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Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of SeedsUncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds by Claire Hope Cummings

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Without being alarmist, Cummings has written a most alarming book, one that demands our attention." -- Michael Pollan

In Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds, Claire Hope Cummings exposes the real, behind-the-scenes history of the rise of industrial agriculture and botanical biotechnology; the fall of public interest science; and the folly of patenting seeds. She examines how farming communities are coping with declining availability of water, deterioration of soils, and decreasing availability of fossil fuels, as well as with new commercial technologies that are of dubious value.

Humanity has co-evolved with seed plants, adjusting our farming practices as needed to take full advantage of the bounty and beauty which plants so generously offer us. And yet scientists know little of the history of our crop plants and the evolution of our relationship with them.

For thousand of years, using the accumulated wisdom of all the farmers who have gone before them, farmers have worked with the land and the plants they have sown in it, learning to tailor their treatment of the land and of the seeds they plant in ways that maximize yields and minimize damage to the land and the plants growing in it. But in the last 20 years (written in 2014), agricultural science has become almost completely divorced from the public interest and has instead embraced private corporate interests. Scientists working for these corporations are trained to hold massive contempt for the public; they are taught that the only objections the public has to their technological advances originate in ignorance of science and superstitious, irrational fear. And they and the corporations they work for are hell-bent on shoving their products down the throats of the public -- in many cases literally -- with no regard for the rights of the public and the state governments that speak for them, health concerns associated with the use of their products, or the impact that those products might have on the living world, the biosphere on which all of us depend for life itself. In other words, they and the corporations they work for want total control over us all, down to and including what foods we choose to produce and how, and what foods we eat. And that is bringing about a crisis of epic proportions involving the ecological health of the land, the physical health of humanity, the deleterious economic trends brought about by the actions of these corporations, and the viability of our living world.

Ms. Cummings addresses all such concerns and much, much more. She describes the impact of the new biotechnology and the way it is being shoved down our collective throats in places ranging from Iraq's Fertile Crescent to the island of Kauai'i, from Oaxaca, Mexico to Vietnam's Mekong Delta. She discusses the plight of farmers who have planted transgenic seeds, the products of biotechnology corporations such as Monsanto, and of scientists who have been savagely persecuted for revealing to the public the dangers of modifying the genes of the plants we eat and those we use for landscaping and flower gardens.

Always, Mrs. Cummings looks deeply into the relationship between humanity and plants. She examines the possibilities of both scarcity and abundance. She tells the stories of local communities that are sustainably producing food and fuel and providing for the future, versus those that have been trapped by biotech corporations and government agencies into planting and raising crops that do not produce viable seed, but do generate dangerous poisons within themselves that harm the health of those who eat those plants and the biosphere itself. We are currently making decisions as to whether seeds will continue to provide our sustenance and remain the common heritage of humanity -- or not. Whoever controls the future of seeds controls the future of life on Earth -- and in the last twenty years, giant corporations that don't care about anything but the bottom line, don't respect the public, don't care about people's health, and don't even give a damn about the biosphere itself have been obtaining more and more control over our food production in all its aspects.

It's time for people to wake up, take a good look at what's being done to the plants we depend on for our food and medicine and so many other things, and how and why. It's time for them to decide whether they want that to continue or else take back the processes of food production and the creation of medicines from plants, and determine for themselves just what sort of future the generations to come will inherit.

GMO corporations are now responsible for the escalating suicide rate of farmers in India who, trapped in an ever-increasing debt spiral as a result of contracting with MO corporations for their seed and other products used on their farms, and obligated by law to continue doing so for life, take the only way out that exists for them. Similar horrors are playing out in numerous other countries and even in America. Farmers are having to sell their souls to Monsanto's and Syngenta's company store to be able to eke out an unsatisfactory living on the soil. Something terrible has happened to us, that we allow these things to happen. It's time to take back our lands, kick out the monsters who are doing this to us all, and return to living on the land as our ancestors did, eating good food uncontaminated by hideously toxic poisons and weird genes, free of the enormous burdens of debt-slavery that the GMO corporations are trying to impose on us all.

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