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Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food Hardcover – April 18, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0195301755 ISBN-10: 9780195301755

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780195301755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195301755
  • ASIN: 0195301757
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #973,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

With the world’s population projected to grow some 50 percent by midcentury, rigorous agricultural planning becomes indispensable to forestall the onset of ecological and human disaster. Ronald and Adamchak, a wife-husband team from the University of California at Davis, combine the training and insights of a geneticist and the know-how of a committed organic farmer. They examine the often-passionate debate about genetically engineered food and how it may affect the food supply of the future, meticulously dissecting arguments for and against such application of science. This wildly eccentric book juxtaposes deep scientific analysis of genetically engineered agriculture with recipes for such homey kitchen staples as cornbread and chocolate chip cookies. In a marvelously useful table, they outline a history of biological technology from 4000 BC through the dawn of the twenty-first century. A glossary of agricultural genetics and an extensive bibliography supplement the text. --Mark Knoblauch

Review


"The authors are eminently qualified to present authoritative descriptions of their respective disciplines, which they do in a readable and accurate manner. But the noteworthy aspect of the book is the way they then marry their separate fields to argue logically for the use of GM technologies to improve organic agriculture. Ronald and Adamchak's clear, rational approach is refreshing, and the balance they present is sorely needed in our increasingly polarized world." --Science Magazine


"One of the best, most balanced accounts of transgenic agriculture that I have read." -- David McElroy, Nature Biotechnology


"This is an important book Tomorrow's Table is a real education on the many choices farmers today must make regarding seeds. It's very good in explaining genetically engineered seed, how it's used today (mostly to help plants fight off insects and tolerate herbicide) and how it will be used in the future (to increase disease resistance, drought tolerance, vitamin content and crop yields, for example). The book separates out clearly the issues of how to make sure new seeds are safe, how to price them and how to treat them as intellectual property. I gained an understanding of the history of organic farming and learned about some of the very clever ways organic farmers control pests. Compared with conventional agriculture, many organic techniques can be more cost effective for poor farmers. I agree with the authors that we will need the best ideas from "organic" thinkers and from scientists - including genetic engineers - to feed the world and help the poorest." --Bill Gates


"We found the book insightful and well-documented." --Organic Gardening Magazine


"They are leading a chorus of young scientists and forward thinkers who see genetic modification not as a threat to sustainable farming but as a new way to make it better...[Ronald and Adamchak] are true believers." --Forbes


"This book is a tale of two marriages. The first is that of Raoul and Pam, the authors, and is a tale of the passions of an organic farmer and a plant genetic scientist. The second is the potential marriage of two technologies--organic agriculture and genetic engineering...Like all good marriages, both include shared values, lively tensions, and reinvigorating complementarities. [The authors] share a strong sense of both the wonder of the natural world and how, if treated with respect and carefully managed, it can remain a source of inspiration and provision of our daily needs." --Sir Gordon Conway KCMG FRS, Professor of International Development, Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College, London, and past President of the Rockefeller Foundation, from his foreword


"Here's a persuasive case that, far from contradictory, the merging of genetic engineering and organic farming offers our best shot at truly sustainable agriculture. I've seen no better introduction to the ground truth of genetically engineered crops and the promising directions this 'appropriate technology' is heading." --Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog


"Whether you ultimately agree with it or not, Tomorrow's Table brings a fresh approach to the debate over transgenic crops."--Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma


"Welcome as water in the desert--at a time when partisans compete to see who can deliver the hardest slam against those who think differently, what a welcome surprise to find this book building bridges between unnecessary antagonists. The developers of crops improved through biotechnology and the practitioners of organic agriculture want the same thing-a way to grow food that helps farmers tread more gently on the land. Ronald and Adamchak explain how simpatico these two approaches are at heart. For a future that will bring unprecedented challenges we will need all the tools we can muster. Tomorrow's Table shows how organic and biotech can coexist and complement one another. Bravo, and bring on Volume II." --L. Val Giddings, President, PrometheusAB


"A unique, personal perspective on the ways in which genetically enhanced crops can improve wholesome agricultural productivity, helping to achieve the low chemical inputs that are the goal of organic agriculture and of those who care about our environment and health. Highly recommended." --Peter H. Raven, President, Missouri Botanical Garden


"This wildly eccentric book juxtaposes deep scientific analysis of genetically engineered agriculture with recipes for such homey kitchen staples as cornbread and chocolate chip cookies." --Booklist



More About the Author

Pamela Ronald is Professor of Plant Pathology and Chair of the Plant Genomics Program at the University of California, Davis, where she studies the role that genes play in a plant's response to its environment. Send messages to pcronald/ at/ ucdavis/ dot/ edu

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Phil Stewart on August 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was given this book by a friend who is an organic "true believer" and when he handed me a book I sort of expect a re-hashing of the usual pro-organics arguments I've heard many times over the years. Instead I was pleasantly surprised.

