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Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food Paperback – 1 Jan 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (1 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195393570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195393576
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 1.8 x 15.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 617,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Interspersed with nuggets of science, home made recipes (really) and anecdotes. (Biologist)

About the Author

is a Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By F Henwood TOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Usually, enthusiasts for organic farming come down against genetically modified foods, or to be more precise, genetic engineering. Genetic modification has been done for millennia, with growers deliberately bred and selected plants for desired traits. This was and can be done without one having to know anything about genetics. Genetic engineering works to alter the genetic make-up of the crop. The former is considered natural and the latter not. This distinction is false. There is nothing natural, on a strict definition of this word, about most of what we grow and eat. But the issue is less to do with science nowadays than the culture wars. This book steps into the crossfire.

It is written by a husband-wife team: one an organic farmer, and the other a plant scientist who has created flood-resistant variety of rice. This is an interesting combination, and presumably as a rare a combination as marriage between an Israeli and a Palestinian. The authors argue for the benefits of organic agriculture as well as genetically-engineered technology but go further than that: they argue that GE crops complement the ideals of the organic movement.

Critics of GE foods claim that the technology is no panacea to the problems of population and food supply. So it isn’t. But neither is organic farming or simply cutting down on waste or redistributing consumption. There is no magic bullet. But the authors convincingly show that GE can be one of the tools we can use to deal with the problem. Crops that can be bred to require less pesticide and water, than can survive greater extremes of heat and cold, and produce better yields and nutrition, are all good things. They can be done and should be done. Such things can be done and the technology has proven benefits elsewhere.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book to add more arguments to both sides of an exam essay on GM crops, and it was very helpful. It is a good book for people who do not know much about the subject in detail, and can be used for oneself to balance those chinese whispers that are heard when topics of such controversy are discussed online by anonymous people with no solid knowledge. There is a nice balance between scientific detail and storytelling, making it easy to read. A controversial connection between two technologies (organic and GM agriculture) is suggested, and by reading about it, much is learned about both pro-GM and anti-GM arguments. Read this!
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By d on 17 Aug 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
very interesting, however I really dislike the diary-like style of the book, full of emotional meanderings, descriptions of wheat fields flowing in a sunny afternoon etc. Grates after a while, however the content is interesting and informative. Lots of info on methods of both organic farming and GMO production and thoughts on the prejudice and fears ingrained in people.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 31 reviews
41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
A pleasant surprise 31 Aug 2008
By Phil Stewart - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I was given this book by a friend who is an organic "true believer" and when he handed me a book I sort of expect a re-hashing of the usual pro-organics arguments I've heard many times over the years. Instead I was pleasantly surprised.

The book is straight forward, well-reasoned, and accessible. I have a background in agriculture and molecular biology, and so at times I found the science a tad too simplistic to strongly hold my interest, but I suspect that for the average reader, it strikes a nice balance between addressing the subject fully and excessive complexity and jargon. The case they build is in my view quite compelling, and I hope this book serves to open many minds.

When I was starting out in plant science, I remember a professor telling me that when the first transgenics were being developed, he really thought the organics crowd would be the biggest supporters. "We'd just come up with a solution to their biggest problems, but instead they decided we were the enemy". Although I think that organics are, ultimately, a positive development in agriculture, they are like most "movements" a mixture of real reasons and irrational, emotional impulses. Although organic agriculture has been an important step towards a sustainable future, it has brought with it a fair amount of baggage, based on not on science or reason, but on a nostalgic idealization of traditional agriculture--even though such agriculture was often neither natural nor sustainable nor especially desirable, even then. The fear of genetic engineering seems to me to come from that deeply conservative undercurrent in an otherwise progressive movement. By making the facts behind genetic engineering and its impacts on agriculture and environment accessible to a general audience, this book can hopefully be a step towards calming that reactionary impulse.

It helps too that it is also an easy and enjoyable read. By the end I felt as though I'd kind of gotten to know the authors (in fact since we don't live all that far apart and work in vaguely the same field, it crossed my mind that I might someday bump into them). The style is casual without being superfluous, making it easy to lose yourself in the book. I started this book as I tended the grill before dinner, and finished it as I went to bed the same night.

