As anticipated, a lot of feisty emails in my box — and it’s only Tuesday — most of them stuffed with arguments about that’s wrong with the modern food system. Let me clarify something: my purpose is not to argue that everything’s hunky dory with modern agriculture. There are problems — serious ones — as any farmer, conventional or otherwise, will tell you. Only a fool would try to pretend otherwise (so those of you who are even now composing more treatises on farm runoff for me, please stop now). My purpose is to argue that on balance, our food production system is worth keeping. Does that mean I think we can afford to be complacent about the problems we have? By no means. I am, however, optimistic they can be solved.
It’s tough arguing against a utopian. Why? Because utopias by definition have no problems. Existing not in the real world but in the minds of their creators (and adherents), they promise us only what is good and nothing that is bad. Anything real looks like dog meat by comparison, because real things have real pros and cons. The primary weakness of utopias, of course, is that they’re impossible. I hope to demonstrate just how impossible Michael Pollan and Food Inc.‘s utopia is over the course of the week.
Also, I wish to point out — many accusations to the contrary — that I am not attacking organic/vegan/local food lovers (my joke about organo-nuts not withstanding). What I’m doing is defending conventional food growers and producers against what I believe is an unfair attack. There’s an important difference there. I’ve said before and I’ll say again: I like organic food. I eat it regularly as part of a varied diet and encourage others to do so if they wish. The big difference between myself and the Pollanites is that they won’t extend me the same courtesy. They’re not content to eat the food they like and allow others to do the same. The totality of the conventional food system must be destroyed (or radically reorganized) in the bargain. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s reasonable, fair or possible.