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Marion Nestle

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Professor of Food Studies, Nutritio

In this interview, Professor Marion Nestle explains the role organic agriculture plays in public health and shares her thoughts on why organic is worth it.

marion nestleQ: You mentioned in one of your recent posts on http://www.foodpolitics.com/ that there is a link between agriculture and public health. From your perspective, how does organic agriculture fit into this picture?

A: It’s a big part of the picture.  If land, soil, and water are healthier (alive, productive, and relatively free of chemical pollutants), we will continue to have healthier food.  While scientists can’t find much evidence that agricultural chemicals are harmful at levels commonly consumed, I can’t believe they are good for us.  Food would be better off without them.

Q: From your perspective, should providing organic food be a top priority in schools?

A: It would be great if schools could provide organic food but I’d be happy if they provided any real fruit and vegetables.  I think we need to go to food-based (rather than nutrient-based) standards for school meals so they will introduce real foods.

Q: On a personal level, why do you choose to buy organic products?

A: I don’t like all those chemicals in my food.  More important, I deeply believe in organic and sustainable production values.  I’m lucky enough to be able to afford those values and I want to support the farmers who share them.

Q:What do you tell people who are unsure about whether organic is worth it?

A: I think people have to decide for themselves what kind of food production system they want and how much they are willing to pay for it.  If we as a society want agricultural land to be rich and sustainable, we need to support farmers who are using healthier production methods.

About Marion Nestle:
Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, which she chaired from 1988-2003.  She also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. Her degrees include a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, both from the University of California, Berkeley.   She has held faculty positions at Brandeis University and the UCSF School of Medicine. From 1986-88, she was senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services and managing editor of the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health.  Her research examines scientific, economic, and social influences on food choice, obesity, and food safety, with an emphasis on the role of food marketing.  She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (revised edition, 2010), and What to Eat (2006).  Her latest book, Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, was published in 2008 and her next book, co-authored with Malden Nesheim, Feed Your Pet Right, will be published in May 2010.  She writes the Food Matters column for the San Francisco Chronicle, and blogs daily (almost) at www.foodpolitics.com and for the Atlantic Food Channel at http://amcblogmte4.atlantic-media.us/food/nutrition.  She twitters @marionnestle.