The Origin of Food


In this piece of writing, Michael Pollan takes on several pieces of conventional wisdom into consideration. He conventionally challenges and expertly disputes the whole foods supermarket chain, food markets and groceries, and blames them for their involvement in the industrial organic complex. He further goes forward to point fingers at the vegetarians and the vegans for failing to understand the way the whole natural world operates. He describes their ethical position as naïve and backdated. These claims have been considered and viewed in the different ways by different people. Myself, I find the argument unwise and widely wrong, (Grumett, 2008).

The whole analysis of food chains brings into question the methods used in production of the same, methods of preservation and, to some extent, the process of packaging. It brings to the attention of the consumer that some of the products used in production chain are more harmful or rather less nutritious, as compared to the benefits gained from the foods. The vegetarians, for instance, tend to consume more of compound chemicals used in production, rather than the nutrients intended. They have little or no choice due to the time constraints and other factors therein. Although they go for the whole food, as they consider it organic, it is evident that organic food is less organic, just like industrial food based on the compound chemicals used in the production. The whole food chain stores are profit making; thus, the use hefty flowery adverts in order to attract the customers’ attention to their products. This puts the whole wisdom into question.

The Origin of Food


The whole food stores advertise whole organic foods in a flowery manner that convinces one that the food is fully organic and healthy to the customer. However, according to Pollan, he witnessed the growth, preparation, and packaging of the whole foods, and discovered that the foods were not any better than the industrial foods consumed by the larger population. His argument is strengthened by the very fact that the whole foods are shelved for profits by the specific chain stores. In his analysis, Pollan disputes the wisdom of the organic foods. He states that one is not becoming safer in terms of health by consuming the whole foods; moreover, he or she is equally exposed to the dangers, just like any other person consuming industrial foods, (Merriam, 2008).

Pollan’s Argument

Michael Pollan stated his facts on foods after doing a deep and wide research on the same. He based his arguments on the proved facts gathered from the food stores and whole food chains. Pollan argues that at the prime and pinnacle of globalization, people tend to have very limited time, restraining them from researching on the foods that they consume; he also focuses on the availability of conveniences and the wide means of ordering foods from the store. This includes the use of internet and other technological means. He further focuses on the wide and deceptive adverts that convince consumers that whatever meals they are taking are whole and free of chemicals. Pollan thinks that all food is chemically contaminated and the only way to achieve save food is by people producing their own which by itself will be challenging considering the heavy reliability that humans have placed on using chemicals to maximize their production rates. He, however, states that only a few individuals are concerned with gathering ecologically clean food. The foods we consume are rich in fertilizers, food preservatives, and contaminated packaging materials among other ecological toxics (Sanbonmatsu 2011). They have a long-term effect on an individual’s health. This has been contributed by the fact that the food market is fully commercialized. This means that people have been more interested in factors like prices, availability and convenience of the foods that they take. This is at the expense of the factor of the quality of the food that is supplied. The quality of food is an incorporation of numerous factors which work concurrently. These are factors like the source of the food consumed, method of manufacture, method of storage once the food is gotten from the farms, method of delivery to the intended consumer place, as well as many other interrelated factors. This is because food is very sensitive to the health needs of human beings. Despite the fact that quality should be the major factor of consideration, people have continuously ignored it opting to go for quantity in order to maximize profits. This forms the core basis of Pollan’s argument.

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In today’s purchasing trends, people do not entirely rely on the source of food as the major factor when buying food. They widely rely on prices, components contained in the food, and the freshness of the food type they choose to buy and later on consume. This comes in as they buy the foods from the unit shops which in most extents try to outdo each other with flowery adverts on the freshness of their products which come at a low and reasonable price.

In other words, it is possible to say that in the process of choosing some foods people are mainly oriented on personal tastes, individual needs, and personal desires of satisfaction and, consequently, they do not think about environmental protection and other barely concealable factors.  As a matter of fact, there is a need to give deeper attention to the source of the food, the manufacturing process of the foods, and the wide natural component present in the food, if for real we are interested in consuming natural and whole foods and not pretending to take them. We also have to definitely take into consideration that the adverts and the food content stickers are for the commercial and hugely maximizing profit purposes, and are thus in no way guidance to nutrition or health descriptions of the foods. Pollan extends his research to the fact that some of the precious and hugely favorite domestic meals are to some extent industrial crops (Pellegrini 2010).This for instance is corn. It is one of the favorite meals in most American homes, while it is widely used as an industrial crop. It is further on used alternatively as animal feed or used in manufacturing of glucose. This brings to conclusion that, indeed, industrial products find their way into our diet without our knowledge, (Pellegrini, 2010).

