Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food

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"Tomorrow's Table chronicles roughly a year in the life of the Ronald-Adamchak household. Ronald and Adamchak guide us through their day-to-day lives, giving us a taste of what organic farmers and geneticists actually do. They discuss the contents of their own largely organic pantry, what they choose to feed their children, and what their criteria are for inputs for a sustainable agriculture." This book is for those who wish to know more about how the food they eat is grown, whether organic or genetically engineered. It is for every shopper who has at one time or another wondered what labels such as "organic" or "GE-free" really mean for the health of their families and for the future of the planet.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

The most ecologically balanced way to increase crop yield and decrease the environmental impact of food production is to use both organic farming and genetic engineering (GE). So argue Ronald, a plant geneticist at the University of California, Davis, and her husband, Adamchak, an organic farmer who serves as the market coordinator at the university's organic farm. Using an eclectic mix of writing styles including instruction, personal story, reflection, and recipes, the authors make their case, explaining genetic modification from traditional plant breeding to laboratory gene splicing in clear prose that general readers can understand. Their personal stories illustrate the workings of an organic farm and the ethical morass consumers face when buying groceries. The authors create nostalgia and empathy by reflecting on private moments in their lives, but the recipes (culinary and laboratory) interspersed throughout the book are an odd and somewhat distracting addition. While not a comprehensive review of GE, this book offers a compelling portrait of how GE and organic farming can coexist for the future betterment. A good addition to any public library.
—Joshua Lambert

From the Publisher
"The authors are eminently qualified to present authoritative descriptions of their respective disciplines, which they do in a readable and accurate manner. But the noteworthy aspect of the book is the way they then marry their separate fields to argue logically for the use of GM technologies to improve organic agriculture. Ronald and Adamchak's clear, rational approach is refreshing, and the balance they present is sorely needed in our increasingly polarized world." —Science Magazine

"One of the best, most balanced accounts of transgenic agriculture that I have read." — David McElroy, Nature Biotechnology

"This is an important book Tomorrow's Table is a real education on the many choices farmers today must make regarding seeds. It's very good in explaining genetically engineered seed, how it's used today (mostly to help plants fight off insects and tolerate herbicide) and how it will be used in the future (to increase disease resistance, drought tolerance, vitamin content and crop yields, for example). The book separates out clearly the issues of how to make sure new seeds are safe, how to price them and how to treat them as intellectual property. I gained an understanding of the history of organic farming and learned about some of the very clever ways organic farmers control pests. Compared with conventional agriculture, many organic techniques can be more cost effective for poor farmers. I agree with the authors that we will need the best ideas from "organic" thinkers and from scientists - including genetic engineers - to feed the world and help the poorest." —Bill Gates

"We found the book insightful and well-documented." —Organic Gardening Magazine

"They are leading a chorus of young scientists and forward thinkers who see genetic modification not as a threat to sustainable farming but as a new way to make it better...[Ronald and Adamchak] are true believers." —Forbes

"This book is a tale of two marriages. The first is that of Raoul and Pam, the authors, and is a tale of the passions of an organic farmer and a plant genetic scientist. The second is the potential marriage of two technologies—organic agriculture and genetic engineering...Like all good marriages, both include shared values, lively tensions, and reinvigorating complementarities. [The authors] share a strong sense of both the wonder of the natural world and how, if treated with respect and carefully managed, it can remain a source of inspiration and provision of our daily needs." —Sir Gordon Conway KCMG FRS, Professor of International Development, Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College, London, and past President of the Rockefeller Foundation, from his foreword

"Here's a persuasive case that, far from contradictory, the merging of genetic engineering and organic farming offers our best shot at truly sustainable agriculture. I've seen no better introduction to the ground truth of genetically engineered crops and the promising directions this 'appropriate technology' is heading." —Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog

"Whether you ultimately agree with it or not, Tomorrow's Table brings a fresh approach to the debate over transgenic crops."—Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma

"Welcome as water in the desert—at a time when partisans compete to see who can deliver the hardest slam against those who think differently, what a welcome surprise to find this book building bridges between unnecessary antagonists. The developers of crops improved through biotechnology and the practitioners of organic agriculture want the same thing-a way to grow food that helps farmers tread more gently on the land. Ronald and Adamchak explain how simpatico these two approaches are at heart. For a future that will bring unprecedented challenges we will need all the tools we can muster. Tomorrow's Table shows how organic and biotech can coexist and complement one another. Bravo, and bring on Volume II." —L. Val Giddings, President, PrometheusAB

"A unique, personal perspective on the ways in which genetically enhanced crops can improve wholesome agricultural productivity, helping to achieve the low chemical inputs that are the goal of organic agriculture and of those who care about our environment and health. Highly recommended." —Peter H. Raven, President, Missouri Botanical Garden

"This wildly eccentric book juxtaposes deep scientific analysis of genetically engineered agriculture with recipes for such homey kitchen staples as cornbread and chocolate chip cookies." —Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195301755
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/18/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 943,398
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Pamela C. Ronald is a Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis. Her laboratory has genetically engineered rice for resistance to diseases and flooding. Her work has been published in Science, Nature, and other scientific periodicals and has also been featured in newspapers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Le Monde. She is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Raoul Adamchak has grown organic crops for twenty years, part of the time as a partner in Full Belly Farm, a private 150-acre organic vegetable farm. He has inspected over one hundred organic farms as an inspector for California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and served as a member and President of CCOF's Board of Directors. He now works at the U.C., Davis as the Market Garden Coordinator at the certified organic farm on campus.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Gordon Conway Conway, Gordon

1 Cultivating Rice in Nihe, China and Davis, California 3

2 Why Organic Agriculture? 13

3 The Tools of Organic Agriculture 29

4 The Tools of Genetic Engineering 43

5 Legislating Lunch 63

6 Who Can We Trust? 81

7 Is GE Food Risky to Eat? 85

8 Conserving Wildlands 105

9 Weeds, Gene Flow, and the Environment 115

10 Who Owns the Seed? 127

11 Who Owns the Genes? 137

12 Deconstructing Dinner: Generically Engineered, Organically Grown 155

Glossary 169

References 179

Index 199

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Customer Reviews

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