Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity

Cary Fowler (Author), Pat Mooney (Author)
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It was through control of the shattering of wild seeds that humans first domesticated plants. Now control over those very plants threatens to shatter the world's food supply, as loss of genetic diversity sets the stage for widespread hunger.

Large-scale agriculture has come to favor uniformity in food crops. More than 7,000 U.S. apple varieties once grew in American orchards; 6,000 of them are no longer available. Every broccoli variety offered through seed catalogs in 1900 has now disappeared. As the international genetics supply industry absorbs seed companies—with nearly one thousand takeovers since 1970—this trend toward uniformity seems likely to continue; and as third world agriculture is brought in line with international business interests, the gene pools of humanity's most basic foods are threatened.

The consequences are more than culinary. Without the genetic diversity from which farmers traditionally breed for resistance to diseases, crops are more susceptible to the spread of pestilence. Tragedies like the Irish Potato Famine may be thought of today as ancient history; yet the U.S. corn blight of 1970 shows that technologically based agribusiness is a breeding ground for disaster.

Shattering reviews the development of genetic diversity over 10,000 years of human agriculture, then exposes its loss in our lifetime at the hands of political and economic forces. The possibility of crisis is real; this book shows that it may not be too late to avert it.
"As an introduction and summation of this issue, it is excellent." —Whole Earth Review

"An important reference for everyone concerned about global food supplies and saving biodiversity." —Wildlife Activist

"Shattering is a book with a message that abounds with energy and enthusiasm. . . . full of history, color and drama, well referenced and easy to read." —Science Books & Films

"Good reading for anyone interested in conservation; should be required reading for policymakers who control political decisions in agriculture." —Choice

"Given the alarming nature of the news that these authors must put before us, we are fortunate that they are possessed of both a wry sense of humor and a keen sense of history. . . . This accessible, inspiring book should be read by everyone who eats." —Wilson Library Bulletin

"Not since Silent Spring has a book presented a warning as dire and as worldwide in its implications for the environment and the future of our food supply. . . . Written in a highly appealing narrative and factual style, underscored throughout with thoughtful political and economic analysis and not without touches of sardonic humor, this book by two long-time agricultural activists is a must read. Shattering provides a well-documented, clear-headed analysis of the challenges the world, particularly its agriculturally wealthy nations, face in confronting the question of genetic diversity." —Multinational Monitor

"It is fascinating and sobering reading, even (perhaps especially) for the concerned but non-expert human resident of planet Earth." —Third World Resources

"Shattering's unmatched and seemingly exhaustive documentation of genetic erosion should convince even the most skeptical policymaker of the need for change." —Biodiversity Conservation Strategy Update

"If you are fond of having salads generous in diversity of vegetables, enjoy them while you can. If you would like your children and grandchildren to enjoy similar culinary options, then you really should be worried and do whatever you can to preserve the plant genetic diversity that makes those wonderful salads and most other food possible. . . . A highly valuable book. . . . Nobody concerned with food, agriculture, and equitable social development can afford to miss." —Society and Natural Resources

"Like most environmental problems, it is not so much the degree of change, but the rate of change which threatens the biosphere. The roots of modern agriculture go back about twelve thousand years to when humans first sowed the seeds which "shattered" from edible plants. . . . A provocative attempt to awaken people to these issues and to press policy-makers into taking the urgent measures which will be vital to preserving the earth's remaining genetic diversity." —International Journal of Environment and Pollution
296 Pages 6 x 9 x 0.9
Published: June 1990Paperback ISBN: 9780816511815

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