Genetic engineering might have emerged as the magnet of hope for humans but its flip side couldn’t remain unturned for long. Since as early as 1970s, speculations had started about the manipulative potential of genetic modification of natural life and its consequent horrors. Entering different spheres of life, genetic engineering technologies did not leave aside the core human need – food. And at least some of those who lived by eating voiced their concerns over the genetic modification of food. This book, Food Fray: Inside the Controversy over Genetically Modified Food (AMACOM Books, 2009) by Lisa H. Weasel, PH.D, presents a most interesting, concise, and balanced account of the history of genetically modified (GM) food and the opposition its pioneers and proponents faced as they marched ahead to create what was termed ‘Frankenfood’.
Dr. Weasel’s research into the topic is thoroughgoing, not missing any of the scientific, corporate, consumer, ethical, and regional aspects to the genetic modification of food species by the pioneers and proponents of the GM technology. All along, the reader also gets informed on the role of the media in addressing the issue of how and who is modifying food and at what cost. The author’s coverage of the GM movement and the resistance it aroused in different parts of the world opens a window in perspective to the reader’s understanding: the corporate biotech groups in the US and the health/environment-conscious opposition that stood up against GM food production, mainly in Europe and later in other parts of the world. This compact history of the GM food fray doesn’t fail to offer a look inside the political winds blowing between the developed and developing world.
With increased consumer awareness and steadfast anti-GM activism, the biotech giants have increasingly been pushed back from the frontiers of food production as they advanced with the slogan of eliminating hunger. Even within the United States, the stronghold of world’s biotech leads, consumers’ demand forced sellers to remove genetically manipulated food items off their store shelves. The entire conflict symbolizes nature’s violation by self-satisfied technocrats and human defense of their natural food. While Dr. Weasel’s professional tone does not leak any partiality, the general reader has a good idea where to stand in this US-vs-Them scenario.
Indexed and provided with helpful endnotes, Food Fray is the book for every reader who eats.