Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto--The Promises and Perils of the Biotech Harvest

( 4 )

Overview

For most people, the global war over genetically modified foods is a distant and confusing one. The battles are conducted in the mystifying language of genetics.
A handful of corporate "life science" giants, such as Monsanto, are pitted against a worldwide network of anticorporate ecowarriors like Greenpeace. And yet the possible benefits of biotech agriculture to our food supply are too vital to be left to either partisan.
The companies claim ...

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Overview

For most people, the global war over genetically modified foods is a distant and confusing one. The battles are conducted in the mystifying language of genetics.
A handful of corporate "life science" giants, such as Monsanto, are pitted against a worldwide network of anticorporate ecowarriors like Greenpeace. And yet the possible benefits of biotech agriculture to our food supply are too vital to be left to either partisan.
The companies claim to be leading a new agricultural revolution that will save the world with crops modified to survive frost, drought, pests, and plague. The greens warn that "playing God" with plant genes is dangerous. It could create new allergies, upset ecosystems, destroy biodiversity, and produce uncontrollable mutations. Worst of all, the antibiotech forces say, a single food conglomerate could end up telling us what to eat.
In Food, Inc., acclaimed journalist Peter Pringle shows how both sides in this overheated conflict have made false promises, engaged in propaganda science, and indulged in fear-mongering. In this urgent dispatch, he suggests that a fertile partnership between consumers, corporations, scientists, and farmers could still allow the biotech harvest to reach its full potential in helping to overcome the problem of world hunger, providing nutritious food and keeping the environment healthy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
George McGovern Peter Pringle, one of our most respected and perceptive authors, has given us the best book available on the complex and important matter of genetically modified foods. This book is the invaluable work of a dedicated craftsman in search of the truth behind the superheated rhetoric — pro and con — of the raging scientific food controversy.

Matt Ridley Author of Genome Peter Pringle has done the near-impossible: maintained an open mind about GM food. That makes his conclusions all the more valuable in this crucial debate.

Robert M. Goodman Professor of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin­Madison Peter Pringle presents the most comprehensive and lucid account yet of the history, science, and politics of food made with genetic engineering. Along the way he tells many fascinating stories, among them an account of the great Russian botanist N. I. Vavilov and how his massive food-crop seed collection came to be spared from Hitler's bombardment of Leningrad.

The New York Times
Anyone who picks up this book -- except for those hopeless flacks at Monsanto and their tormentors on the picket lines -- will find Food, Inc. to be a feast of honest reporting and serious thought. It's about time. — Greg Critser
The Los Angeles Times
In this elegantly succinct and well-researched book, Pringle takes us from the mid-19th century laboratory of the Moravian monk Gregor Mendel to the courtrooms, town halls and universities where activists like Jeremy Rifkin fight conglomerates like Calgene and Monsanto. Pringle describes experiments that failed or were too hastily abandoned: golden rice, for instance, which is replete with vitamin A in the form of beta carotene and that was going to solve the problem of blindness in Third World countries.Food, Inc. proves beyond doubt that you really know more when you are able to admit how little it is that you actually know. — Susan Salter Reynolds
The Washington Post
In challenging both the "bland assurances" of the proponents of this technology and the "scaremongering" of "environmental ideologues," he invokes the proverbial plague on both their houses. Contrary to his intention, however, Food, Inc. demonstrates how difficult it is to maintain neutrality in debates about the necessity or value of GM foods. Instead, this book is a compelling indictment of corporate power exercised under the guise of altruism. — Marion Nestle
The New Yorker
In 1998, just as the battle over genetically modified food was heating up, the Monsanto C.E.O. Robert Shapiro—one of the men who represented O. J. Simpson—was struck in the face by a tofu cream pie hurled by enraged eco-protesters in San Francisco. Shapiro has moved on from Monsanto, the chemical giant that created Agent Orange and that, since the nineteen-eighties, has become a powerhouse in transgenic crop technology—the practice of inserting foreign genes (from, say, fireflies or chicken) into corn, potatoes, and rice. In Food, Inc., the veteran reporter Peter Pringle offers a refreshingly measured look at this brave new world of “gene guns,” Flavr Savr tomatoes, contaminated taco shells, lax regulatory oversight, dwindling crop diversity, rapacious “biopirates,” and geneticists toiling in grenade-proof greenhouses (opponents have been known to resort to tougher tactics than tofu pies). It’s possible that the pie that hit Shapiro was created from modified soybeans, which are eaten by millions of people every day.

