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In making his point, Pollan focuses on the relationship between humans and four specific plants: apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes. He uses the history of John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) to illustrate how both the apple's sweetness and its role in the production of alcoholic cider made it appealing to settlers moving west, thus greatly expanding the plant's range. He also explains how human manipulation of the plant has weakened it, so that "modern apples require more pesticide than any other food crop." The tulipomania of 17th-century Holland is a backdrop for his examination of the role the tulip's beauty played in wildly influencing human behavior to both the benefit and detriment of the plant (the markings that made the tulip so attractive to the Dutch were actually caused by a virus). His excellent discussion of the potato combines a history of the plant with a prime example of how biotechnology is changing our relationship to nature. As part of his research, Pollan visited the Monsanto company headquarters and planted some of their NewLeaf brand potatoes in his garden--seeds that had been genetically engineered to produce their own insecticide. Though they worked as advertised, he made some startling discoveries, primarily that the NewLeaf plants themselves are registered as a pesticide by the EPA and that federal law prohibits anyone from reaping more than one crop per seed packet. And in a interesting aside, he explains how a global desire for consistently perfect French fries contributes to both damaging monoculture and the genetic engineering necessary to support it.
Pollan has read widely on the subject and elegantly combines literary, historical, philosophical, and scientific references with engaging anecdotes, giving readers much to ponder while weeding their gardens. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Pollan is one of the best. Intensive research, insightful comments, sprinkled with his wonderful sense of humor. I love this book.Published 8 days ago by Marquita B.
Amazing insights into our relation to plants, and their relations to us. Compelling reading - I bought some copies to give to friends.Published 18 days ago by RS
Maybe it's because I studied biology, but I expected more detail and less repetition. For a non-scientist, I think it would be a good read, but there's just not enough depth for... Read morePublished 26 days ago by mom_of_3
Pollan offers a view of the relationship between humans and agriculture that is completely original and thoroughly examined.Published 1 month ago by sj
A story of four plants and four human motivations, Pollan draws them together with wit. I consumed this book in a short time, taking to work to read in my spare moments. Read morePublished 1 month ago by fatal_degree
Not the type of book I normally read and I only started reading it because it sounded unusual to me. It is and I like it and I love unusual and changing my thinkingPublished 3 months ago by kelly
Loved this book - so smart and fun....Recommended for anyone who loves to read and learn about sciencePublished 3 months ago by Valley book girl