Are GMOs really that bad? A prominent environmental journalist takes a fresh look at what they actually mean for our food system and for us.
In the past two decades, GMOs have come to dominate the American diet. Advocates hail them as the future of food, an enhanced method of crop breeding that can help feed an ever-increasing global population and adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Critics, meanwhile, call for their banishment, insisting GMOs were designed by overeager scientists and greedy corporations to bolster an industrial food system that forces us to rely on cheap, unhealthy, processed food so they can turn an easy profit. In response, health-conscious brands such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have started boasting that they are "GMO-free," and companies like Monsanto have become villains in the eyes of average consumers.
Where can we turn for the truth? Are GMOs an astounding scientific breakthrough destined to end world hunger? Or are they simply a way for giant companies to control a problematic food system?
Environmental writer McKay Jenkins traveled across the country to answer these questions and discovered that the GMO controversy is more complicated than meets the eye. He interviewed dozens of people on all sides of the debate - scientists hoping to engineer new crops that could provide nutrients to people in the developing world, Hawaiian papaya farmers who credit GMOs with saving their livelihoods, and local farmers in Maryland who are redefining what it means to be "sustainable." The result is a comprehensive, nuanced examination of the state of our food system and a much-needed guide for consumers to help them make more informed choices about what to eat for their next meal.
For my initial foray into the topic (beyond popular heresy) I was looking for a balanced book. It began impartial, but the nature of the topic could not sustain a 50/50 ratio of for/against - the book was around 10/90.
The anecdotes were fascinating and revealing, the author had a good grasp of the topic. The last chapter was actually inspirational, if a bit romantic. The book kept my interest throughout, improved my grasp of the topic, and tempered my outlook.
I had encountered greed and blind corporate service before (the history of leaded gasoline being one), and the book was scathing in its presentation of its existence here.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What could McKay Jenkins have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
The author being an English professor did a great job of writing. What was seriously lacking was scientific information. When I get a book about GMOs I don't expect a casual observer with no understanding about genetic techniques to be the one delivering the information. Or, if that's going to happen, at the very least provide examples and data to support the information you are delivering. What I will say is that the issue of cis and trans genetic products was nicely contrasted. However, from reading the synopsis I expected definitive data about monoculture agriculture's effects on micro and macro environments, I expected a larger discussion about bioaccumulation of pesticides and herbicides to include factual research, not casual observation, and I expected honest information to be presented to a public who is craving information about the fledgling field of genetic modification. This was written as a crusade to rip apart the food industry without supportive information as to why and how the practices in place today are so damaging. Sure glyphosphate is bad - tell the reader WHY its bad. Back that up with definitive data - how many patients have cancer from this, how many species have been taken to the edge of extinction because of organophosphates. Otherwise, you are engaging in scare tactics. And remember, correlation is NOT causation. The main themes are all there in the book but all of them are seriously lacking any supportive data to make a convincing argument in either direction.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful