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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.
Loved this book - so smart and fun....Recommended for anyone who loves to read and learn about sciencePublished 2 days ago by Palo Alto book girl
A fantastic book and a must-read for anyone. While it is about botany, the angle Pollan takes on this piece is splendid making it a choice read for all people. Read morePublished 4 days ago by SAO
What an interesting and formidable perspective! Fascinating!Published 1 month ago by charlene d archer
Everything Michael Pollan writes is a delight to read. This book is on co-evolution and how both plants and humans have adapted to the benefit of each. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Michael Pollan likes the sound of his words and tends to write too many words to describe, explain and present a position. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Fan
A very pleasant book, easy to read with lots of facts about apples, tulips, cannabis and potatoes. The author gets a bit long-winded occasionally but generally the pacing is good... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Alice Oleary