The Biotech Century Trade edition Edition

27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0874779530
ISBN-10: 0874779537
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When two Scottish scientists successfully cloned a sheep in July 1996, the news sparked fierce scientific, ethical, theological, and philosophical debate, momentarily pulling biotechnology from the laboratories and thrusting it onto the front pages. With living proof that such advancements are no longer the stuff of science fiction, a whole new world of possibilities--and dangers--presented itself. Jeremy Rifkin is more concerned with the dangers of this technology, and in The Biotech Century , he presents numerous compelling reasons why we should be, too. Many of these dangers revolve around the seemingly inevitable commercialization of genetically engineered life forms that would come if corporations battled for the rights to patents on new or modified species of plants, animals, or even human beings. Rifkin warns that "designer" babies and genetically perfect humans, along with any other artificial creations, would wreak havoc with the gene pool and the natural environment. While he concedes that there are benefits to biotechnology, he makes it clear that the risks far outweigh the rewards at this time, urging for greater restraint and responsibility before opening what could be a Pandora's box. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

We are poised on the brink of a revolution of unparalleled real-life impact, argues Rifkin in this impassioned, erudite and well-reasoned study. Already, recombinant DNA techniques, computer gene-mapping and the globalization of commerce have begun to reshape life: the cloning of mammals for inexpensive pharmaceuticals is but one example. Though he does not dispute the promised benefits of biotechnology, Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends and author of The End of Work and many other trend-tracking books, warns that we must closely consider its possible (and often little-publicized) negative consequences. A technology that can find genetic sources of disease, for example, can also lead to widespread acceptance of eugenic practices; techniques for genetically altering crops and animals to improve food sources could just as easily be used to create customized biological weapons. ("Scientists say they may be able to clone selective toxins to eliminate specific racial or ethnic groups whose genotypical makeup predispose them to certain disease patterns," Rifkin warns.) Biotechnology has the capacity to deplete, rather than enhance, Earth's gene pool and irreparably damage ecological balance, according to Rifkin, and it may transform our conceptions of nature and of life itself. Just as the Industrial Revolution caused unexpected problems such as depletion of natural resources, overpopulation, economic injustice and pollution, so the Biotech Revolution will inevitably cause problems we cannot yet imagine, Rifkin contends, especially if we fail to educate ourselves about the nature of biotechnology and neglect to make careful decisions about how it should best be used. This wide-ranging and deeply intelligent analysis is an excellent first step. 50,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; Trade edition edition (April 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874779537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874779530
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #562,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

One of the most popular social thinkers of our time, Jeremy Rifkin is the bestselling author of The European Dream, The Hydrogen Economy, The Age of Access, The Biotech Century, and The End of Work. A fellow at the Wharton School's Executive Education Program and an adviser to several European Union heads of state, he is the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Bethesda, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
Dr. Rifkin and I were simultaneously interviewed on WICR FM in Indianapolis on November 19, 1998. (My book, Mobius, discusses the evolution of life and of humanity, and the host of the show thought there was much common ground with The Biotech Century.) Thus, I have had the benefit of reading The Biotech Century, as well as the opportunity of speaking with the author at length about it.
I do not agree with all of Dr. Rifkin's points. If I happened to have an untreatable genetic disease, I personally would not wish to see laws enacted which would restrict my access to a cure that involved permanently changing my genetic structure. If my children could be born without the disease, so much the better, in my humble view. But I still give Rifkin five stars for The Biotech Century.
Rifkin has been labeled as an alarmist, and I disagree. The corporate spin doctors have conditioned all of us to believe that there is little or no risk to splitting the gene and tampering with the code of life. Rifkin lets us know of some of the hazards, and he does so with brilliance. Richard R. Hofstetter, lawyer, author of Mobius (1998).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
Rifkin raises issues that should become part of everyone's consciousness in the future, as genetic engineering gains acceptance and power. Unfortunately, the title of the book led me to believe that it would be a balanced work, with arguments for and against the advancement of Biotechnology. In reality, most of the discussion is spent cautioning against Biotechnology and condemning some of the most recent discoveries in genetic engineering. This book's title promises the full picture of Biotechnology, but delivers a one-sided argument. Read something else after you are done with it, put out the fire with ice.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
Jeremy Rifkin has written a well-informed and provocative book. As a practising molecular biologist I consider that frequently his criticisms if not his predictions err on the side of caution. Perhaps he felt the need to restrain himself in the light of previous criticism of his hyperbole. Nevertheless, he was proven right in the past and I am sure for the most part he will be again. In his struggle for balance he frequently lets the biotech industry and its regulators off the hook, especially in the field of agricultural biotechnology, a subject that scares me to death. The writing style is a little irritating but the book is a must-read. Everyone should know what is in store for their children.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on January 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book surveys the latest developments in biotechnology, and suggests future directions, trends and developments. While not downplaying the many positive benefits which can come to society from the new developments Rifkin's real task here is to warn of possible dangers. These dangers are various, though one clear point of emphasis is his fear that commercial forces will monopolize important technologies discriminating against poorer populations, and ascerbating current inequalities in society.

Among the developments the book suggests may take place are:" Food and fiber may be grown indoors in giant bacteria baths, partially eliminating the farmer and the soil for the first time in history. Animal and human cloning could be commmonplace with ' replication' increasingly replacing ' reproduction'.Millions of people could obtain a genetic readout of themselves , allowing them to gaze into their own biological futures and plan their lives in ways never before possible . Parents may choose to have their parents gestated in artificial wombs outside the human body. Genetic changes could made in human fetuses to correct deadly diseases and disorders and enhance mood, behavior, intelligence, physical traits."

Rifkin is concerned about the consequences of such developments for the global economy and society' He is worried about the kinds of utopian efforts which might come from trying to create perfect human beings. And above all he seems disturbed on the way the 'genetic information' will be owned.

This book raises very great questions, questions which will be more and more relevant in the years to come.

It provides a great deal of thought and insight about these questions. And is certainly a valuable help in giving each one of some better sense of how we can understand the brave new world which is to come.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Guy Denutte on February 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
Adam Smith warned us that we didn't had to rely on the goodwill of the baker or the butcher to supply our meals. Following Smith, we should only rely on the care they take to fulfil their own interests. We shouldn't address their humanity, only their egoism. We shouldn't talk to them on our needs, but only of their advantage. Now, I think Smith really had bad luck with his baker or butcher. But I suppose that even he would be flabbergasted at all the inventiveness capitalism has put into lowering the standards of our food, especially since 1940 - when agriculture became chemically fertilized and pesticides were introduced - with the sole objective to obtain more and more profits. We know corporations have no soul, but I do wonder how the CEO's of those big corporations are able to sleep at night, when they knowingly are poisoning our food chain. Do they really think that money is more important than the future of mankind ? Even if they don't care what the future of mankind will behold, what about their own children and grandchildren ?

Now, as if we hadn't poisoned our food chain enough with chemicals, agricorporations launched genetically modified foods. That is what this book is about, and as always, Jeremy Rifkin offers us a fluently written book, with some very good arguments. He wonders in the first place how it even became possible to obtain a patent on a living organism. That is where the corruption began. How can you patent something when you only modify a very small part of the genetic structure ?

Furthermore, no studies were undertaken on the dangers of introducing all those newly modified genes into the environment. Rifkin warns us that we are "on the eve of a new Genesis".
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