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GM Crops and Biotechnology

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Pandora's Picnic Basket : The Potential and Hazards of Genetically Modified Foods
by Alan McHughen
Throughout the developed world, debate is raging over the use of genetically modified (GM) food and food additives. This debate, Canadian agricultural scientist McHughen holds, is not well-informed. "Everyone, it seems, is concerned about GM food," he writes, "but most admit they don't really know much about it." This is especially true in North America, where millions of acres of GM crops are now produced and GM foods are widely consumed, although it is no less true of Europe, where production and consumption alike are comparatively low. McHughen recognizes that some of these concerns are well-founded, even if the discussion is not, and his book is a thoughtful examination of some of the basic scientific issues involved in whether genetic modification may turn out to yield harmful (or, conversely, beneficial) results. These issues, he goes on to say, are of two broad kinds: first, whether a GM product is safe for the environment, and whether it can be prevented from "escaping" into nature; and second, whether a GM product is safe for the animal or human consumer. His answers may not always please activists on either side of the issue, for he suggests that while in the main GM production is likely to be a good thing, particularly in areas of the world where agricultural yields are low, there may yet be unanticipated risks involved--especially because "nature has no plan for agricultural systems based on high chemical inputs and low biodiversity." --Gregory McNamee

cover Eat Your Genes : How Genetically Modified Food Is Entering Our Diet
by Stephen Nottingham
Free speech issues notwithstanding, Americans haven't forgotten that what brought Oprah Winfrey to a Texas court recently was controversy about mad cow disease and genetic engineering in the food supply. Nottingham offers a comprehensive look at these areas of growing concern. He catalogs the intended benefits (e.g., cows yielding more milk, and vegetables with longer shelf lives) and the unintended side effects (such as allergic reactions, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and environmental threats). And he examines the ethical issues: the humane treatment of animals raised for food, the cloning of animals, and concerns that, despite assurances by the scientific community, cloning will eventually be applied to the human species. He notes the growth of the pharming industry (combining agriculture products with pharmaceuticals) and the enormous profits to be made in patenting genetic engineering techniques. This extensively researched and footnoted work is heavy reading for those without biology or chemistry backgrounds; but Nottingham offers essential information for those concerned about genetically modified foods. Vanessa Bush

cover The Ecological Risks of Engineered Crops
by Jane Rissler, Margaret Mellon (Contributor)
What will it mean to have a steady stream of animal and microbial genes entering the gene pools of plants in wild ecosystems? Private companies and the federal government are pouring significant resources into biotechnology, and the major application of genetic engineering to agriculture is transgenic crops. This carefully reasoned science and policy assessment shows that the commercialization and release of transgenic crops on millions of acres of farmland can pose serious -- and costly -- environmental risks. The authors propose a practical, feasible method of conducting precommercialization evaluations that will balance the needs of ecological safety with those of agriculture and business, and that will assist governments seeking to identify and protect against two of the most significant risks. Rissler and Mellon first define transgenic plants and review research currently under way in the field of crop biotechnology. They then identify and categorize the environmental risks presented by commercial uses of transgenic crops. These include the potential of transgenic crops to become weeds or to produce weeds with transgene properties such as herbicide resistance that may require costly control programs. Plants engineered to contain virus particles may facilitate the creation of new viruses that can affect economically important crops. Looking at global seed trade, the authors discuss the relationship between commercial approval in the United States and environmental risks abroad. Of particular concern is the flow of novel genes into the centers of crop biodiversity, primarily in the developing world, that could threaten the genetic base of the world's future food supply. The authors conclude by reviewing the current status of U.S. regulations governing transgenic crops. They discuss the difficulties that this new terrain presents to regulators, and offer recommendations concerning the commercial development, risk assessment, and regulation of these crops. Copublished with the Union of Concerned Scientists

cover Against the Grain : Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food
by Marc Lappe, Britt Bailey
Do genetically engineered food crops really off the "risk-free" breadbasket for the world promised by biotechnology companies like Monsanto? Or are there serious risks to human health and the ecosphere hidden in this silent revolution? AGAINST THE GRAIN slashes through biotechnology's propaganda, revealing the science and politics behind "transgenic" foods to show how biotech companies incresingly engineer what you eat to be compatible with their chemicals -- but not necessarily good for human health. Marc Lappe holds a doctorate in Experimental Pathology from the University of Pennsylvania and currently directs the Center for Ethics and Toxics in northern California. Britt Bailiey holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Policy and is a research associate at CETOS.