The potential upside of genetically modified foods is huge: making pesticides obsolete, creating huge yields, and ending world hunger. But the opposition from environmentalists and creationists—fuelled by superstition as much as science—has focussed on the potential for disaster, such as new human allergies. Kathleen Hart’s Eating in the Dark is a concerned-citizen approach to the ongoing controversy that cites such respected scientific journals as Lancet for support. Whether these so-called “Frankenfoods” lead to a well-fed Utopia or to an ecological Armageddon, the G.M. revolution is, at least, helping to boost sales of organic food. (Mark Rozzo)
Publishers Weekly
Imagine a world where yellow beans are patented, aromatic basmati rice has lost its fragrance because of genetic tinkering and Canadian farmers are sued by multinational behemoths because pollen from GM (genetically modified) crops somehow got into their fields and fertilized their plants. You don't have to imagine it: this, says Pringle, is the world we live in today. A widely published journalist, Pringle (Those Are Real Bullets) paints a troubling picture of the world's food supply. Multinational corporations are able to patent genes from crops that have been cultivated by farmers for centuries; governments of starving African nations refuse GM food they fear is poisonous; scientists hastily publish research that is blown out of proportion by the news media; and "green" activists vandalize greenhouses and fields where scientists are conducting GM research. Pringle roundly castigates all sides. Scientists, he says, have been remarkably inventive in their endeavors to improve the food we eat, using a gene from daffodils, for example, in growing golden rice with high levels of vitamin A that can help prevent blindness in the undernourished. But large corporations, he asserts, have squandered the public's good will toward GM products as they rushed so-called "Frankenfoods" into stores without adequate testing or disclosure of what makes it different. Pringle gives some glimmer of hope for the future through time-honored methods of cross-pollination, but his main story is of an industry with great potential for feeding starving millions and reducing our reliance on chemical pesticides, but that has instead created a global mess. Agent, Amanda Urban. (June 10) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Journalist Pringle (Those Are Real Bullets) believes that there is nothing inherently unsafe about genetically modified (GM) foods and that technology has the potential to relieve hunger and pain for millions of people. However, in this discussion of the aspects of GM foods, he does not hesitate to point out the perils. Aside from potential crop and environmental contamination from lab-altered genes, especially troubling to the author is the degree to which plant biotechnology gives control to a few international conglomerates that own patents to the products and processes. Similar in coverage and style to Daniel Charles's Lords of the Harvest and Bill Lambrecht's Dinner at the New Gene Cafe, Pringle's work also relates very recent developments such as biopharming (growing pharmaceuticals in corn crops) and how several starving African countries refused donations of U.S. corn because it contained genetically modified seeds. This book is intended for a general audience and, as such, is well suited for public libraries and for undergraduate collections in academic libraries.-William H. Wiese, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Biotechnology inspires hope in some and horror in others. A complex topic, it invokes many contemporary concerns-third world famine, biodiversity, corporate responsibility, the ethics of corporate ownership of the processes of life itself-and involves a bewildering array of interrelated national and international legal, political, scientific, and economic forces. Public discourse is polarized with scaremongering on one side and arrogance on the other, and it is difficult for the nonspecialist to arrive at an informed opinion. Here, in readable, journalistic fashion, Pringle provides what has been missing: facts and explanations, reasoned argument, and common ground. He reveals many dimensions of several controversies that will be familiar to most readers from media coverage, yet remain poorly understood: Is the monarch butterfly endangered by pesticide-laced corn? Are we throwing away our heritage of biodiversity? Are plant hunters cultural pirates? As the title indicates, Pringle points out the danger of a few large and poorly regulated corporations owning and controlling so much of the world's agriculture and genetic technology, but he doesn't demonize. Rather than simplifying a complicated subject, he accomplishes the more difficult task of presenting the complexities of genetic science, academic politics, corporate strategies, or international treaties in such a clear and interesting manner that readers come to appreciate and understand them. This is a book to satisfy curiosity and engender concern, and any of its chapters would provide an excellent subject for discussion groups.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Two cheers for transgenic tomatoes and Frankensteined frankfurters. Well, maybe a cheer and a half. Insofar as Pringle (Those Are Real Bullets, 2001, etc.) is concerned, the widespread adoption of genetically modified (GM) foods may harbor significant perils but, all the same, may well relieve hunger for a significant chunk of the planet’s populace "if governments, industry, and overzealous sentries don’t stand in the way"—or, more to the point, don’t get too greedy in carving up the market. For the time being, whether we like it or not, that market is pretty much confined to America; as Pringle notes, GM crops have been banned from Europe and Japan, and the starving nation of Zambia even rejected US grain shipments for fear that croplands would be overrun by seeds produced by agricultural monopolies. And there’s the rub: it’s not so much that the world fears the blowback from eating food whose molecules have been tinkered with, Pringle suggests, but that GM food remains a private-sector initiative, and the private sector, in the words of an Ethiopian economist, "will not focus on the needs of the poor, except as a way to sell its products." Though wary of health and environmental consequences himself, Pringle attributes much of the problem surrounding GM foods to the failure of producers to explain their ambitions to the consuming public, having preferred instead to sneak such things as Flavr Savr tomatoes and "ice-minus" strawberries onto shelves in the apparent hope that no one would notice. There’s not much zest in these pages, but Pringle manages to avoid the hype and sensationalism that color both sides of the argument even as he notes that the so-called biotech revolution isnow all but stalled, owing to the resistance of consumers, farmers, and governments alike. A meaty addition to the growing GM debate. Agent: Amanda Urban/ICM
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743267632
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 2/8/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 709,166
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Pringle is a veteran British foreign correspondent. He is the
author and coauthor of several nonfiction books, including the
bestselling Those Are Real Bullets, Aren't They? He lives in New York
City.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Mendel's Little Secret

