1998; 163 pp. $14.95. Common Courage Press.
This is the best whodunit on agricultural biotech in print, and provides readers with the conceptual tools to make informed decisions. New research that has come out even since its recent publication reinforces every cautionary point made by the authors. By focusing on two types of herbicide-resistant plants, and crops impregnated by BT ( Bacillus thuringiensis ), they clearly outline the promise, risk, and untruths surrounding genetic intervention, and the circular logic of its proponents.
What we are supposed to believe is that shooting rogue parasitic genes and antibiotic marker genes into seed plasm (organisms) is supposed to bring about an agricultural revolution that will feed the world. Against the Grain reveals a policy-and-propaganda machine that has taken the emotional issues of food and hunger and used them to promote a technology that is entirely about money, growth, profits, and power?a technology that offers not a trace of proof that it is safe, sustainable, or benign. As far as anyone can tell, it doesn't even increase production, the claim to eminence so oft repeated by corporations and their advocate, the USDA. The Clinton/Gore administration has played a major role in promoting American biotechnological hegemony, proving once again that politics can destroy anything, even a good brain. If Gore were still back home in Tennessee, writing, he would be warning us of the dangers, not lapping up contributions from agbiotech. In Against the Grain, Lappe and Bailey exemplify the kind of probity and leadership we should be getting from government, but which must now arise from citizens.