"Factory Food: Are the Alternatives Viable?" will be hosted
by the Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalism
and UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. The 7:30-9:30
p.m. program is free and open to the public.
Orville Schell, dean of the journalism school and the event's
moderator, said the discussion will "let the sort of 'alternative'
people really talk about the alternatives and discuss their
views on whether or not they are they viable. Can you feed
the world organically? And what are the consequences of
continuing food production in its current mode?"
Alice Waters, proprietor of Chez Panisse restaurant in
Berkeley and a food activist, will introduce the panelists,
* Mark Hertsgaard, a journalist and regular contributor
to National Public Radio's "Living on Earth" environmental
program. He is a Hewlett Foundation Fellow at the journalism
school, which in 1998 established a program in environmental
journalism with a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett
Foundation. Hertsgaard wrote "Earth Odyssey: Around the
World in Search of Our Environmental Future" (Broadway Books,
1999) and "The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and
Infuriates the World" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, October
* Corby Kummer, senior editor of The Atlantic Monthly and
author of "The Pleasures of Slow Food: Celebrating Authentic
Traditions, Flavors and Recipes" (Chronicle Books, November
2002). He also writes the monthly "Palate at Large" column
in The Atlantic Monthly and is a frequent food commentator
on television and radio.
* Michael Pollan, a contributing writer to The New York
Times Magazine and author of "The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye
View of the World" (Random House, 2001) and "Second Nature:
A Gardener's Education" (Dell Books, 1995).
* Eric Schlosser, correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly
and author of "Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American
Meal" (Houghton Mifflin, 2001). The book explores the rise
of franchising and the spread of obesity and examines fast
food production. "Fast Food Nation" was on Waters' recommended
reading list this past summer.
The "Factory Food" forum is part of a four-day program
for food and environmental writers chosen as fellows to
this Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalism mid-career
Schell proposed the conference topic because of the increasing
importance of the issues it will address: food and the family,
food safety and regulation, the powers and perils of bio-engineered
food crops, agribusiness and the family farm, environmental
impacts relating to agriculture, food packaging and the
future of food. Sessions will be led by scientists, federal
regulators, food industry representatives, and Sierra Club
Executive Director Carl Pope, as well as reporters.
Conference participants also will tour Star Route Farm,
a 40-acre organic produce farm; and McEvoy Ranch, an organic
olive orchard where olive oil is produced. Both are in the
"This (debate about the viability of alternatives to factory
food) is an area more and more journalists are becoming
interested in because it makes a connection between the
world of food, its production and the environment," said
For Schell, it's been a longtime interest. In addition
to being a journalist and author, for more than 20 years
he was a partner in Niman Schell Ranch (now Niman Ranch),
which raised humanely-treated livestock on all-natural feed,
using no growth hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics.
Schell wrote "Modern Meat," (Random House, 1983), about
the increasing reliance on technology as well as on chemicals,
hormones and feed additives to produce bigger, meatier and
the most cost-effective animals.
"There's beginning to be a real overlap between the areas
covered by journalists writing just about food and just
about the environment, and there seems to be a reformatting
of the 'yuppie food crowd' to embrace a more socially conscious
side of the equation," he said.
Fast food's popularity, the rarity of the family garden,
and the virtual disappearance of family meal prepared at
home and eaten by parents and children together, have combined
to profoundly alter familial and social relations, the relationship
of children to nature and the way children grow up, Schell
These issues are also important to students, Schell said,
noting that on a walk across campus, he recently overheard
students having an animated conversation about Schlosser's
"Fast Food Nation."
Wheeler Hall Auditorium, where the panel discussion will
be held, can accommodate 800 people, and Schell said he
wouldn't be surprised to see it filled to capacity.