A GARDEN OF UNEARTHLY DELIGHT: Bioengineering and the Future of Food by Robin Mather

A GARDEN OF UNEARTHLY DELIGHT: Bioengineering and the Future of Food

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KIRKUS REVIEW

If the thought of a farm straight out of Woody Allen's Sleeper, overrun with mammoth chickens and gargantuan vegetables, scares you, then this book will fuel a thousand nightmares. Mather, food editor of the Detroit News, raises the specter of an industrial agriculture run amok, a system of food production governed by short-term economics and quick-fix technological solutions to profound problems. In this milieu, feed costs are cut by filling animals with growth hormones, some known or suspected to be dangerous to humans, and increased market demands are met by accelerating vegetable production with a Pandora's boxful of petrochemical fertilizers. Mather visits farms, markets, and laboratories in her tour of the new biotechnology, indicting along the way the likes of Upjohn, Monsanto, and Dow for their role in reducing food to an industrial commodity but reserving her harsher criticism for a society that demands that foods be quick to prepare and cheap to consume. Those demands, Mather argues, have led to a disconnectedness with the simplest element of life: putting food on the table. She writes that few of us have ever seen up close how our food is raised, humorously recalling that one of her readers asked whether the direction ""skin chicken breasts"" meant removing the plastic wrapper from the package. Mather offers reasonable solutions to our overdependence on technologically produced foods. She argues that New York State could grow a local broccoli crop rather than importing broccoli from California, saving money and fuel, creating local jobs, and getting fresh produce in the bargain. And she prescribes a regimen of home cooking with fresh produce that she calls ""the first key act in a life that supports [small] farmers struggling to stay on the land."" Full of good sense and good reportage, Mather's book deserves wide attention.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1995
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Dutton