Harvest: A Look At Genetically Engineered Foods"
[SEPT. 20, 2000] “High-Tech
Harvest: A Look At Genetically Engineered Foods." Elizabeth L.
Marshall, Franklin Watts, 1999, 144 pages.
of the most controversial developments in the science of food
production has been the selective altering of plants and animals.
Commonly referred to as "genetically modified foods,"
this branch of agricultural biotechnology focuses on improving the
quality and production of plants and animals used in our daily
life by modifying their genetic structure. In her book
"High-Tech Harvest," author Elizabeth Marshall examines
the scientific, ethical and health implications of this new
development in agriculture.
to Marshall it is now possible for scientists "by using the
tools and techniques of genetic engineering to rearrange genes, or
to splice genes from one species into another…to create new
varieties of plants, pigs, sheep, and fish." Some of the
potential benefits of genetically modified foods include naturally
lean bacon, crops protected against insects and diseases, apples
containing cancer-fighting nutrients, and rice grown in poor soil
or cold regions.
the scientific claims, not everyone is convinced of the validity
of these benefits or the research presented on the long-term
effects on humans and the environment. Critics have raised many
questions about the application of this new technology: How will
this affect our health? What is the impact on the environment?
What is the effect on American agriculture? Will agriculture’s
dependence on chemicals, insecticides and pesticides truly be
to the author, one controversy stands above all on this subject:
labeling. Should genetically modified foods be labeled? Should the
modified ingredients be described? What kinds of information would
be provided on the labels? Presently the decisions on labeling are
the responsibility of the manufacturer and the federal government
(through the FDA, EPA or USDA).
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examination of this controversial subject begins with a review of
the new science. She explains the concept of genetic engineering and
its applications toward plants and animals. The book also discusses
the government’s regulatory role (including the labeling dilemma)
and the different objections that have been raised against
genetically engineered foods.
of the most compelling arguments in favor of this new technology is
found in Chapter 8, "Feeding A Hungry World." It is here
that proponents for genetically modified foods make their strongest
argument. The book quotes a 1997 Johns Hopkins University study
concluding that 18 million people (mostly children) die each year
from starvation and malnutrition. The implications for the need to
increase the world’s ability to produce food are obvious. Marshall
notes that any realistic chance of genetically modified foods having
an impact on developing and third-world countries must overcome two
obstacles: "Genetic scientists have paid scant attention to the
food crops eaten by people in developing nations [and] many
important genetic engineering technologies were developed by
companies that are unlikely to freely share their knowledge with
Harvest" is a balanced and well-researched work on an
agricultural revolution that many Americans have paid little
attention to. Marshall looks at both sides of this contentious issue
and provides the reader with clear, simplified explanations of the
scientific processes at work. A glossary of terms, endnotes and list
of additional sources of information complete the book.
"High-Tech Harvest" is recommended for anyone who is
interested in learning about the field of agricultural biotechnology
and its impact on genetically engineered foods.
more information, visit the library at 725 Pekin St. or call
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