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Petroleum and its products are further widely utilised in food production, very much utilised in the process of cultivation, and delivery and supplies system. This has brought to question and attention the probability of availability of bio and organic fuels in the meals that we consume. It is further considered on the factors of food contamination outside the industries, making the source of food a questionable factor. It is, thus, highly evident that the food we consume every day is highly contaminated and has long term harmful effects on our bodies and health in general. It further seems that we, ourselves, are ignorant of the fact that the dynamics of economy and commerce have taken up our plight in food production. The producing, supplying, and packaging companies and individuals are further ignorant and sumptuous of the facts and continue to contaminate food products day after day. The producers have failed to differentiate between crops meant for industrial use and those for the human consumption. This has allowed for the very continued abuse and disregard of health and safety standards that may exist in the society.

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Individual bodies and authorities in the United States are on record to have said that there a given pesticides residue that is found on the so called organic food. The argument being advanced here is that given levels of approved synthetic pesticides are passed to be safe for consumption by the consumers who so much believe the advertisements that tell of how safe the organic foods are. The safety of these organic foods and other globally accepted foods is thus brought into question on the acknowledgement of the existence of approved synthetic pesticides. An interesting group which attests to the presence of pesticide residue in organic foods is the organic food advocates.

Although Pollan’s argument stands disputed in some quarters, the issues he addresses are very genuine and require a quick and radical address. The issue of globalization should not be used to justify as to why people continue to consume contaminated and toxic foods. The concerned individuals should take a big step and ensure that there is a clear cut line between the industrial and domestic food crops showing a form of orderliness and differentiation between these two. There should also be a restriction or a given limit on the use of petroleum products in the food production process. Although it will be largely difficult to conduct food production activities without involving some of the technological devices, there should be a limit to the extent of its use. Other limitations should be endorsed on the advertisement and packaging of these foods for selling. In reference to the above mentioned factors, it is evident that the findings by Michael Pollan were true and up to date. The usual conventional wisdom is incorrect and cannot be relied onto the dot that is it cannot be relied to the minimal and cannot be taken as law. (Grumett &  Muers 2008).

Michael Pollan further goes on to argue that the cost of products used in the production process has taken up and greatly contributed to the inflation of the value of the foods that people eat today. He does state that most people do mind the price of the food rather than the value or safety of the food they buy and later on consume. He states that most people will order their food online without minding to inspect it to determine whether it is organic or nonorganic. Further it escapes most people’s minds that there exists rogue producers who do not have the interest of the common citizen at heart and are only intent in making profits’ at the expense of the health of the people, these producers will always go to great strides to package their products to suit the market needs either labeling them as organic or inorganic while in the true sense they are not what they display to be. Most individuals however mind the price per unit and the amount charged to deliver. According to Pollan, most fresh foods groceries are just but mere profit making entities that have concealed the truth from the consumers. He states this in regard to the fact that they will go a further step of advertising a lie and fix stickers on the foods praising their foods are organic and fit for healthy human consumption whereas in the real sense they are not and has no such qualities presented on the advertising stickers, (Pellegrini, 2010).

He further questions the use of diesel based machines and instruments in agriculture and food production. He states that this is one way through which the quality of food is lowered and sometimes a way of contaminating the food. He believes that the petroleum products or their released wastes such as smoke find their way into the to- be consumed foods and no action is taken in trying to preserve the same.

The comparison he brings between the modern day foods and the ancient is rather controversial and a point worth of debate. He argues that whatever the old generation described as food is not considered so today. This is largely true as the today’s food was not at that time. He points to the fact that the ancient food were not grown using any pesticides, herbicides or phosphate fertilizers. He argues that the minerals found in soil at that time were enough to grow healthy and fresh fruits which naturally did not pose any healthy risk to the consumer. No contamination was in those foods. Today, many chemicals find their way in foods from the time they are grown to the time they are served (Schwartz 2010). Sadly this chemicals silt into our bodies becoming toxic rather than benefiting the bodies that they are intended to. The time factor is a major factor that has widely contributed to feeding patterns and the level of nutrition in foods. He states that today people experience time constrains that limit their food inspection processes and concerns. He correctly argues that the people of today are too busy to either produce their own food or unable prepare it well. He states that today people prefer fast foods (which studies have shown to be the ones with the highest risks) and convenient shops for their meals. He compares today’s fast foods which are prepared using technological devices such as the microwave to the previous which was prepared using such factors as wood and natural coal. He also interestingly cites the use of aluminum utensils as compared to the soil or clay made pots anciently used. This factor he largely blames for poor nutrition.

