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3.5 out of 5 stars
The Biotech Century
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
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
on June 24, 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
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
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
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". Genes of humans, animals and plants are interchanged "as if" it were "natural".

Finally, we have no idea if those foods are dangerous for consumption, since the FDA considers those foods as GRAS ("generally regarded as safe"), because... they are "similar" to normal tomatoes, potatoes, corn, canola, soya, etc... That's strange, isn't it ? On the one hand, genetically modified foods are "patented because they are different", and on the other hand, they are "safe because they are equal". Welcome to the fake democracy we are living in, defending only the interests of big corporations, but never of the general public (well, let's say, never again since the government fired Dr. Harvey Wiley in 1912, the last director of the FDA who really tried to put the general interest before private interests) !

What do we really know on the safety of this Frankenstein-food for consumption ? Dr. Arpad Pusztai discovered that Monsanto-potatoes produced deformations when fed to rats. It really produces a bunch of little Frankenstein's... His reward ? He got fired, under pressure of Monsanto.

Rifkin observes that insurance companies will never insure this kind of technology, since the risks are impossible to foresee. That's also why insurance companies will never insure nuclear plants. Common sense within the capitalist system is only available at insurance companies. In the meantime, the whole planet is used as the playground of this new Genesis, for big corporations to make profits, stealing our future.
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on October 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
The Biotech Century seems to be more of a collection of short essays more so than a book.
Many opinion based thoughts are fired at the reader over and over again.
There is great information within the work...but I caution the reader not to stop with this book. Seek out more objective works...
Overall...I am glad I read the book. It deals with issues that need to be addressed...
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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
I agree that this book is not perfect, nor the author the most appropriate person to write it, but what's a hell! You can find errata in almost every book! At least he cares and has the courage to write this book.
Jeremy Rifkin is very well informed and what really matters here is that this book is an excellent source of information to raise awareness of what is going on in this field, about the irresponsible work that is been conducted by big corporations playing with genes and doing dangerous things that can affect the present and future life in our little world. Rifkin also outlines that everyone has to be responsible for his own actions.
I have read also his other book "Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture" (5 Stars)
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on December 1, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I bought this earlier this year for a Humanities class I took.

From what I remember, I enjoyed reading the book. Sorry I don't have much to say as I finished reading this about more than 6 months ago, but it was enjoyable. Just read with an open mind, and all should end well. Would purchase from this seller again!
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27 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
Ever since the 70's, a decade that was quite receptive to this type of character, Jeremy Rifkin has been inventing false crises and getting himself media attention for them. I first remember him for a book on the physical principle of entropy, from which he inferred the obviously false conclusion that all human doings are fated to decay and decline. Entropy may increase with time for the universe as a whole, but any subsystem, including the earth and its human civilization, can become more ordered with time. After all, we've been doing just that for 5,000 years or more. Rifkin latches onto, or just fabricates, whatever piece of pseudo-scientific crap he thinks he can get away with - entropy, "time-wars", biohazard-chicken-little dross, ad infinitum. The only thing he's really promoting is his career.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
While Rifkin's provoking analysis of the pitfalls of the coming biotechnilogical era does provide an important point of view, I found the writing and the structure disappointing. Often Rifkin repeated himself and his analysis, leading one to wonder if her wrote each chapter as a series of essays and then patched them together for a book. The alternative is that Rifkin is too insistant on pounding the reader over the head with his argument, giving the reader little credit for his/her ability to remember what was said thirty pages ago. Furthermore he often tries to impress the reader with scientific or technologic "speak" particularly when referring to medical conditions. No doubt Rifkin thoroughly researched his book, but he should give his readers the curtesy of explaining these terms and conditions to them, when they are first introduced, not several paragraphs later. Though Rifkin admits in the last chapter that his analysis is one-sided and merely presenting his view, the book is too one-sided, too skeptical and apocalyptic to be critical. He encourages all people to engage in debate about the factors that will shape our environment in the century to come but his first parlay is rather weak introduction, if not informative.
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