Cover image for Travels in the genetically modified zone
Travels in the genetically modified zone
Winston, Mark L.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
280 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TP248.65.F66 W565 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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With genetically modified crops we have entered uncharted territory--where visions of the triumph of biotechnology in agriculture vie with dire views of medical and environmental disaster. For two years Mark L. Winston traveled this fraught territory at home and abroad, listening to farmers, industry spokespeople, regulators, and researchers, canvassing high-security laboratories, environmentalist enclaves, and cyberspace, making a thorough survey of the facts, opinions, and practices deployed by opponents and proponents of transgenic crops. Through his sympathetic portrayal of the passions on all sides, Winston brings a clear, unbiased perspective to this bewildering landscape. Traveling with Winston, we see the excitement and curiosity that pervade laboratories developing genetically modified crops, as well as the panic and outrage among dedicated opponents of agricultural biotechnology; the desperation of conventional farmers as they look to science for solutions to the problems driving them from their farms, as well as the deeply held values of organic farmers who dread the incursion of genetically modified crops into their expanding enterprise. And, Winston shows us, these contrasting attitudes transcend national borders, with troubling counterparts and consequences in the developing world. As he seeks a middle ground where concerns about genetic engineering can be rationally discussed and resolved, Winston gives us, at long last, a full and balanced view of the forces at play in the chaotic debate over agricultural biotechnology.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Traveling where Winston has for this book can be dangerous because there are fanatical elements at its fringes. A researcher of bee biology and management at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and a science writer to boot, Winston bases this broad-ranging book solidly on the literature but also on interviews with farmers, activists, industrial workers, and publicists. He first describes the development of hybrid corn, then delves into the use of genetic modifications to combat weeds and diseases. The facets of genetic modification he takes into account include research, industrial processes, growing modified crops, protecting nearby crops, the safety of consumers, and the profits of agribusiness. He is especially instructive on the use of patents, the control of seeds, and the technical-use agreements that companies force farmers to sign. The book isn't just reportorial, though, for Winston also fields practical ideas for solving the major problems involved in the rapidly growing field of genetically modified crops. Throughout, however, he maintains a moderate stance on his controversial subject. William Beatty.

Library Journal Review

Winston (Nature Wars; biological sciences, Simon Fraser Univ., British Columbia) spent more than two years traveling around the United States, Canada, and Europe in an attempt to better understand the "politicized world of agricultural biotechnology." He visited scientists, government officials, corporations, environmentalists, farmers, and consumers and searched cyberspace for information and contacts. The result is a balanced report of the facts and myths about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), from seed production to consumption, and the strong feelings that emerge from all players in this debate. Winston describes the sense of excitement and scientific curiosity in the research community, the fears and anger of opponents, and the desperation of farmers who are caught in the middle trying to gain the public trust and save their farms. Winston is distressed by the rigidity of opposing viewpoints and the unwillingness of the parties to talk to each other in order to reach an acceptable middle ground. His effort to find that middle ground makes his book a worthwhile addition to all biotechnology and agriculture collections. Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Genetic material, once considered the Rosetta stone of life, is not a mystery anymore. Extensive genomic investigations and precise strategies for DNA manipulation are permitting scientists to create new organisms that most likely would not have been possible by evolution alone. Winston (Simon Fraser Univ., British Columbia) uses his knowledge as a professional biologist to review and critique the emerging art of producing genetically modified crops. He takes a balanced approach, avoiding the polarized emotion-laced arguments of commercial biotechnology companies and their genetic engineering opponents. The point of view of each is compared and weighed in light of current scientific evidence. Winston also includes the decisions that make up governmental policy on genetically modified organisms. Contemporary coverage of the environmental and public health concerns about genetically modified crops is discussed using case studies. Also discussed are intellectual property and crop ownership concerns, including their impact on global agricultural practices. Winston advocates that the public can easily understand enough about biotechnology to make rational decisions concerning the acceptance or rejection of these novel crops. Ample current references. Highly recommended as general reading on the social impact of genetically modified foods. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals. B. R. Shmaefsky Kingwood College

Table of Contents

1 Seeds
2 In the Heat of the Day
3 The Regulators
4 Of Butterflies and Weeds
5 It Only Moves Forward
6 Saving the Family Farm
7 Saving the Bugs
8 Anything under the Sun
9 There'll Always Be an England
10 For the Good of Mankind
11 Risks Real or Imagined Selected References