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Why Michael Pollan Doesn't Want to Be Secretary of Agriculture

The writer is not biting at an Internet-fueled citizen's movement to draft him for the cabinet post, but he does have some suggestions.

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All well and good, but as a senator, Obama supported that monster farm bill (although he was absent for the actual roll call). He also supported the production of ethanol (a politically expedient move when the Iowa Democratic caucuses were at stake), even though using corn for fuel rather than food raises the price of grain and results in huge emissions of greenhouse gases.

Thus, where food and agriculture are concerned, connecting the dots, as Pollan told Moyers, is a tortuous journey involving internecine politics, international diplomacy, big business, every branch of government and every issue, from morbid obesity to homeland security.

Pollan is hopeful that Obama will take advantage of his oratorical skills and bully pulpit to set an example for the American people, perhaps even suggesting "meatless Mondays" for the country -- which, according to Pollan, would have the ecological effect of taking 30 million to 40 million cars off the road for a year -- and encouraging home gardening and eating locally; supporting the small farmers who grow fresh food nearby -- without chemicals or subsidies.

"I think we have to figure out different solutions in different places, and it's not all or nothing," he said. "We need to let a thousand flowers bloom. We need to try many things in many places, and figure out what works...

"Vote with your fork, for a different kind of food. Go to the farmer's market. Get out of the supermarket... Plant a garden... Declare your independence from the culture of fast food."

Regardless of who Obama chooses as his Ag secretary, it will be interesting to see if the new president sees fit to make Pollan an unofficial advisor on food issues, an influential voice in his -- you should excuse the expression -- kitchen cabinet.

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.

 
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