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Science Books

August 12, 2005

Genes on the Menu: Facts for Knowledge-Based Decisions
Paul Pechan, Gert de Vries (2005)
ISBN: 3540201785

Genetically modified organism (GMO) research and production has in its short history been shrouded in controversy and misinformation. Whether you support or oppose the rise of GMOs their existence is destined to affect all of our lives in fundamental ways. Paul Pechan, an expert on plant physiology at the Technical University in Munich, and Gert de Vries, a microbiologist currently working for a private company in science communication and technology transfer, present us with a book that clearly explains many of the important facts about GM foods that we should all become familiar with. The key feature of the book is that it analyses GM foods from within a social context. The authors follow the passage of development of GM foods that takes us from the laboratory to our local supermarket shelves. GM foods that have made it to consumer kitchens everywhere have done so via a delicately balanced relationship between the sciences, business and shareholders, political decision-makers and those citizens who hold GM companies ethically accountable. Also supplied with the book comes a CD-ROM containing a film that frames GMO production among its current controversial social setting. Whether used as a complementary resource for education programs, a guide for businesses or for the general reader looking for answers, Genes on the Menu is sure to supply a bountiful harvest of information on all aspects of GMO production.

Diet for a Dead Planet: How the Food Industry Is Killing Us
Christopher Cook (2004)
ISBN: 1565848640

We are in the midst of a food crisis! At least according to Christopher Cook's book Diet for a Dead Planet. Christopher Cook, an investigative journalist who has written for Harper's Magazine, The Nation, and The Economist, paints a dark picture as he pieces together various incidents that pose a threat to general food safety. Bird flu, mad cow disease and the fact that 75 million Americans were struck with food related illnesses are all examples of declining standards of our food production. 30 million illnesses globally can be sourced back to some form of food related pathogen, with 9,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. As if this wasn't enough, agribusinesses contaminate our food with thousands of tons of pesticides, a number of which are carcinogenic. Cook takes to task the institutions that have allowed corporate consolidations of farms and supermarkets, the focus on productivity rather than product quality, cruel living conditions for livestock and poor regulation. One consequence of this kind of produce management is that on average a food item in the United States travels 2,000 miles before it eventually reaches the consumer. Cook's trenchant and incisive criticism of agribusiness make Diet for a Dead Planet both a powerful and controversial read, and it's likely to have its critics as a result. As with any controversial topic, however, getting to grips with arguments from all sides is crucial to understanding, and necessary to finding solutions. In this respect Cook advocates on behalf of all those in favor of organic farming lucidly. Its bleak reality makes Diet for a Dead Planet more chilling than any fiction thriller you'll ever read.

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