The quality and usage of different types of packaging materials have further been associated with the lowering of quality of organic foods over time. The materials used are wholly preservative and largely protective. To enhance their long term durability, the materials are treated using chemicals or rays. This is meant to ensure that they are free of any bacteria. The materials are also sometimes coated using metals and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) materials. The source of the materials is known to range from petroleum products to recycled materials. The materials highly reduce the quality of food and have an impact on their nutrition value. This is attributed to high risk of contracting killer diseases. Further, the transportation of food over long distances in refrigerated vehicles further lowers the quality of food. The processes, though known to be harmful can not be avoided as food has to reach those in urban centers regardless of the conditions or process and means to be used in transporting the foods. It also has to be preserved to ensure it reaches them in good and edible condition. Previously, this was not the practice as every area produced its own food. Today, the urbanization setting has changed all these and lowered the quality of food foods. People in urban centers have no time to get down to producing their own foods, the hustle and bustle of city life leaves one with no choice but to rely on rural produced foods. Cloning has been viewed as one of the best ways of ensuring the shelf life of food is extended to a friendly period. It is through the same process that we have seen plants and animal cells merged to produce superior breeds (Merriam 2008). This has been highly hailed as development in the technological world. However, this has come with a lot of effect on the nutrition value of the foods in question. This has been viewed in tissue culture and the genetically modified foods (GMO’S). According to research, it causes the nutrition value of the food to go down by between 20-34%. This is a great effect on organic food which is widely consumed in urban centers. Sadly the details are however not revealed to the consumers of the foods for the fear that they may affect sales and reduce their profit margins which the y so religiously guard and protect. On the hand, the consumers are too busy that they cannot spare time to find out the quality and effects of the foods they take on their health, (Merriam, 2008).

It should not be ignored that organic foods have gradually evolved to become a global trend that people globally want to identify with. This in turn has made it get to a level where the organic foods production and selling business become a multi-million dollar business enriching a lot of individuals at the expense of a great number of people whose health is compromised.  Certainly due to the big financial returns that these foods give to supermarkets and food industries, these supermarkets and industries cannot admit to change on selling to consumers organic foods.         

Fast foods are common features in almost all urban centers and cities. They sell their products both in retail and on wholesale. This is further done in person and online. They also go to another stride of offering delivery services to the consumers to entice them. This has led to a large effect on the food market. The foods sold here are not nutrition based but rather taste and appearance. They also entail the prices and culture the materials used in their preparation is inorganic and dangerous to the consumers’ health. They are the lead cause of obesity and heart diseases. The diseases were unheard of in the ancient times but today they are too common. They kill and affect people of all ages and classes. Taking the foods is considered classy and perfect in line to the adverts all over but in the real sense it is suicidal. The preparation of foods is also another factor that determines whether a food material can be counted as organic or not. The methods used to prepare and handle foods today are quite different from those used in the past. Today, meals are prepared using aluminum pans and curie dishes. These materials are coated and are reactive thus contaminating food. They further see to it that food is preserved in refrigerators and ovens. These machines use radio waves which are highly harmful to the human health. In the ancient times, there were no such instruments and food was kept pure and fresh at all times. The modern way of purifying and value addition of food is an issue of concern that needs to be addressed and one that people have to be educated upon. Foods and water are purified using and chemicals. Carbon elements and chlorine are used in the processes and some traces can be noted in cases where the foods are tested in the laboratories. This has a high harmful effect on humans. Initially, all foods were consumed fresh and wholesome direct from the farms (Pollan 2006). 

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Doctors are ever carrying messages which implore people to reduce and cut their consumption of foods contaminated with chemical fertilizers and assorted pesticides. They also tell people to watch out on crops which do contain hormone disruptions occurring as a result of cloning. Their argument is that if this is taken into consideration, then a great variety of diseases including cancer can be averted.

Altogether all is not lost in trying to reduce on the impact of pesticides coming into contact with our bodies. It is known that washing of farm produce can remove pesticide residue albeit in small amounts. But this at least can be argued that it will reduce the intake of toxins.


In conclusion, it is evident that the food that is  taken today is very different from the one that was being taken some 100-150 years ago. The trends and methods of production have evidently changed over time. The personalities of individuals and the care they used to take as they handled and selected food has also changed. Today people do not differentiate foods meant for human consumption and those, meant for the industrial production. To a large extent their carefree attitude and way of live is to blame. Further, the trend of globalization has eroded most cultures, which entailed natural and organic foods. It is also evident that most people today do not produce their own food, but rely on common stores and food chains for their meals. Availability of conveniences and scarcity of time brought about by civilisation is also a common factor, which has endeared individuals to the industrial foods. The development of industrialisation, commerce, and advanced advertisement trends has also contributed to the consumption of inorganic and industrial foods. The chain stores have also evolved the new ways of disguising their consumers on the component of the foods they stock. The nutrition level has gone down. Thus it can all be summed up in the one common say ‘you are what you eat’, (Grumett, 2008).

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Thus overly citizens do need to take caution and responsibility in the products that they consume. The foods take people take are what determines their health and it is these very foods that shape their thinking and lifestyles.

Also it can be safely argued that all the food grown on our country’s farms is poisonous, that is when we take into consideration the fact that all foods whether organic or inorganic do contain some traces of pesticide residue which if allowed to accumulate over time will lead to a pile up of toxic levels in our bodies. Thus what remains to be done amongst those few who truly need to take organic foods is to build a consumer producer relationship with trusted small scale local farmers that still take to farming as a passion and believe in attaining the utmost quality of their produce and get proper, safe and clean agricultural products.

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