The book is straight forward, well-reasoned, and accessible. I have a background in agriculture and molecular biology, and so at times I found the science a tad too simplistic to strongly hold my interest, but I suspect that for the average reader, it strikes a nice balance between addressing the subject fully and excessive complexity and jargon. The case they build is in my view quite compelling, and I hope this book serves to open many minds.

When I was starting out in plant science, I remember a professor telling me that when the first transgenics were being developed, he really thought the organics crowd would be the biggest supporters. "We'd just come up with a solution to their biggest problems, but instead they decided we were the enemy". Although I think that organics are, ultimately, a positive development in agriculture, they are like most "movements" a mixture of real reasons and irrational, emotional impulses. Although organic agriculture has been an important step towards a sustainable future, it has brought with it a fair amount of baggage, based on not on science or reason, but on a nostalgic idealization of traditional agriculture--even though such agriculture was often neither natural nor sustainable nor especially desirable, even then. The fear of genetic engineering seems to me to come from that deeply conservative undercurrent in an otherwise progressive movement.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Rainy314 on January 13, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I can only give this book a 2 star rating, as there is only about 2/5th of the book that are worth reading. If that!

I purchased the book with the hope of finally finding proof that Organic and GM farming can be combined for the betterment of society and our health.

What I did not expect was a book about a married couple, their vacations, their fights with family, what they taught in class on any given day, what they ordered from seed catalogues, or their favorite recipes. I have enough recipe books, I can look through my own seed catalogues, and quite frankly I don't know them well enough to care about what goes on in their lives.

This is a very important topic & they do have some good ideas. But they buried it in superfluous fluff that was boring to the average reader, making it difficult to ferret out the real topic at hand. Not too technical by any means. It was just boring and the majority of it not to the point at all.

I wanted to give up on the book several times and consider it money wasted. I came back here and reread the reviews to see why it got such a high rating and noted all the reviews that said it didn't get good till at least halfway through, or the last chapter. So I tried again, skimming through page after page, skipping page upon page of recipes, looking for the "good part" to finally arrive. It finally did, but it was a lot of work to get to that little bit of true information.

The previous reviews are dead on about not getting good till about halfway through or even only the last chapter. So if you feel that paying the price of the book to read about their lives but actually only get some good information out of less than 20% of the book is worth it, by all means go for it. Personally I wish I'd saved my money.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. Canestrino on July 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I made it through the book in a day or two. It is not overly technical; it is an excellent introduction to biotech and organic farming. I did not really get into the book until the last chapter; I guess I kept wishing for more technical information, for the authors to drive home their point of view.

However, the point they are trying to make cannot be more important. That is that biotech has a place in organic farming to make it more "sustainable". RoundUp ready crops have made it possible for farmers to stop using much more damaging and toxic herbicides and to go to no-till farming to preserve topsoil. It is the only answer for some problems sometimes, such as virus resistance. It would allow conventional farmers of sweet corn to stop using a slew of really noxious insecticides.

Like Dr. Savage said in his review, I do not think that the organic farming movement is going to "hear" this message and see the wisdom in it, but if they could I think they would have to redefine the way they think of organic vs. sustainable.
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25 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Steven D. Savage on May 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pam and Raul's very well written book makes the rational and even emotional argument that biotechnology is fully compatible with the core ideals of the organic movement. I completely agree with that position looking back to my grandfather's version of "organic" from the 1960s.

I wish I could believe that Pam and Raul's logical arguments will fly with the core of the "organic consumer" movement. They make excellent rational arguments. I'm not sure this debate is about that. As Mark Twain said, "you can't reason someone out of a position they weren't reasoned into in the first place."

As much as I wish otherwise, I'm not optimistic that this book will succeed in its aim to reconcile "organic" and "biotech". Even so, it does a great job of explaining the societal benefits of biotech crops and it helps to humanize the people that have made this a reality.

This is a book that everyone focused on the environment should read.

Steven Savage, Ph.D.
savage.sd@gmail.com
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