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Book Review: Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and GovernmentLies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered FoodsYou’re Eating

  • Subject: [cg] Book Review: Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and GovernmentLies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered FoodsYou’re Eating
  • From: Alliums garlicgrower@earthlink.net
  • Date: Mon, 08 Dec 2003 18:37:57 -0500

Hi, Folks!

Here is my latest book review. I retain copyright, but if you wish to publish it elsewhere, just ask!

More book reviews soon -- it's too cold to go outside!


Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating by Jeffrey M. Smith, Yes! Books, 2003.  ISBN:  0-9729665-7-9 $27.95
Publishers choose subtitles to summarize books succinctly--especially since patrons tend to read far more book titles than they do book reviews.  Smith, who has a background in marketing, knows that genetic engineering raises many questions, but chose to focus this book solely on the health issues surrounding those genetically modified organisms we consume as part of our daily diet. His subtitle perfectly summarizes his contention (amply referenced and footnoted) that genetically engineered food currently being consumed by the American public is sold not because it is safe, but because government rubber-stamps the “food safety” data provided by multi-national corporations who are looking out only for their bottom line.
If you’re used to science served dry, the first chapter, which reads like a lost script from “Unsolved Mysteries” may put you off – it’s chatty, emotional and full of the personal feelings of Smith’s major characters.  However, once Smith begins to explain the science behind genetic engineering in the second chapter, one realizes that he not only understands the complex processes used to alter the cellular environment, he can explain those complex processes so that you can understand them, too.  Smith desperately wants everyone to understand how rudimentary and full of unintended consequences the current techniques are which produce the genetically engineered food most of us are consuming unawares since, unlike in Europe, the US government does not require genetically engineered food to be labeled as such.  If being accessible to a wide audience means borrowing from the “you are there” style of true crime TV shows, Smith will plow right in and use that style.  Luckily, he has the footnotes, memos and transcripts to back up his “crime novel” style.
If you don’t have time to read the book, most of the salient points are listed on Smith’s website http://www.seedsofdeception.com  I still believe the best introductory book on genetic engineering is Genetic Engineering, Food and Our Environment by Luke Anderson (ISBN: 1-890132-55-1); however, the advantages of Smith’s book is that it’s more recent (2003 to Anderson’s 1999) so it includes more recent history (unfortunately, the actions of industry and government have not changed a bit from 1999 to 2003 – only the names of the players have changed) and that Smith, especially in the second chapter and the epilogue, explain current techniques and current understanding of the cellular/genetic environment more fully than Anderson.  If you’ve been put off by pro-biotechnology pundits saying that “those who oppose genetic engineering are doing so because they don’t understand the science,” then you should read Smith’s book – his greatest strength is that he does understand the science and after  reading this book, you will, too.
Smith spends the last two chapters of his book urging folks to join his e-mail newsletter and to buy discounted copies of the book for policymakers.  I’m not sure why anyone should join Smith’s organization rather than any of the others listed on his Links webpage (Organic Consumers Association, The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, Organic Trade Association, etc or even Seed Savers Exchange [which he does not list]) who have been discussing this issue much longer than he has.  Considering that Smith spends much of his book explaining that collusion between US government officials and agri-business executives is responsible for genetically engineered food being on the market in the first place, I’m not sure what giving a copy of this book to policymakers would achieve, either.  Smith has me convinced that these folks already know that genetically engineered foods are of questionable safety, but have chosen to ignore the entire issue so that they can benefit from the revolving door between regulator and regulated and make big bucks for themselves while doing so.  Rather than sending such people a book that lists what they already know, it appears that joining one of the well-known campaigns to label or further test genetically engineered foods would be more useful.
To his credit, Smith does encourage both political action and provides sample letters for doing so on his website.  If you are still confused about the science (and the politics that influences what portion of that science is published) surrounding genetic engineered food, Seeds of Deception is a good place to start your own education on the issue.
Reviewed by Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John’s United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden
Phoenixville, PA

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