michael Pollan received the 2014 Nierenberg Award for Science in the Public Interest.
“Michael Pollan has shown that an English major can do great service to science in the public interest,” said Walter Tschinkel, one of many who introduced Pollan. “Science very much needs writers like Michael Pollan to bridge the gap between scientists and the wider public… to make science meaningful, relevant, and accessible… and just perhaps to influence people and public thinking about important social, philosophical and scientific issues.”
After receiving his award, Pollan sat down with KPBS News Editor, Tom Fudge and talked about everything from the lesson Pollan learned from a woodchuck, to the carbon problem, his love of food, and how to feed the world.
The problem of getting carbon back into the soil:
“I think the future, the next set of important gains come not from [seed] breeding, but from understanding the soil microbiome and manipulating that environment.”
His relationship with food:
“I enjoy food now more than I used to… I think I’m less self-conscious about my eating than a lot of my readers are… and I think I’ve made a certain number of people that you probably know insufferable.”
“Eating well is easier if you have some money, and that’s one of the real tragedies of the food system we have – that the cheapest calories are so unhealthy.”
One of Pollan’s “Food Rules:”
“Don’t buy any cereal that changes the color of the milk.”
The difficulty of political change:
“It’s very much in the interest of political leaders to have our food be cheap even if it’s unhealthy. When you get spikes in food prices, you get political restives, you get riots, you get revolutions. And every political leader understands this. So they’re willing to put up with a lot of negative side effects of cheap food, as long as the price stays down. And this, in a way, is the biggest impediment to changing the food system.”
Feeding the world:
“The goal is for the world to be able to feed itself. The idea that we grow all the grain and dump it on the rest of the world is incredibly arrogant.”
“There’s plenty of food. We’re now growing 2800 calories per person per day… That’s for everybody living on the planet. We still have a billion who are hungry. So quantity is not the problem with feeding the world. We have to look at equity. We have to look at who controls the land. We have to look at diet. We have to look at waste.”
Watch more of this enlightening interview: An Evening with Michael Pollan: Nierenberg Award 2014.