Penn State

Ryan Elias - Associate Professor of Food Science, Penn State University Park

Book Title: The Botany of Desire

Author: Michael Pollan

Book Description:

There exists a certain tension between Michael Pollan - a man now famous as an influential critic of the modern food system - and those in my field of food science.  Whatever side of the argument one falls on, I think two things are clear: (1) Pollan has a gift for communicating difficult concepts in science, and (2) it’s a good thing, both for my field and the public interest, that Pollan is making the argument and forcing a debate.  The Botany of Desire is one of Pollan’s earlier works, and was a book that had an impact on me when I first read it in 2001. In particular, Chapters 1 (“Desire: Sweetness / Plant: The Apple”) and 4 (“Desire: Control / Plant: The Potato”) changed my perspective on the relationship between our species and the plant world.  However, more importantly, this book challenged many of my previously held assumptions and forced me to take a broader view of the natural world.  These were valuable lessons at the time as I prepared to enter graduate school, and have helped to make me a better scientist.

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