RIP, academic freedom: Writer Michael Pollan—aka “elitist,” and apparently Agribiz Public Enemy No. 1—will now be part of a panel discussion at Cal Poly on Oct. 15 instead of giving a planned one-hour lecture. Harris Ranch Beef Company Chairman David E. Wood wrote to Cal Poly President Warren Baker threatening to withdraw a pledged $500,000 donation for a new meat processing facility on the campus if Pollan’s “unchallenged forum to promote his stand against conventional agricultural practices” was not rethought. Now, Gary Smith, Monfort Endowed Chair in meat science at Colorado State University, and Myra Goodman, cofounder of organic vegetable company Earthbound Farms, will join Pollan for a more “balanced” forum. (We guess Goodman will be providing the neglected veggie perspective.) (New Times SLO)
Our take: The controversy and expected Big Ag turnout may end up being a good thing: Pollan is disarmingly effective when debating his critics (La Vida Locavore blogged one recent example), and this way there will be more sinners than choir in the audience. However, the baldfaced “pay to play” pressure to which many agricultural and land-grant colleges are being subjected is cause for grave long-term concern.