Monday, November 5, 2012
Tomorrow's Table: A Book Review
Like many I have had questions and concerns about GMOs in the past. On the other hand I am keenly aware that standard farming and food production practices are not sufficient for feeding the future population growth, are causing serious environmental harm, and are (in the case of pesticides) hurting farm workers and consumers. So in my search over the past couple of years for accurate information on the subject I found this book: Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food. I put off reading it for a while because, well, the word "genetics" is in the title. Yep. I know what you are thinking: "but you are married to a geneticist!" True, I am. But I also thought he was boring for the first two years of our acquaintance because he talked about genetics. Once I finally started reading it however, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it was written for the non-geneticist. In short, for the rest of us, it is a great way to start understanding the issues surrounding GMOs.
It is written by a plant geneticist and her husband, an organic farmer. In a very easy-to-read, story-like manner they take you through about a year of their lives and address many of the main points and concerns regarding GMOs along the way. Together they make a compelling argument for organic farming and the genetic engineering of plants, two things that most people view as complete opposites. What most people don't know is that they are both tools that can be used to help solve our biggest food production problems such as: too many pesticides and fertilizers (both bad for human health and environmental health), needing more food to be grown on less land, and withstanding droughts and floods. They are not end-all solutions to these serious problems, but useful tools that, if properly used, can be a great aid.
This book is the only thing I have read on the subject of GMOs that doesn't water the topic down to the point that it is inaccurate, nor does it use so many genetic specific terms that no one other than geneticists can understand it. It gives you the facts and asks you to draw conclusions. It doesn't use catch phrases to scare you or manipulate your emotions as many GMO foes have done. I finished it feeling that I could read other GMO information with a better understanding of the basics which allowed me to not just be told what to think (or scared into what to think) but really form my own conclusions.
I feel like this is a very important book for our time when the future of food and all that it affects is reaching such a critical point. For instance, during this election in California, Proposition 37 is on the ballot. In short terms the proposition, if passed, would require that all retail food items containing GMO foods, be so labeled. On the surface it is fine. More information for consumers. But if consumers are making choices based on ignorance, or worse, fear of what they don't understand, then it is not good for anyone. I am sure you have heard the common phrase: as California goes, so goes the nation. Which is why, now more than ever, we need to try to understand a bit about what GMOs really are and what they really mean for the world.