384 pages | 6 x 9
Contractual obligations prohibit us from offering a free PDF of this title published under the Joseph Henry Press imprint of the National Academies Press.
The views expressed in this book are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academies.
While European restaurants race to footnote menus, reassuring concerned gourmands that no genetically modified ingredients were used in the preparation of their food, starving populations around the world eagerly await the next harvest of scientifically improved crops. Mendel in the Kitchen provides a clear and balanced picture of this tangled, tricky (and very timely) topic.
Any farmer you talk to could tell you that we've been playing with the genetic makeup of our food for millennia, carefully coaxing nature to do our bidding. The practice officially dates back to Gregor Mendel -- who was not a renowned scientist, but a 19th century Augustinian monk. Mendel spent many hours toiling in his garden, testing and cultivating more than 28,000 pea plants, selectively determining very specific characteristics of the peas that were produced, ultimately giving birth to the idea of heredity -- and the now very common practice of artificially modifying our food.
But as science takes the helm, steering common field practices into the laboratory, the world is now keenly aware of how adept we have become at tinkering with nature --which in turn has produced a variety of questions. Are genetically modified foods really safe? Will the foods ultimately make us sick, perhaps in ways we can't even imagine? Isn't it genuinely dangerous to change the nature of nature itself?
Nina Fedoroff, a leading geneticist and recognized expert in biotechnology, answers these questions, and more. Addressing the fear and mistrust that is rapidly spreading, Federoff and her co-author, science writer Nancy Brown, weave a narrative rich in history, technology, and science to dispel myths and misunderstandings.
In the end, Fedoroff arues, plant biotechnology can help us to become better stewards of the earth while permitting us to feed ourselves and generations of children to come. Indeed, this new approach to agriculture holds the promise of being the most environmentally conservative way to increase our food supply.
"...a clearly written history of plant breeding that focuses on the new field of the genetic engineering of crops. They emphasize the many contributions that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) now make toward increasing food supplies while at the same time raising the nutritional levels of some foods. ... Fedoroff and Brown present a strong case that plant breeding and genetic engineering have made and will continue to make substantial contributions to our food supply."
-- Science, October 29, 2004
"[Fedoroff and Brown] have produced not only an authoritative primer on the science and ecology of agricultural genetics, but a much-needed guide for the perplexed."
-- Natural History, March 2005
"Nina V. Fedoroff , a plant biologist, and her co-writer Nancy Marie Brown meticulously depict the past, present and future of genetics in agriculture. They mix didactic science (including diagrams reminiscent of a high-school biology textbook) with accounts of what farmers, naturalists, plant breeders and biologists have wrought over time. The saga brings rationality to the controversy now haunting the newest, most precise and most predictable manifestation of genetic modification -- gene-splicing. ... That gene-splicing is unproved, untested and unregulated is one of the Big Lies of current technophobia. Mendel in the Kitchen goes a long way toward exposing it."
-- Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2004
"This book is not so much a polemic as a primer, delivering in plain language and apt analogy the nuts and bolts of genetic science and its history, and ultimately making the case that the opponents of genetic engineering are wrong. ... We are shown, not told, the evidence for science's key arguments in support of genetic engineering: that bumping genes around is nothing new, nor is playing God with various domesticated life forms. ... [an] admirable book."
-- On Earth, Winter 2005
"[Fedoroff] convincingly argues that the Europeans have wrongly politicized and demonized genetically modified crops, to the harm of poor people in the Third World."
-- The Baltimore Sun, January 23, 2005
"Fedoroff and Brown weave a narrative rich in history, technology, and science to dispel myths and misunderstandings. Though likely to be controversial, their clear and rational presentation could well change the opinions of some readers. In an accessible style, Mendel in the Kitchen takes readers through the basics of genetic engineering to show why the risks associated with this technology are trivial."
-- SirReadaLot.org, February 2005
"Easy to read but provides a great deal of information. ... This book is a rich history of plan manipulation techniques and their acceptance by the public. ... Anyone who wants the facts about genetic technology and its potential usefulness should read this work."
-- CHOICE, April 2005
"In an extremely accessible style, [Fedoroff and Brown] take readers through the basics of genetics and genetic engineering to demonstrate why they believe that the risks associated with this technology are trivial. They also contend that the use of modern molecular technology to insert genes from one species into another isn't very different from the hybrid crosses that agriculturalists have been doing for millennia. Taking on concerns voiced by environmentalists, the authors articulate how genetically modified crops could reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers used and increase the yield of crop plants to keep up with a growing world population that could reach eight or nine billion in this century. Though likely to be controversial, the authors' clear and rational presentation could well change the opinions of some readers."
-- Publishers Weekly, September 13, 2004
"Finally, we hear from scientists in the public debate on genetically modified foods. ... The authors respond to critics and shatter myths by explaining what genetic engineering is, the role it plays in crop improvement, and the successes and failures that have occurred along the way. The result is a real learning experience for readers who want to know more about hybrids, gene splicing, crossbreeding, mutagenesis, and other procedures that have been the mainstay of genetic engineering. Overall, the authors clearly show that when applied responsibly with appropriate scientific oversight, genetic engineering plays a vital role in sustainable agriculture."
-- Library Journal, October 15, 2004
"Mendel in the Kitchen is a highly readable and well documented account of the science, issues and people involved in the development of genetically engineered foods. This is a must-read for anyone interested in learning how the DNA in our food has been altered over the years."
-- Alan McHughen, author of Pandora's Picnic Basket
"...well prepared and well written, a pleasure to read. It will inform a wide range of readers about issues posed by genetically modified (GM) foods, hopefully contributing to elevation of the argument by inclusion of more scientific information."
-- Eric M. Hallerman, professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University