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Debate in Dairyland

Pollan's 'Defense Of Food' Sparks Debate In Dairyland

AP | RYAN J. FOLEY | Posted 05.25.2011 | Home

One best-selling book advocating fresh, local foods is shaking up America's Dairyland.

Students across University of Wisconsin-Madison's campus, organic grocers, scientists, and dairy farmers large and small have jumped into the debate on how food is produced and eaten. The discussions started last month when the university began giving Michael Pollan's book, "In Defense of Food," free to all incoming freshmen and school officials urged professors to use it in class.

"I have not seen the students this excited about something in years," Irwin Goodman, a horticulture professor who is vice dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences said of the buzz on campus about Pollan's field-to-table philosophies.

The book urges readers to "eat food, not too much, mostly plants" and criticizes food companies and scientists for replacing traditional foods with unhealthier, highly processed substitutes and confusing consumers with health claims.

Pollan's work has been used on college campuses from the University of California-Berkeley, where he is a journalism professor, to Columbia University in New York City for courses ranging from science journalism to environmental politics. But the program at UW-Madison is unique because the book and related topics are being discussed everywhere from French and political science courses to an exhibit on the history of food. And Pollan is to speak at the 17,000-seat Kohl Center Thursday in the liberal college town.