Smartest Lectures: Way beyond organic

The Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism Lecture Series


Leave it to Berkeleyites to turn lectures about the intersection of science, technology, and culture into a WWE SmackDown. Well, sort of. The Knight lecture series, hosted by Graduate School of Journalism professor and celebrated author Michael Pollan, has explored such contentious topics as genetic engineering and alternative agriculture — igniting standing-room-only crowds. The subject of food has most riled audiences. A discussion in February between Whole Foods CEO and founder John Mackey and Pollan (who takes issue with some of Whole Foods’ policies in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma) elicited boos, hisses, and catcalls. “They believe in these issues so deeply, they want to see blood on the ground,” program coordinator Novella Carpenter explains. The lectures began with Pollan’s arrival on campus three years ago, and have gained momentum thanks to speakers such as Alice Waters and Marion Nestle. Carpenter says the program will continue to focus on fewer, but more high-profile events. Just don’t expect to see any food fights.