cover Stolen Harvest : The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply
by Vandana Shiva
Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Biotech Century: Harnessing the Gene and Remaking the World Praise for Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge, by Vandana Shiva (South End Press, 1997) "A path-breaking work on one of the most important issues of the coming century...Vandana Shiva's inspiring book is a clarion call...[that] should be widely read and discussed by everyone concerned with the fate of the Earth."

cover Biopiracy : The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge
by Vandana Shiva
In Biopiracy, the Plunder of Nature and Knowledge, Vandana Shiva starts from the very reasonable premise that life forms, used for nutritional and medicinal purposes by native cultures for centuries, should not be patented by foreign multinational corporations as "new discoveries". In other words, this book is not for anyone who feels that it is okay to patent life forms which are modifications of already existing species. If you are interested in the problems with this approach and its political, economic, and moral implications, this book is necessary reading. Shiva exposes this exploitation of the intellectual and material wealth of the third world in the name of profits. Shiva's Monocultures of the Mind is also strongly recommended.

Monocultures of the Mind : Perspectives on Biodiversity and Biotechnology
by Vandana Shiva

[Available at the Other India Bookstore]
MONOCULTURES OF THE MIND is a collection of essays representing such a "southern" scientist's vital perspective. Shiva makes provocative contributions in the ever expanding debate around what (and who) will feed future generations of humans in the developing world. She argues that a mono-agriculture society - where trees are seen as nothing more than timber and crop yield is the only measure for economic value of cereals - reflects a mental and political system that will lack in vision and complexity in general. However, diverse knowledge systems are necessary to address the challenges ahead of us. For example, in traditional societies, trees have multiple purposes, from food, water reservoir and shelter to nutrients of the soil around them. Timber value is only one (small) part of the whole. Traditional knowledge systems contribute in major ways to the understanding of biodiversity, ecological sustainability and cultural, including agri-cultural, diversity. Vandana Shiva is a geneticist as well as an environmentalist and her expertise comes to the fore in her analysis of threats to biodiversity and the dramatic loss of species and varieties in modern times. She also reviews various negative impacts posed by biotechnology on fragile southern ecosystems and the dangers to southern economies.

Also see the following titles available at the Other India Bookstore

Violence of the Green Revolution
by Vandana Shiva
Second Indian reprint. Shiva documents the awesome destruction of genetic diversity and soil fertility involved in the making of the green revolution. She also documents the true environmental horrors associated with it, giving statistics where required.

Overcoming Illusions About Biotechnology
by Nicanor Perlas
Begins with a general critique of the new agricultural biotechnologies and then examines in detail their environmental, social, political and ethical impacts. Concludes with proposals to control the biotechnology revolution and alternatives that need not depend on genetic engineering.

Globalisation of Agriculture and the Growth of Food Insecurity
by Vandana Shiva
Globalisation in agriculture means the corporatisation of agriculture. This is bound to lead to enhanced food insecurity, which is a most undesirable option.

Globalisation of Agriculture, Food Security and Sustainability
by Vandana Shiva
Globalisation kills sustainable agriculture, undermines food security, and needs to be resisted with all determination.

Genetic Engineering: Dream or Nightmare?
by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
A first rate scientific investigation of the brave new world of bio-engineering and the nightmare planned by scientists for our dreams.

Biotechnology, Farmers and Ethics
by Bharat Dogra
A useful pamphlet that contains much information on biotechnology, its implications for farmers and the entry of multinationals.

How the Terminator Terminates
by Martha L. Crouch
A useful primer of information on Monsanto, the global corporation working on seeds that kill themselves. We need production of seeds that kill corporations. Anyone willing to try?

Monsanto Peddling "Life Sciences" or "Death Sciences"?
by Research Foundation
A useful primer of information on Monsanto, the global corporation working on seeds that kill themselves.

Basmati Biopiracy
by Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
Vandana Shiva filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking for directions to the government to do something. This booklet examines the details of the controversy.


 

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