Book Review:"Eating in the Dark: America’s Experiment with Genetically Engineered Food"
- Subject: [cg] Book Review:"Eating in the Dark: America’s Experiment with Genetically Engineered Food"
- From: Alliums firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: Wed, 30 Oct 2002 16:15:00 -0500
Here's my latest book review. I retain copywrite so if you'd like to
publish it somewhere, let me know. What with the drought all
summer, then 5 1/2 inches of rain in October, I need to make some cash
somehow because it won't be from growing anything! ;-)
Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden
A mission of
St. John's United Church of Christ, 315 Gay Street, Phoenixville,
Eating in the Dark: America’s Experiment with Genetically
Engineered Food by Kathleen Hart, Pantheon Books, 2002, ISBN:
A more accurate subtitle for this book would be “A History of Genetically
Engineered Food from May 1997 through 2001.” Hart, a reporter for Food
Chemical News, has complied a detailed history of genetically
engineered foods from their initial hope as profit centers for the
biotechnology industry to the current storm in the marketplace over
whether such food should be there at all. When your children take
college classes in late 20th/early
21st century history, you’ll probably find
this book on their reading list.
All the players (Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro, Dennis Avery, Ronnie
Cummins, Dan Glickman, the EPA, the FDA, etc) and all the events (NewLeaf
potatoes uprooted in Ireland, Bt corn pollen killing Monarch butterfly
larvae, the Terminator Technology uproar, the meltdown that was the WTO
meeting in Seattle, and of course, StarLink corn in the food supply) are
laid out in chronological order for the reader with plenty of space for
quotes from official documents and interviews with those most involved in
the technologies. Like the reporter she is, Hart does not take
sides, but simply gives everyone the room to explain themselves as fully
as they wish, so that readers can make their own decisions about both
technology and participants.
Those who have kept track of what’s happening with genetically modified
foods (For instance, through Biodemocracy News, the Organic
Consumers Association monthly e-mail newsletter on biotechnology; sign up
not find any players or events they haven’t read about before.
However, the advantage of this book is that Hart is able to give entire
chapters to scientists such as Arpad Pusztai (whose findings that
genetically modified potatoes caused immune system damage in rats caused
a global controversy) and John Losey (the first to find that Bt corn
pollen could kill Monarch butterfly larvae) so that they can explain (and
defend) their research in their own words. As a science and food
writer herself, Hart is also able to prod government officials and
industry management into explaining their decisions with greater clarity
because she knows the right questions to ask them.
Each chapter is meticulously documented with additional technical
information, but since footnote numbers do not appear in the chapter
text, you‘ll have to keep your finger in the “Notes” section, then match
each chapter’s page with sentence fragments to find the reference
information. Numbered notes in the text that correspond with
the documentation in the Notes section would have been a lot easier --
hopefully, this “no footnote numbers in the text” is a publishing trend
that ends with this book.
If you just want to learn what genetic engineering is and why folks have
concerns about it, read Genetic Engineering, Food and Our
Environment by Luke Anderson (ISBN: 1-890132-55-1) . It’s
quick, clear, concise and three years after its publication date, still
completely on target. If you prefer the full background on how
genetically engineered food has developed into a global issue, featuring
the words and documents of those who influenced and lived this history,
pick up Eating in the Dark.
Reviewed by Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John’s United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden