Cover image for Mendel in the kitchen : a scientist's view of genetically modified foods
Mendel in the kitchen : a scientist's view of genetically modified foods
Fedoroff, Nina V. (Nina Vsevolod), 1942-
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Joseph Henry Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiii, 370 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Against the ways of nature -- The wild and the sown -- The power in the earth -- Genes and species -- Tinkering with evolution -- Making a chimera -- The product or the process -- Is it safe to eat? -- Poisoned rats or poisoned wells -- The butterfly and the corn borer -- Pollen has always flown -- The organic rule -- Sustaining agriculture -- Sharing the fruits -- Food for thought.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TP248.65.F66 F436 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order

Central Library1Received on 12/7/04



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.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Is genetically engineered Golden Rice (enriched with vitamin A) a dangerous "Frankenfood" or a safe, nutritionally enhanced food that could fill a major vitamin deficiency in the Third World? Fedoroff, a molecular biologist and member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, and science writer Brown (A Good Horse Has No Color) argue forcefully for the latter view, saying we should embrace most of the advances genetic engineering has made in the agricultural arena. In an extremely accessible style, they 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. Illus. not seen by PW. (Nov. 5) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Finally, we hear from scientists in the public debate on genetically modified foods. Geneticist and molecular biologist Fedoroff and science writer Brown present the history of genetic engineering and the advancements that have been made in plant breeding since Gregor Mendel's experiments with peas in 1866. 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. It has the potential to produce enough food for a growing world population and improve nutrition while protecting biodiversity and ecosystem balance. A necessary acquisition for all collections with biotechnology resources.-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

The authors, a geneticist and a writer, have created a book that is easy to read but provides a great deal of information. Fedoroff (Pennsylvania State Univ.) and Brown (an independent scholar) look at and compare many methods of plant propagation and the public reaction to each as new technology. Grafting (centuries old) and hybridization (decades old) are examples of techniques that were attacked in this country as dangerous practices; now both are used extensively in commercial foods and may be used by organic farmers. This book raises the questions of (1) what is "natural" in a world of man-manipulated food plants, and (2) what is "biotechnology" in relation to all plant manipulation. The authors do not advocate that all genetic modification is safe, but suggest that with appropriate care and careful science, it will be the future of safe and adequate food for the world. This book is a rich history of plant manipulation techniques and their acceptance by the public. It includes a long bibliography and a notes section but no direct citations. Anyone who wants the facts about genetic technology and its potential usefulness should read this work. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels. N. Duran Texas A&M University