Putting aside the genetic engineering part, even, this book is also simply one of the best scientific presentations of organic agriculture I have read, in that it is soundly grounded in the literature and does not over-reach, while remaining staunchly and reasonably pro-organic. There are few other books on the topic I can say the same for.

All in all a good read about an important topic.
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Organic Vs. Genetically Engineered Debate Aside.... 14 Jan 2012
By Rainy314 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I can only give this book a 2 star rating, as there is only about 2/5th of the book that are worth reading. If that!

I purchased the book with the hope of finally finding proof that Organic and GM farming can be combined for the betterment of society and our health.

What I did not expect was a book about a married couple, their vacations, their fights with family, what they taught in class on any given day, what they ordered from seed catalogues, or their favorite recipes. I have enough recipe books, I can look through my own seed catalogues, and quite frankly I don't know them well enough to care about what goes on in their lives.

This is a very important topic & they do have some good ideas. But they buried it in superfluous fluff that was boring to the average reader, making it difficult to ferret out the real topic at hand. Not too technical by any means. It was just boring and the majority of it not to the point at all.

I wanted to give up on the book several times and consider it money wasted. I came back here and reread the reviews to see why it got such a high rating and noted all the reviews that said it didn't get good till at least halfway through, or the last chapter. So I tried again, skimming through page after page, skipping page upon page of recipes, looking for the "good part" to finally arrive. It finally did, but it was a lot of work to get to that little bit of true information.

The previous reviews are dead on about not getting good till about halfway through or even only the last chapter. So if you feel that paying the price of the book to read about their lives but actually only get some good information out of less than 20% of the book is worth it, by all means go for it. Personally I wish I'd saved my money.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Introduction To Biotech and A Unique View 21 July 2008
By J. Canestrino - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I made it through the book in a day or two. It is not overly technical; it is an excellent introduction to biotech and organic farming. I did not really get into the book until the last chapter; I guess I kept wishing for more technical information, for the authors to drive home their point of view.

However, the point they are trying to make cannot be more important. That is that biotech has a place in organic farming to make it more "sustainable". RoundUp ready crops have made it possible for farmers to stop using much more damaging and toxic herbicides and to go to no-till farming to preserve topsoil. It is the only answer for some problems sometimes, such as virus resistance. It would allow conventional farmers of sweet corn to stop using a slew of really noxious insecticides.

Like Dr. Savage said in his review, I do not think that the organic farming movement is going to "hear" this message and see the wisdom in it, but if they could I think they would have to redefine the way they think of organic vs. sustainable.
25 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Reason and humanity....Enough? 27 May 2008
By Steven D. Savage - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pam and Raul's very well written book makes the rational and even emotional argument that biotechnology is fully compatible with the core ideals of the organic movement. I completely agree with that position looking back to my grandfather's version of "organic" from the 1960s.

I wish I could believe that Pam and Raul's logical arguments will fly with the core of the "organic consumer" movement. They make excellent rational arguments. I'm not sure this debate is about that. As Mark Twain said, "you can't reason someone out of a position they weren't reasoned into in the first place."

As much as I wish otherwise, I'm not optimistic that this book will succeed in its aim to reconcile "organic" and "biotech". Even so, it does a great job of explaining the societal benefits of biotech crops and it helps to humanize the people that have made this a reality.

This is a book that everyone focused on the environment should read.

Steven Savage, Ph.D.
savage.sd@gmail.com
20 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Who would have guessed? 7 Dec 2008
By Anastasia Bodnar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A partnership between organic farming and genetic engineering might sound impossible, but might be the best chance we have to feed our growing population while taking care of the planet.

Tomorrow's Table is not a technical text. It is a friendly discussion with a friend who invites you over for lunch. In their conversational tone, the authors make a strong case for integrating genetic engineering into organic farming, leaving behind many aspects of so-called conventional farming. Their points are backed up by much research, and references are provided the reader so he or she can learn more if they like.

I hope this book will help some people to take a second look at genetic engineering, but it made me take a second look at organic farming. I had become convinced that organic farming was pointless and only for rich hippies. The discussion of the benefits of organic methods was more than enough to jolt me back to reality.

In the interests of full disclosure, I'm a PhD student in genetics, and was generally in favor of genetic engineering before reading this book.
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