One of the most cherished dreams of plant breeders has been to find a way to transform corn and other cereal grains into super-plants able to reproduce themselves....The term for this type of vegetative miracle is "apomixis."

— U.S. Department of Agriculture Press Release, 1998

Thinking about how our food is changing at the hands of the genetic engineers leads inevitably to the image of Gregor Mendel, the Moravian monk, breeding peas in his monastery garden a century and a half ago. Dressed always in a black robe, a pair of tweezers in one hand and a camel-hair paintbrush in the other, Mendel bent over rows of peas, cheerfully castrating the flowers by snipping off the pollen-bearing anthers and dusting on a different pollen from another row. He bred round peas with wrinkled peas, peas from yellow pods with peas from green pods, tall plants with dwarf plants, carefully separating each into breeding lines and then crossing and backcrossing them to watch how the traits appeared in future generations.

In time the jolly amateur gardener scooped his fellow nineteenth-century botanists, including Darwin, with his insights into the basic laws of heredity. Mendel was the first to understand that characteristics such as height, color, and shape depend on the presence of determining factors (they were not called genes until much later) and that these factors could be either dominant or recessive. For his work Mendel was posthumously acknowledged to be the father of modern genetics.

This popular image, however, misses another, less well known Mendel who becomes important today in the era of genetic engineering. The other Mendel was not so cheerful, a solitary monk still toiling in the monastery garden, but this time struggling without success to comprehend the strange reproductive processes of a common orange-colored wildflower called hawkweed.

