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7,000+ in Madison attend speech by controversial food author

More than 7,000 people attended a speech in Madison last night by a controversial author who urges people to simplify their diets. Michael Pollan spoke at the University of Wisconsin's Kohl Center, as part of a campus reading program.

All freshmen received Pollan's book "In Defense of Food," and it's being used in 60 classes this fall from art-to-engineering. But the effort has spurred protests from farmers who say Pollan takes cheap shots at their profession - and in the process, he's attacking much of Wisconsin's livelihood.

Pollan's main message is "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." He discourages eating manufactured foods, and he has criticized food scientists and large farm operations.

But at the start of his address last night, Pollan said he had no problem with the T-shirt message he saw from farmers which said "Eat food, be healthy, and thank a farmer."

He said farmers hold the key to solving the nation's problems with

health care, climate change, and energy.

But Pollan said chronic health problems continue to rise while products that are billed as health foods keep expanding.

In his words, "We obsess about nutrition but have lousy health."

UW-Madison food scientist John Lucey said Pollan ignores the problem of sedentary lifestyles, saying 20 million Americans don't even take short walks.