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Against the Grain: Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food Paperback – July 1, 2002

3.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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Bailey, Britt -- Bailey, Britt
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 175 pages
  • Publisher: Common Courage Press; Reprint edition (July 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567511503
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567511505
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,364,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In only 150 pages, "Against the Grain" debunks many of the myths surrounding biotechnology and the genetic engineering that is revolutionizing US (and world) agriculture.One of the myths which "Against the Grain" debunks is the claim that genetically engineered crops are aimed at feeding the hungry of the world. As "Against the Grain" quite lucidly points out, if genetically engineered crops were aimed at feeding the hungry of the world then companies like Monsanto would develop seeds with certain characteristics such as: the ability to grow in substandard soils; the ability for plants to produce more protein, with increased per-acre yield, without increasing the need for expensive machinery, chemicals, fertilizer or water; they would aim to favour small farms over large farms; seeds would be cheap and freely available without restrictive licensing; they would be for crops that feed people, not animals.
None of the genetically engineered crops now available have any of these characteristics. In fact new genetically engineered seeds require high-quality soils, huge investment in machinery and an increased use of chemicals.As "Against the Garin" so adeptly illustrates, the genetic engineering revolution has nothing to do with feeding the world's hungry but everything to do with enriching a priviledged few.
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By A Customer on May 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
A readable introduction to the topic of agricultural biotechnology . . . The author rationally questions the benefits touted by the seed & chemical corporations leading this market. Lappe offers data to show that there's neither nutritional benefits nor yield increases as motivating factors in this enterprise. Seeds manufactured to be pest and/or insecticide resistant sound great, but the author discusses how there may be unforeseen complications. What should happen if crop pests mutate and develop a resistance to these "built-in" defense mechanisms? Will the neighboring farmer who doesn't use the altered seed lose his entire crop to pests instead of spreading out the damage? Will farmers douse our crops with more chemicals since the plant can withstand them? What about the farm downwind whose crops may not be resistant? Also at issue is the "homogenizing" of our seed supply. If problems arise, it might not be so easy to "de-alter" supplies.
And, of course, there's the issue of corporate greed. Lappe argues that companies like Monsanto force farmers into brand-loyalty by making seeds that are engineered to respond best to certain chemicals, usually those sold by the same company selling the seed. (Shocker!)
The theme of this book is simply that there are too many unstudied potential risks to the process.
Case in point: A Cornell University study announces (just this week!) that altered corn has been poisoning Monarch butterfly larvae.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Marc Lappe and Britt Bailey also wrote Engineering the Farm: The Social And Ethical Aspects Of Agricultural Biotechnology. They said in the Introduction to this 1998 book, "we intend to describe and then get beyond the emotional and political concerns. We are fundamentally interested in the tension between the promise and peril of genetically engineered plants... (and) about possible health hazards stemming from ingestion of genetically engineered food crops. In researching this issue, we have been frustrated by the lack of good science on which to base a final opinion..."

They note, "few genetically modified organisms have been precisely modified... As a result, genetically modified plants may be much more of a black box than the pseudoscientific terminology of 'transgenic' and implied genetic control connotes." (Pg. 14) They identify three reasons for "intensive regulation" of biotechnology: "transgenic plants contain novel genes which may migrate to unintended weedy species... products may contain novel proteins with allergenic or toxic properties... plants produced may contain higher concentrations of oversprayed pesticides..." (Pg. 73)

They warn, "The full panoply of effects from the release of millions of genetically engineered crop plants are presently uncertain..." (Pg. 96) They point out, "consumers lack any tool which would allow them to discriminate between transgenic and non-transgenic foods..." (Pg. 116) They note in conclusion, "The ultimate question posed by genetically engineered crops is...: Do we have the wisdom 'to play God'?... do we have the foresight and intelligence to substitute human selection for natural selection?" (Pg. 144)

This is a fascinating, well-reasoned and objective perspective on genetically modified food, and will be useful to anyone interested in this issue.
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Format: Paperback
As a scientist working in the bio-industry, I felt compelled to read this book. Unfortunately, while it makes a number of good points and correctly identifies areas of uncertainity, it somewhat marres the pleasure of reading it by suboptimal craftmanship - incidentally one of the criticisms that are correctly made to our industry. I resented some factual mistakes and the impression that the book was not proofread before going to print, leaving it with some contradictions and loose ends. But, I repeat, the essence is right: "wait a minute!"
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