In the hawkweed case, Mendel had accepted a challenge from a German professor of botany to crossbreed varieties of hawkweed and figure out what happened to the plant through successive generations. When he had done this experiment with peas, the offspring had shown different characteristics, allowing him to deduce his law of random assortment of the plant factors. The progeny of hawkweed were strangely different. They were all the same in the first generation and continued to be the same in successive generations, bewilderingly exact replicas of the mother plant. Mendel could not figure out what was happening and died, as far as is known, without making any progress in unraveling hawkweed's puzzling reproductive behavior. After his death, all his personal and scientific papers were burned, possibly by a rival monk, in a huge bonfire in the monastery courtyard where his greenhouse had once stood.

We now have an explanation for hawkweed, even though scientists still don't know how it works. Mendel had witnessed a plant that produces seeds without sex, the biological phenomenon of asexuality, known in plants as apomixis. Hawkweeds do it that way; so do dandelions. Mendel's basic laws applied to peas and most other living things, but they did not account for the odd behavior of hawkweed.

The word apomixis is from the Greek apo, meaning "away from," and mixis, which means "mingling," a quaint conjunction that aptly describes the somewhat haphazard way plants have sex. Typically, a plant releases a shower of pollen grains that are carried on the wind, or by an insect, to the female organ in the quest to fertilize the eggs. In apomictic plants the pollen is infertile, and the egg itself does all the work. The seed from this activity produces a clone, an exact copy of the mother plant. Instead of having a gene pool constantly changing through the mingling of genes during sexual reproduction, the combination of genes in apomictic plants is frozen, in theory, forever.

Asexual reproduction turns out to be the method of choice for a small but diverse group of plants and animals, from roses and orchids to freshwater flatworms. It occurs in 10 percent of the four hundred families of flowering plants but only 1 percent of the forty thousand species that make up those families. The apomicts, as they are called, include several other wildflowers besides hawkweed and dandelions but only a handful of things we eat, such as mango, blackberries, and citrus.

More than a century after Mendel's death, apomixis remains one of the most vigorously investigated botanical mysteries. Researchers in America, Australia, Europe, and Russia are racing to discover which gene, or combination of genes, governs asexual reproduction. They also want to know whether apomictic plants always produce seeds without having sex. The apomictic dandelion once had normal sex and some primitive species behave like regular sexual plants. Why did they evolve this way?

Oddly, although we now have highly sophisticated techniques for swapping genes from one species to another — powerful laboratory tools and enzymes that snip off the precise pieces of DNA we want to splice — we still have a lot to learn about the sex life of plants.

The best guess so far is that apomixis is a suppression of normal sexual activity. But basic questions remain unanswered about the courtship of plants — how the plant cells send signals to each other during fertilization and whether these signals are different in asexual plants than in plants that reproduce with sex — and what really happens during the formation of the embryo.

Such matters would be of little more than academic interest when it comes to thinking about the future of food except for one important fact. None of the world's major crops is apomictic. When a plant breeder produces a prize variety of, say, corn — handsome, high-yielding, and resistant to pests and plagues — and that corn plant has natural sex with its neighbor, the next generation is always slightly different, just as we are each a little different from our parents. The plant breeder yearns for some method of retaining the most desirable combination of genes in his prize variety year after year.

Apomixis could be the answer — which is why its secrets are known as the Holy Grail of agriculture and why there is a furious international scientific race to solve the mystery. The winner of this scientific trophy could revolutionize agriculture — and harvest massive profits. Apomixis could be of tremendous benefit to seed companies; it could also help the world's farmers, especially those in undeveloped countries.

Since 1935, when the seed companies started selling hybrid corn that lasted only one season, farmers who plant hybrids have been forced to buy new seed each year or fall behind competitors in their production of grain. If those seeds contained the apomixis genes, a farmer would have no need to buy new seed each year because his plants would do as well in the next and successor generations. He would save seed from his harvest, as farmers once did. Apomixis could offer relief for poor farmers in Asia and Africa who cannot afford to buy seed and who still breed their own varieties. They could fix traits in a prized traditional variety. The seed companies would also benefit. Breeding new varieties is a costly and time-consuming business that could be superseded by apomictic plants that fixed their genomes forever.

