Lean Reviews

A review site for conservative, libertarian, center-right readers. We'll tell you what's good, what's bad, what's so-so, and what you'll like even if you have to stumble past liberal tropes to get to a good story

Nonfiction: In Defense of Food

By Allie Duzett

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food (2008) is a quick and fascinating read. Though the book is just over 200 pages, the fast-paced book is highly informative. There is enough information in the book to perhaps qualify it as “dense,” but it doesn’t read that way.

Pollan first examines the history of nutritionism and America’s food culture, a culture that currently fixates on nutrients (such as saturated fat, or Vitamin K) rather than foods (such as peaches or fish). Pollan explains that this obsession with specific nutrients stems directly from Democrat George McGovern in the 1970’s. McGovern was the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, a committee meant to solve American malnutrition. Instead, the committee–through McGovern–spawned the rise of nutritionism, when the dairy and meat industries got upset at the liberal concern that Americans were eating too much meat. In response, rather than demonizing milk and meat directly, McGovern focused on saturated fat instead–that way he could demonize a food without offending a particular industry. This was the birth of nutritionism–and it was the brainchild of a Democrat.

In the book, Pollan discusses the role of the FDA in the food industry, noting that in 1973, the FDA, without Congressional approval, repealed the Congress-passed Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 that required food products to say if they were imitations or not. Food industries backed the move, which was obviously an overstep of the executive branch in defiance of the terms of the United States Constitution itself.

The book also discusses the industrialization of eating and the health risks associated with the western diet, concluding with Pollan’s suggestions for healthy eating, helpfully summarized on the cover of the book: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Overall, the book is written in such a way that it is not overtly biased–although during my first read I thought I found several examples of anti-conservative bias. The fact is, the historical events Pollan portrays in his book cast the government, government agencies, and Democrats in particular in a bad light, although it appears as though Pollan has intentionally kept the party registration of people like McGovern from the book. This is surprising because McGovern was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972–had he won the presidency, it appears as though America’s nutritional landscape would be even worse than it is today.

I definitely recommend this book. Go read it today.

Allie Duzett is a free-market conservative who believes in using her money to support small, local business and agriculture.


One comment on “Nonfiction: In Defense of Food

  1. sybaritica
    August 31, 2012

    Have you read his ‘The Omnivores Dilemma’? Also a great book!

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