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Book Review: Genetic Engineering, Food and Our Environment

Hi, Folks!

Here's my latest book review.  This is an *excellent* book -- I can't
recommend it more highly! :-) It's a nice, quick (but informative) read for
during Christmas, if you feel like you want to learn something!  As always,
I keep the copyright -- my quest for endless fame (but no fortune! ;-))


Genetic Engineering, Food and Our Environment by Luke Anderson, Chelsea
Green Publishing Company, White River Junction, Vermont, 1999.  ISBN:
1-890132-55-1, $7.95.

If Organic Gardening Magazine's six page special report "The Problem With
Genetic Engineering" (January/February 2000, pages 42-47) left you wanting
to know more about genetic engineering, how the techniques are currently
affecting farming, the foods we eat and the ecosystem around us, read this
book.  It's cheap, it's concise and it will give you the knowledge you need
to understand a complex subject (and the corporate forces) that could change
(or at least want to change) agriculture as we know it.

Organic Gardening tried hard, but condensing the entire history and current
practices of genetic engineering into six pages leaves an awful lot out.
Anderson manages to cover nearly everything of importance in just over 150
pages.  He divides the book in to seven chapters that cover the basics of
genetic engineering, its effects on the environment, how genetic engineering
is/could/wants to change farming, how the whole "life patenting" process
started and where it could end, an examination of the Life Science Industry
(and the "revolving doors" between these companies and the government
agencies that are supposed to regulate them), a case study of milk
production and GE growth hormones (one of the best summaries of this
industry and its effects that I've ever read) and suggestions for action.
All statistics, studies and quotes are endnoted for the Reference section in
the back of the book and a 10 page resource section listing organizations,
websites,  e-mail lists, magazines/journals and books on genetic engineering
should satisfy anyone's quest to know more about this genetic engineering,
no matter how its practiced.

Unlike much of the reporting on genetic engineering in the mainstream media
(for instance, the Philadelphia Inquirer only covers genetic engineering in
the Business section and mostly examines how the pesky public could make
profit difficult for the Life Science Industry), Anderson has done his
homework and tracked down the people and studies that explain how genetic
engineering currently works.  The book is full of colorful (and documented)
quotes from folks on all sides of the issues but most importantly, Anderson
has taken the time to find those studies which examine whether or not
genetic engineering is actually living up to its hype.  Much of the time (as
in bovine growth hormone, the FlavrSavr Tomato, Bt cotton,  and the "New
Leaf" potato in the Republic of Georgia) the genetically engineered
organisms either did not produce as expected (yields were less than
"regular" crops) or there were serious, unanticipated side effects
(pesticide drift, increased pus levels in milk).

However, Anderson didn't write this book to depress us.  Rather, he writes
in a clear, understandable style to give the general reader (even if they
hated biology) the tools they need to understand this huge
commercially-endorsed technique works (and doesn't work) so that they can
make intelligent choices about whether or not they want the Life Science
Industry to conduct business as usual.

Personally, as an organic grower and Listed Member of Seed Savers Exchange,
I want this industry stopped in its tracks.  But after reading this book,
you'll be informed enough to make your own decision.

Reviewed by Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's Organic Community Garden
Phoenixville, PA

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