Several weeks ago, I wrote a piece for Slate that was critical of the Food Movement and some of its leading lights, such as Michael Pollan. Like my previous GMO-related essay for Slate, this one struck a nerve. Shortly after it appeared–and after a proposal to label GMO foods was rejected by California voters–Pollan gave a lecture at Berkley where he is a journalism professor.
In his talk, Pollan briefly mentions “this guy Keith Kloor” at the outset–he handed out my piece to his class before the lecture–and indirectly addresses the criticisms I made. He also discusses at length why (he thinks) the GMO labeling initiative (Proposition 37) failed.
Pollan says a bunch of notable things. For example, on the scare-mongering by GMO opponents, who often assert GM foods are a threat to public health, Pollan admits that the science doesn’t support such claims. “I don’t think you win this case on scientific merit,” he says, adding: “Fear is not a basis to rally people against GMOs.”
But Pollan wants to have it both ways, because in the next breath, he also says that not enough science has been done. Additionally, he suggests, incredibly, that the mainstream press “unfairly” dumped on the French researcher of that notorious GMO/rat cancer study that has just been eviscerated once again–this time by the French Society of Toxicologic Pathology. Pollan’s comment on this is odd, since, if anything, it was the many scientists who were harshly critical of the study–not journalists, who were just reporting the reaction to it.
Pollan and his fellow foodies are in a tough spot. In the California GMO labeling initiative, they saw a chance to galvanize support for a wide-ranging food politics agenda. Pollan had essentially said that Proposition 37 was a defining moment for the upstart Food Movement. Obviously, he bet on the wrong horse and now it seems he doesn’t want to stay with that horse (especially the way it’s being rode).
It’s probably too late, if the old adage about the horse leaving the barn holds true.