A frank, fair, and highly informative discussion of the risks and benefits of genetically modified foods.
McHughen (Molecular Genetics/Univ. of Saskatchewan), who has developed genetically modified (GM) plants, writes as an insider to the developmental process itself and to the regulatory approval procedures of the US, Canada, and Great Britain. He is an educator adept at communicating scientific concepts to nonscientists, and his introductory chapters on molecular genetics and genetic engineering derive from lectures he developed for Canadian schoolchildren. Dismayed by the lack of factual support for the positions taken by avid opponents and proponents of GM products, he is attempting here to replace the present emotional debate with a rational, informed one. To that end, he explains how new food crops are developed, discusses food safety in general, sets forth the truth about some bogus GM food scares (there never was an allergenic Brazil nut gene in soy beans), explores some legitimate safety concerns about GM products (such as the inadvertent introduction of allergens), and clarifies the assessment of risk, food-labeling problems, and the role of science in regulation. McHughen advocates establishment of comprehensive public databases of all commercial foodstuffs to enable consumers to make informed choices, and he offers some advice on how to analyze reports of GM hazards and how to locate credible information. While he recommends consulting a variety of sources, he gives the American Council on Science and Health especially high marks for reliability. A back-of-the-book list of Web sites includes those of government agencies, the biotechnology industry, academic and scientific organizations, news services, and other groups.
An intelligent, invective-free discussion of the issues that should be welcomed by consumers confused by the claims and charges of both sides in the current debate.