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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
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. By making the facts behind genetic engineering and its impacts on agriculture and environment accessible to a general audience, this book can hopefully be a step towards calming that reactionary impulse.

It helps too that it is also an easy and enjoyable read. By the end I felt as though I'd kind of gotten to know the authors (in fact since we don't live all that far apart and work in vaguely the same field, it crossed my mind that I might someday bump into them). The style is casual without being superfluous, making it easy to lose yourself in the book. I started this book as I tended the grill before dinner, and finished it as I went to bed the same night.

Putting aside the genetic engineering part, even, this book is also simply one of the best scientific presentations of organic agriculture I have read, in that it is soundly grounded in the literature and does not over-reach, while remaining staunchly and reasonably pro-organic. There are few other books on the topic I can say the same for.

All in all a good read about an important topic.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2012
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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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2008
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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26 of 35 people found the following review helpful
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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21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2008
A partnership between organic farming and genetic engineering might sound impossible, but might be the best chance we have to feed our growing population while taking care of the planet.

Tomorrow's Table is not a technical text. It is a friendly discussion with a friend who invites you over for lunch. In their conversational tone, the authors make a strong case for integrating genetic engineering into organic farming, leaving behind many aspects of so-called conventional farming. Their points are backed up by much research, and references are provided the reader so he or she can learn more if they like.

I hope this book will help some people to take a second look at genetic engineering, but it made me take a second look at organic farming. I had become convinced that organic farming was pointless and only for rich hippies. The discussion of the benefits of organic methods was more than enough to jolt me back to reality.

In the interests of full disclosure, I'm a PhD student in genetics, and was generally in favor of genetic engineering before reading this book.
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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2008
As a consumer who shops at grocery stores that specialize in organic food, I have noticed a proliferation of signs and labels stating that this or that product is GE or GMO free. These labels don't do much to inform the public and do much to increase anxiety. This book is a great antidote; informative and detailed, clear and engaging.

Readers of recent books on the politics of food, such as Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver or The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan will be interested in the authors' global perspective and local expertise, and I was especially glad to read about the potential impact of GE food in developing countries.
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on September 29, 2014
Excellent book. It challenges the reader to think objectively about how our food is being grown and how technology is affecting agriculture. One of my favorite quotes from the book is "The risks that hurt people and the risks that upset people are almost completely unconnected." It is really easy to get caught up in the might-be-dangerous, or the I-heard-such-and-such-can-happen when it comes to the food we eat. This book brings light to the pros and cons of organic agriculture and GE agriculture. I think the authors ultimately support GE and hope their readers will too, but I appreciate the thought-provoking way the information is presented in the book. I plan to recommend this book to my family.
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on May 31, 2015
This should be read by everyone opposed to gmos who considers her/himself informed on environmental issues. Ronald and to a lesser extent her husband describe the benefits of gmos for small, often poor farmers and for our air, soil and water. In our bifurcated culture, it is very hard to be an environmenalist fully aware of the dangers of global warming as well as the benefits of gmos. Both Ronald and her husband who is the coauthor are organic gardeners/farmers and so provide a very different perspective from what we are accustomed to. The book is by no means an endorsement of the factory seed production and farming (and in the case of Monsanto, herbicide use) promulgated by giant corporations.
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on May 10, 2015
I picked up this book because I needed to educate myself about a measure on the ballot in my county that would ban GMO crops. The book opened my eyes to the complexities of the issue and convinced me to vote no on the measure even though I initially thought I would vote yes. I appreciate especially that the book is well grounded in science and also easy to read because told from a very personal point of view. I would like to see an updated edition since the topic is only becoming more important and the science in the book, which doesn't seem to extend past about 2004, is becoming dated.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2008
The writing style was clear and not overly technical, and this book would be a good introduction for those without training in farming or biology but interested in the future of agriculture and the true costs and benefits of modern organic farming methods and genetically modified breeds of crops.

The first part of the Tomorrow's Table is an introduction to the ideas behind organic farming and genetic modification. The real substance of the book is in the second half where the authors address some of the frustratingly common arguments used by those who vehemently oppose genetically engineering crops (for example: safety, pollen drift, intellectual property) and go on to talk about the benefits GM crops can and do bring to the environment, consumers, and growers.

The authors do a good job of making the point that GM crops really are compatible with the principles of the organic movement, but what personally won me over about this book was the way Pamela Ronald describes the delicate dance of a plant biologist drawn into a discussion of genetic engineering with friends or family who are firmly convinced of the danger or immortality of the technology.

Readers looking for a sample of Pamela Ronald's writing style can look up a piece she wrote for the Boston Globe called "The New Organic".
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