This is really the story of one company--American chemical giant Monsanto, which, some 20 years ago, pushed forward the technology of injecting different plants such as corn and soybeans with genes that would make them able to act as their own insecticides (insects would simply die upon eating them). From there, Monsanto went on to orchestrate a stunning takeover of much of the seed business, but its plans for what seemed like world agricultural domination were trounced when first European, then U.S. activists sparked a massive backlash against GMOs ("genetically modified organisms") pumped up with the company's patented genes--even absent substantive scientific evidence that genetically modified crops were any more harmful (or, for that matter, more modified) to people or the environment than those without designer genes.
Given the recent explosion of genetic research, it's fascinating to see the relatively primitive origins of this field in the early 1980s, and to discover the inner workings of world agribusiness, especially (as the farm-bred Charles rightly points out) in a society where most people have no idea where their food comes from, or what happens to it along the way. It's just that Charles's valiant attempt to make a bunch of nerdy, competitive scientists and soulless, profit-grubbing Monsanto execs interesting is mostly in vain. Still, you have to love the early '90s comedy of errors that was the grandiose launch and swift demise of the superengineered tomato--especially when an old-school tomato breeder tries to tell her boss, a biotech exec and agricultural illiterate, that nature's breeding process can't be accelerated to meet production goals. His curt response? "Think out of the box." (Or crate, as it were.) --Timothy Murphy --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I recommend this book for anyone that wants the history of biotechnology from the beginning.
Lords of the Harvest by Daniel Charles, published in 2001 is a very good overview of the history, science and politics of the early development of biotechnology.
I'm glad someone was willing to get the real story out there in a fair, honest and very well-informed manner.
A fascinating, and thoroughly readable look at the early days of the GMO debate.Published 2 months ago by Marc Gunther
This review was written as part of a reading assignment for an Honors class at Lake Superior State University entitled “DNA: The Secret of Life”. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Brandon Yanni
Very interesting hearing the history of how genetically modified plants came about. VEry good at presenting the oppositions side, even though they really don't have much... Read morePublished 18 months ago by GreggB
This one was not what I was looking for, but I was fascinated nevertheless. I was looking for something on agricultural policy, dealing particularly with tarrifs and trade. Read morePublished on May 7, 2010 by David May
Lords of the Harvest by Daniel Charles, published in 2001 is a very good overview of the history, science and politics of the early development of biotechnology. Read morePublished on March 16, 2010 by J. Canestrino
While being somewhat outdated now, LORDS OF THE HARVEST remains the most informative book that I've read covering the heated debate over agricultural biotech. Read morePublished on July 28, 2009 by Chip Hunter
This book provides a good and balanced background into how Monsanto changed the face of commercial agriculture. Read morePublished on June 18, 2008 by Elias Chikoto
I had to read this book for a class at Cornell (life science entrepreneurship), and have to say I really enjoyed it. Read morePublished on April 29, 2008 by B. Emery
Daniel Charles crafts an incredibly well-balanced and thoughtful account of plant biotechnology from inception to near-present. Read morePublished on April 7, 2008 by N. Frogge