There is a catch, of course. This promise comes only if apomixis is unraveled by someone willing to share the discovery. If the secret of asexual plants is patented by a corporation that insists solely on commercial gain, farmers in undeveloped countries and most seed companies would be excluded from such an exclusive agricultural club for twenty years at least, the normal life span of an international patent.

In many ways the race to unravel the mysteries of apomixis poses the central dilemma of biotech agriculture. Until now the focus of protests and of the media has been on the taint of new genetically modified (GM) foods, an issue that arises in rich nations where hunger is rare and such food is a matter more of taste than of necessity. While protesters march against "Frankenfoods" and trample on field tests of GM crops, and while the media raise the alarm about toxic GM potatoes and the possible extinction of the monarch butterfly from eating GM corn pollen, both give short shrift to the larger question: how can the promise of this technology and its life-giving products reach those most in need?

The core issue is the increasing dominance of industrial capital over farming, especially in undeveloped countries. If the keys to the creation of the new miracle plants — plants that defy pests, or grow well despite droughts or floods, or produce wonder fruits that serve as medicines as well as food — are locked up in the safe of agribusiness, it's hard to see how poor nations will reap the benefits. If we in the developed world can use a transgenic caffeine-loaded soybean to produce coffee in Minnesota, the coffee workers of Kenya are likely to lose their centuries-old livelihood. If the new technology can help feed the extra three billion people expected on the planet between now and the middle of the century, public funds will have to be set aside to ensure that the technology is available in poor countries. If a new transgenic rice plant can help to cure blindness in those who live on little more than a bowl of rice a day, some new partnership between rich and poor has to be forged so that the intellectual property rights to such a marvelous invention will be shared.

If these inventions are owned by a few international conglomerates, how will these promises be fulfilled? Those who till the world's vast farmlands are in danger of becoming mere contract employees in bailment to a global food processor who supplies the seed with the understanding that the harvest and next year's seed belong to the processor, not the farmer. And we risk having fewer choices even than today in the range of foods we can buy at the local grocery store.

As agricultural science moves relentlessly forward, some enlightened new private and public partnerships are emerging so that these technological advances have a chance of being shared. In theory, the new arrangements take into account the needs of different farming systems in different countries, but will they allow farmers to grow their favorite and traditional crops rather than homogeneous foods for the conveyor belt of industrial agriculture? The fear of those opposed to the new technology is of a "plague of sameness," a vast monoculture organized and guarded by some big brother corporation.

These are not new issues. They have been around for a hundred years, since the application of Mendel's laws of heredity slowly turned crop breeding from a rural art into a science. However, the issues came into sharper focus on the eve of World War II when the yields of the new hybrid corn varieties were outpacing anything that had gone before, and when the means of agricultural production, the seed, began changing hands, from a public resource like air to private ownership. Swarms of John Deere tractors started plowing up the American Midwest and any foreign field where farmers or nations were rich enough to purchase the machines. Tons of artificial fertilizer were spread on those lands, clouds of new powerful insecticides and pesticides were sprayed on the bounty, and the harvest was brought home with mechanical pickers to stock the industrial world's grocery marts.

In 1962 came the counterrevolution. Rachel Carson protested the devastating effects of these chemicals in her book Silent Spring, which led to a new public awareness that forced chemical manufacturers to restructure the formulae of their toxic wares. But the high yields were too important, and industrial agriculture marched on, using different chemicals that helped produce so much food that farmers entered a vicious spiral of overproduction.

In developed countries during the last half of the twentieth century, the average crop yields of wheat, corn, and rice doubled or tripled, the number of tractors in the world rose from seven million to twenty-eight million, and the average annual yield of a milking cow in France increased from fewer than two thousand liters to more than five thousand. The production increases drove down prices paid to farmers, while farmers' costs rose. The loss of the family farm became the sad anthem of rural America as the nation and the rest of the developed world shifted to industrial agriculture.

