A journalist on a mission to expose the dangers of genetically modified organisms tells nearly as much about her personal life as about the issue bothering her.
Shetterly (Made for You And Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home, 2011, etc.), who first wrote about her belief that “a long and tedious illness that had plagued me for nearly four years,” as well as that of her young son, was caused by GMOs in an article in Elle, has expanded that controversial piece to book length. Here, the author chronicles her visits with, among others, farmers in Colorado and Nebraska, anti–GMO activists in Iowa, beekeepers in Europe, and a research lab in California to gather facts and record her impressions. While GMOs are her primary focus, Shetterly has a larger target: big agriculture—i.e., the industrialization of farming, the expansion of monocultures, and the widespread use of insecticides and herbicides. Driving alone through the cornfields of the Midwest, the author mourns the disappearance of family farms and experiences anxiety about the possibility of harassment by big ag, but no such problems occurred. Her account is low on proof of her thesis that the proteins created in GMOs triggered a chronic allergic response that made both her and her son sick for a long time (the diagnosis of one allergist in Maine) and is high in overly long profiles of people she interviewed, anecdotes about her family, and details of her private life, on and off the road. The long-term research is still yet to be done, and, as the author admits, “do I know enough to quiet down that natural, pain-in-the-ass skeptic inside of my head? Not really. Not yet.”
The message that our planet is saturated with chemical toxins comes through clearly, but the health case against GMOs is not persuasive.