Sustainability Smackdown

Journalist Michael Pollan and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey plan to meet mano a mano on February 27 in the face-off that has the San Francisco Bay Area food-politics community buzzing with excitement.

The talk is titled “The Past, Present, and Future of Food,” but those in the know are calling it the sustainability smackdown. The roots of this lie in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, published last year to great acclaim. In it, Pollan criticizes Whole Foods for presenting a pastoral facade—the supermarket alternative—while not living up to this promise in terms of sourcing their produce from small-scale and local farms.

Mackey, a cofounder of the Whole Foods chain, took umbrage at Pollan’s assertions and posted an open letter to Pollan disputing his assessment. Shortly after this, “locally grown” signs started sprouting at Whole Foods stores. The two men have had a dialogue on the topic ever since—chronicled on their blogs.

The talk, which will be at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Auditorium, is bound to be an interesting one. As of this writing, tickets are still available. As noted on the blog Local Forage, the event will also be available via live webcast for those out of the area.

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