May 29, 2009

WSU to Return “Ominivore’s Dilemma” to Its Common Reading Program

Ralph Loglisci

Ralph Loglisci

Food and Health Policy Writer

Washington State University alum and former WSU regent, Bill Marler, has offered to foot the bill to bring author Michael Pollan to the school’s campus. WSU said it will take Marler’s offer to pay the speaking fee for the author of “Omnivore’s Dilemma’ and will reinstate the school’s Common Reading Program. According to WSU, the Common Reading Program had been suspended due to financial concerns and not because of pressure from the agriculture industry. In recent days, the land grant University has faced a barrage of criticism over the suspension of the program.

We believe Washington State University has worked hard to reach its status as a leading national research institution (its College of Agriculture is ranked second in the nation in plant science by the Chronicle of Higher Education). There is, however, the continued concern that large agriculture interests have undue influence over WSU and other land grant universities which conduct important research in areas surrounding food production and its effects on the environment and public health.

Congress could alleviate these concerns by committing federal dollars to help WSU and other land grant universities and remove the potential conflict of interest by receiving financial support from Big Ag. Imagine where we would be if the biomedical research community did not have support from the National Institutes of Health and had to rely on the pharmaceutical industry for exclusive support?

We’re looking forward to Michael Pollan’s visit to WSU and the discussion of his book. He told the New York Times that he is pleased the program was restored. He said it’s especially important that it’s taking place at a land grant university, “because we are in the midst of this national conversation about the future of food and agriculture, and land grant universities have a critical role to play.”

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