FOOD, INC. by Peter Pringle


Mendel to Monsanto--The Promises and Perils of the Biotech Harvest
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Two cheers for transgenic tomatoes and Frankensteined frankfurters.

Well, maybe a cheer and a half. Insofar as Pringle (Those Are Real Bullets, 2001, etc.) is concerned, the widespread adoption of genetically modified (GM) foods may harbor significant perils but, all the same, may well relieve hunger for a significant chunk of the planet’s populace “if governments, industry, and overzealous sentries don’t stand in the way”—or, more to the point, don’t get too greedy in carving up the market. For the time being, whether we like it or not, that market is pretty much confined to America; as Pringle notes, GM crops have been banned from Europe and Japan, and the starving nation of Zambia even rejected US grain shipments for fear that croplands would be overrun by seeds produced by agricultural monopolies. And there’s the rub: it’s not so much that the world fears the blowback from eating food whose molecules have been tinkered with, Pringle suggests, but that GM food remains a private-sector initiative, and the private sector, in the words of an Ethiopian economist, “will not focus on the needs of the poor, except as a way to sell its products.” Though wary of health and environmental consequences himself, Pringle attributes much of the problem surrounding GM foods to the failure of producers to explain their ambitions to the consuming public, having preferred instead to sneak such things as Flavr Savr tomatoes and “ice-minus” strawberries onto shelves in the apparent hope that no one would notice. There’s not much zest in these pages, but Pringle manages to avoid the hype and sensationalism that color both sides of the argument even as he notes that the so-called biotech revolution is now all but stalled, owing to the resistance of consumers, farmers, and governments alike.

A meaty addition to the growing GM debate.

Pub Date: June 10th, 2003
ISBN: 0-7432-2611-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2003


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