We asked Food Systems Insider readers what they thought about the University of Wisconsin handing out Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food to students. Here is what a few had to say:

Q: UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin gave every freshman student a copy of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. Do you see this program as a:

A. Legitimate means of stimulating discussion about our food system.

B. Politically motivated move to turn the UW community against modern agriculture and food production.


“As a Wisconsin resident (not by choice), with a son enrolled at UW, I am appalled that a tax-supported, land-grant institution would promote and distribute information so biased, unfounded, and damaging (in terms of long-term ability to feed the world while being good stewards of our resources). Regardless of the chancellor's PR comments, this gives Pollan immense credibility with a large audience that is at a point critical to making ongoing lifestyle decisions.”

“The chancellor with a seven-figure salary can afford food raised with yesterday's technology. What about the billions of people projected to enter this world in the next 40 years?”

“I want to believe that Biddy Martin's intent was to do exactly as she has stated - to find a topic that could be discussed across many disciplines. I have not read the book, only what others have said about it, and it certainly sounds like it espouses many arguments I don't agree with. At the same time, I think it’s very important that "agriculture" and food processing not look on this as politically motivated - in the long run that will turn around and bite us. A positive, pro-active approach, without the hysterics, I believe will help us tell our story more effectively. We need to remember that the 50,000-plus students on UW campus are not only future customers, but future leaders. We need to find a way to keep them from becoming the enemy.”

“I think discussion, about any topic, helps everyone understand the real issues better. There is a real need to make sure the person leading the conversation can highlight the key points on either side of the debate though. Sometimes when you read these books, it's easy to take their side. The reality is that nothing is as simple and straightforward as some of these writings can lead us to believe.”

For more on this topic, and on Pollan’s subsequent speech on the UW campus, click here.