Cal Poly's PAC packed for controversial event featuring 'The Omnivore Dilemma's' author

A capacity crowd filled the Performing Arts Center at Cal Poly on Thursday to hear a controversial debate about sustainable agriculture that featured agribusiness critic Michael Pollan.

In his opening remarks, Pollan addressed the controversy surrounding the event. He said the decision to turn the event into a panel discussion rather than a one-man lecture after Harris Ranch Beef Company Chairman David Wood threatened to withhold a donation to Cal Poly’s planned meat processing center was a “threat to academic freedom.”

Universities should be places where ideas and be discussed freely without the threat of bullying, he said. His remarks drew strong applause from the audience which consisted of students, farmers, ranchers and interested members of the public.

Other members of the panel were Myra Goodman, founder of Earthbound Organic Farms and Gary Smith, a Colorado State University professor and a defender of agribusiness.

Cal Poly Dean of Agriculture David Wehner praised Pollan’s willingness to participate in the panel, saying that students will benefit from the free exchange of ideas and opinions.

-David Sneed