This farming revolution passed by most of the world's farmers, who, being poor, continued to use manual tools and raise crop plants and animals that benefited little from the intense breeding of improved varieties.7 The gap between the most productive and the least productive farming systems increased twentyfold.

By the 1980s the biotech agricultural revolution was brewing. The application of genetic engineering to crop plants, by allowing a desirable gene from one species to be inserted into another species, offered agribusiness a new method of control. The chemical company that sold powerful, all-embracing new weed killers now also sold seeds that grew into plants especially designed to resist those herbicides. To compete, farmers had to buy both seeds and weed killer. Once again, only those who could afford the new package survived. The improvements never reached the poorest farmers in Africa. The seed companies were not interested in producing pest-resistant cassava for farmers who would not be able to pay for it.

With the appearance of the first genetically engineered whole food — a tomato that didn't rot on its way to market — a food war broke out between agribusiness and a diverse group of activists in the developed world. Scientists, doctors, environmentalists, ecologists, farmers, agronomists, sociologists, lawyers, economists, creationists, mystics, latter-day Pre-Raphaelites, and antiglobalists who wanted to bring a halt to this new technology took to the streets to stop agribusiness from tampering with their food.

But the antibiotech forces were not urging scientists and companies to tailor their genetic inventions in ways that could help the millions of hungry people in the world. There were no banners urging "Miracle Seeds for the Poor" or "Gene-Altered Cassava for Dry African Fields." Some protesters demanded nothing less than a halt to the "unnatural," even ungodly, practice of swapping genes between species. Their argument was not that genetic engineering might be put to better use, but that it was of no use. They focused on the scientific possibility that the new foods could be unsafe, that they were an unnecessary experiment perpetrated by scientists without a social conscience and wicked corporations intent only on profit. They worried that transferring genes between species might cause allergies, or worse; alien genes might "escape" into the wild and create "superweeds" and "superpests" that could disrupt the world's ecosystems.

In Europe the British government was reeling from food scandals, the contamination of pork and poultry with dioxins, and the "mad cow" epidemic. The battles reached such a pitch that the Europeans banned imports of the new transgenic grains except for animal feed and demanded that all products containing the new foods be labeled. The Japanese banned imports of the new modified corn. As a result U.S. farmers lost important markets and became uncertain which seed to plant next season. The food industry panicked and, fearing they would be unable to sell their famous brands abroad, demanded that suppliers provide grains free of genetic "contamination." Looking at the agricultural casualty list in 1999, an analyst in the New York office of Deutsche Bank declared, "GMOs [genetically modified organisms] are dead."

The attitude of the agribusiness companies did not help. They were as arrogant about their new "miracle" foods as the nuclear power industry had been about the "peaceful" atom in the 1960s. The biotech scientists in the big universities made the same mistake. They boasted, "We've invented fire. The sky's the limit," an uncomfortable reminder of the forecasts of their atomic colleagues who promised that electricity would soon be clean and risk free.

Governments, scientists, and companies thought that they could rally public support behind the new technology without informing citizens of the true nature of biotechnology. But agriculture is different from other sectors of the economy, such as drugs and cosmetics. Rural life has always held a special place in any nation's cultural heritage, in its cuisine and in its art. Think of the farm scenes of Bruegel and Constable, for instance. Although much of this feeling is a misplaced nostalgia for supposedly idyllic life that is, in fact, quite beastly, farming is not merely a job, it is also a mission. Bringing food to people's tables not only provides for others but also encourages the roots of self-sufficiency and community. The land is where any nation cares for its economic, social, and environmental health, the place where ecosystems, biodiversity, and water quality are nurtured.

