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Michael Pollan Discusses Genetically Modified Food, California's Prop 37 And More

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For the most recent issue of the New York Times magazine, which not coincidentally happened to be the food and drink issue, Michael Pollan wrote a piece about California's Proposition 37, which, if passed, would mandate labeling genetically modified foods. In response to the piece, Pollan participated in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit.

In true AMA style, questions ranged from the light-hearted to the serious. Here are some of Pollan's most interesting responses:

On junk food:
Q: What, in your opinion, is the single worst food trend, or foodstuff, on American menus?
A: The trend of mashing up junk foods seems pretty bad: Tostidos [sic] and Taco Bell, that sort of thing.

On GMOs:
Q: If we’ve been eating genetically modified food for 18 years, why are we finally trying to label GM’s now?
A: We've been trying to label GMO foods since we began eating them 18 years ago, but the industry has fought it at every stage-- FDA, Congress, White House, state legislators. This is the rare opportunity, here in California, for the public to finally get heard on the issue.

On high fructose corn syrup:
Q: Michael -- Can you articulate what the differences are between regular sugar and high fructose corn syrup? And, why we think that High Fructose corn syrup is worse for us?
A: As far as we know HFCS and sugar are functionally the same-- my objection to HFCS is not that it is more toxic than sugar, but that it is more ubiquitous, and subsidized by our government. Also it's worth avoiding because if you avoid it, you are automatically avoiding processed foods. What home cook ever uses HFCS?!?!?

On fat:
Q: I've read the Omnivore's Dilemma and loved it. What do you think of new evidence that low fat diets can be unhealthy and that fat is actually good for us? I'm thinking of Gary Taubes' work especially..
A: We've been obsessing about dietary fat since the 1970s but guess what? There is very little evidence --two studies out of hundreds-- that found any link between saturated fat and heart disease. It appears that refined carbs are a much more serious problem, linked to all the chronic diseases. Fat is fat-- it is high in calories-- but it is also essential to health and has gotten a bad rap.

On school lunch:
Q: What do you think about the current state of teaching nutrition in our schools? What more can be done to set a solid foundation in youngsters, from all demographics, for eating healthier throughout life?
A: We need to make lunch part of the school curriculum-- growing it, cooking it, learning about what food does to our bodies. It's as important as any other subject.

The whole discussion is a worthwhile read, and it goes into a lot more depth about important food topics. Read it in full here.

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