The Omnivore’s Dilemma {Book Review}

There is no doubt that now days more and more people are asking themselves: Where does food really come from? How is it produced? What is it made of? But my question is: why should we even feel this conflicted about food this way? Shouldn’t the answer be as simple as: foods are made of and contain nothing but nature’s intended nutrients, vitamins and minerals? But neither the answers nor the foods themselves are so simple.  Not anymore, not in this age of subsidized corn, of depleted soils, of industrialized animals… and the truth is not easy to digest.

Came across this book at a time in my life where food choices were already a dilemma and thought it would just reaffirm what I already knew about industrial agriculture, fast food epidemics, high caloric/nutrition empty foods, etc… Another 101 lesson… But boy was I wrong! This book was a complete degree of itself on food issues from the economic, to the sustainable and even the ethical.

I was entertainingly taught, hurt by the truth and a little relieved to know that I wasn’t alone, that my worries about our food options weren’t just maternal paranoia. Some people might just not be interested in knowing so much, and I can see how his arguments and conclusions on the impossibility of real sustainable eating can cause a little anxiety to some, including me; but on this day and age we have to realize that evolution is real and is here to stay and there is just no other option but to have our food and the way we feed ourselves evolve in some way too.  We can only hope for a “cleaner” evolution.

Maybe that is why I found myself a little more conflicted about his views on the organic industry. Yes, even the organic option might just be on its way to be just that: another industry… but hey! Isn’t a more clean/natural industrial better than a dirty/poisonous one? Yes, we still face the bigger environmental issues, but we do not live in a utopia and are far from it as our world tries to catch up with its own evolution. And even though he does not completely buys into it, he does comes to terms at one point, and acknowledges the fact that if we can’t fix everything, we can at least fix something:  “Get over it .. . the real value of putting organic on an industrial scale, is the sheer amount of acreage it puts under organic management. Behind every organic TV dinner or chicken or carton of industrial organic milk stands a certain quantity of land that will no longer be doused with chemicals, an undeniable gain of the environment and public health.” (And just for the record I do think that organic TV dineers are a really bad idea)

Pollan’s knowledge on the facts can hopefully educate enough people to make them change their minds even a little bit about the better ways to feed ourselves now days (at least as far as what is related to their families and their owns health).  However, this book is not about providing concrete solutions and after realizing himself the challenges of traditional farming and the impossibility of independently feeding ourselves all the time, he sort of implies at the end that there is just no solution. There is no denying that we live in a more unnatural world than the one our previous generation fed from, that population is growing exponentially different than it did just one generation ago and that we are far more economically driven than ever before; but as innovations and adaptations continue to come up from all angles of modern life, we should not give up on trying to make positive progress when it comes to the food industry just because things cannot go back to the way they were years ago.

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