In the war over genetic agriculture, the public soon demanded more debate. Prodded by green groups, biotech companies found themselves explaining and defending the right to experiment with complex aspects of genetic engineering that they had imagined were safely secreted in agricultural laboratories. Their view was that the public could not be bothered with and did not really need to know about antibiotic marker genes, the cauliflower mosaic virus, the gene flow in Mexican corn fields, and jumping genes that might under certain circumstances create new allergens and toxins. All these matters were to be avoided as far as possible as the stuff of public discourse. It was a colossal miscalculation, and when the public caught on, the result was widespread confusion and alarm.

Whether it takes twenty months or twenty years before scientists break the genetic code for apomixis, that day will surely come. And then plant breeding will finally enter its next phase. Scientists will have moved beyond the simple transfer of one gene to another to make crop plants short or tall, or to increase a plant's own defenses against insects and pests, or to bestow resistance to cold or heat.

In the year 2000, scientists took a step into that new era. Two German researchers used three alien genes, two from a daffodil and one from a bacterium, to create in rice a substance known as beta-carotene. Under the right conditions, beta-carotene can be converted in the human body to vitamin A, which is missing in the diet of millions of poor people, causing blindness and defective immune systems. The new rice turned yellow, like a daffodil, and was instantly dubbed "golden rice."

This book enters the debate over genetic agriculture at the point when those two German scientists created golden rice, a "miracle" crop by any standard. Golden rice created a possible change in the food supply that Mendel could not have fathomed from his monastery garden, any more than he could comprehend the strange sexuality of hawkweeds and dandelions.

What seemed like a noble humanitarian effort, however, quickly turned into the loudest battle of the biotech wars.

Copyright © 2003 by Peter Pringle

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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction

1. Mendel's Little Secret

2. Seeds of Gold

3. The Plague of Sameness

4. A New Sort of Tomato

5. The Battle of Basmati

6. Of Cauliflower, Potatoes, and Snowdrops

7. Anatomy of a Poisoned Butterfly

8. The Plant Hunters

9. The Cornfields of Oaxaca

10. So Shall We Reap

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2012

    Opened my eyes to the poison Monsanto has been pushing in my foo

    Opened my eyes to the poison Monsanto has been pushing in my food and my childrens food SHAME ON YOU! I have started paying attention to everything I eat. I will NOT buy any GMO foods again. Boycott Monsanto food that have GMO and help get the law passes to label GMO in our food. I want a choice!
    This is a top book on this subject.
    Monsanto workers refuse to eat GMO foods. SOmeone needs to check out the Monsanto Ceo and other employees and see if their families eat this stuff. I work bet they eat organic and non GMO foods.
    Grow your own garden with NON GMO seeds. Get smart on Monsanto and the people would think they are the elite.

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  • Posted May 19, 2010

    Food, Inc.: A lot of information, But lacking innovation...

    When i first picked out this book in our school library, i wondered... "What could be the problem with genetically modified foods? Isn't virtually any thing we eat that isnt labeled as organic genetically modified to increase its lifespan or something among those lines?" According to this book, "No!", and "There are many problems!".
    But really, that's all the book really said to me. Sure, author Peter Pringle did a great job with applying many of the known lab tests as legitamate examples but, that's what i thought the book truly was... A massive amount of scientific data about the pros and cons, (mostly cons), of genetically modified plants and food. And that was the main problem, to me, it seemed like there was just too much information to take in at once with its relatively complicated vocabulary, ridiculously long chapters for a high school student (around 50+ pages), and the fact that actually reading it felt like hours even though it was only minutes of reading and comprehending everything.
    I do have to say though, I actually LEARNED quite a bit, but i was relieved after reading one chapter that i didnt have to read anymore until the next day.
    Like i hinted earlier, the book seemed to drag on for me, and it didnt help that it seemed like the examples were used up, regurgitated, and made anew in a different location and time period... almost every single time a new subject was introduced.
    Yes, ive said quite a few cons about the book, i know... but there were still quite a few good things about it. It's just that Food, Inc just isnt for me... It's more for the upcoming chemist, genetic engineer, or any intellectual person who is interested in genetics and chemistry. This is why i give it a:
    3 out of 5

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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