Introductory Resources List: GM & Genetic Engineering

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In order to assess the safety, predictability and overall quality of GM products it is useful to understand some of the science involved.  Some books, however, while quite well presented, display a distinct bias, not always immediately obvious to the layperson.  At present, some of the clearest science primers are written by industry scientists, largely uncritical of the negative facets - some of the texts below are in this respect 'pro-biotech'.  To obtain the very latest information, particularly on GM content in foods now on the shelves, it may be necessary to contact the supplier or, if a clear reply is not forthcoming, to refer to specialist sources on the Internet. (See for example our 'Learning Links' pages.) Prices approximate.

{NEW} Whitewash: the story of a weed killer, cancer, and the corruption of science, Carey Gillam, Island Press, 2017, ISBN 9781642830422 (paperback; e-edition available).  Review here.  Author background here. Winner 2018 SEJ Rachel Carson Environmental Book Award. ... Judges' comments » Many had waited for this book, and Gillam delivered, drawing on her experience and insight as a reporter who covered food and agriculture in the American Midwest for Reuters. In a work that evokes "Silent Spring", the self-described "Kansas girl" closely followed the international furor over Monsanto's Roundup herbicide and the crops treated with it. She documented what some considered a shocking mishandling of a potential carcinogen, the main ingredient, glyphosate. She explains the behind-the-scenes politics and uses the Freedom of Information Act to help expose the science, the unasked questions and middling answers. This timely and well-organized examination of one of the world's most compelling controversies over science and agriculture is well-researched and beautifully written and is accessible to readers who don't have extensive science backgrounds. In an era of continuing evidence of censored science, she examines jiggered studies, industry pressure on sympathetic government regulators and the international fallout of action and inaction involving one of the most widely used chemicals in modern agriculture.

{NEW} GMO Myths and Truths: A citizen's guide to the evidence on the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops and foods,   4th Edition 2018 ISBN 9780993436727 (paperback), by Claire Robinson Mphil, Michael Antoniou PhD and John Fagan PhD. The 4th edition contains a whole new chapter on gene editing.
»  If ever a comprehensive, one-stop resource were needed to counter the disinformation of the powerful, well-funded pro-GMO lobby, it is now. GMO Myths and Truths is a new book that does just that by presenting the scientific case against GM crops and foods and deconstructing the propaganda and myths of the pro-GMO lobby. Originally published online, it has to date been available to the public as a free download [2nd Edition only]. ... For the layperson, it explains in easy-to-understand terms and steps what genetic engineering is and how it is carried out. It describes and provides access to important scientific studies carried out into the safety and efficacy of GM and looks at the environmental impacts of the technology.

    GMO Myths and Truths adopts a comprehensive approach to GM by moving beyond science to address wider issues related to intellectual property rights and seed patenting, alternative models of farming that are more productive and sustainable, food security, hunger and poverty. By addressing these issues, the authors demonstrate that GM is not needed and is being offered as a proxy solution for more deep-seated structural factors. ... the book has a convenient layout, making it easy for the reader to locate specific themes and issues. What's more, it also contains a fair amount of new information that does not appear in the previous editions. It provides updated evidence to dismiss the industry claim of a scientific consensus on GM food safety and new data that further outlines the risks that GMOs pose for health and the environment. [ Extracts from review Copyright © Colin Todhunter 2016 ]

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: how the venture to genetically engineer our food has subverted science, corrupted government, and systematically deceived the public,  by Steven M. Druker, Clear River Press, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, 2015, ISBN 978-0-9856169-1-5 (hardcover), 978-0-9856169-0-8 (softcover).
»  A US lawyer offers a carefully documented analysis of industry claims. Review by Prof Peter Saunders for Science in Society.

Free videos on the net -  GM Watch has compiled an extensive list of free videos, mostly on YouTube, including a 3 part talk by Percy Schmeiser, the Canadian farmer sued by Monsanto for having its patented genes on his land.

The World according to Monsanto, documentary film by Marie-Monique Robin, 109 minutes, 2008. Recommended viewing.  European version available on DVD or VOD 13.00 / 9.99 / 2.99 Euros (2 day hire).
»  See Publisher's summary (scroll down for English there) and other reviews.

Genetic Roulette: The documented health risks of genetically modified foods, Jeffrey M Smith, Yes! Books, USA, 2007, 0972966528 (hardback) £15.95 from Green Books.
»  Those who enjoyed Smith's previous book, Seeds of Deception, should be warned that this isn't the same sort of read ... rather an easy-to-use reference book of scientific fact and documented findings on the risks of GM foods. Smith uses much previously unavailable material obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and has trawled through piles of industry submissions and government documents. He extracts the scientific meat and methodically lays it out for our examination, with one finding per chapter section. One section, for example, is headed, "Mice fed Roundup Ready soy had liver cell problems". The finding is described in full, followed by possible interpretations and comments, either by the researchers themselves or other experts.

    Smith also draws upon unpublished studies, case studies, medical reports, media reports, and eyewitness accounts. But interpretations and statements of opinion are never misrepresented as scientific fact. The author has gone to great lengths to maintain accuracy of reporting, having each section of the book checked by at least three scientists. Other sections of the book highlight serious flaws and gaps in the industry's case for GM food safety. Again, each chapter section is devoted to a particular topic, such as the ability of GM disease-resistant crops to promote dangerous new viruses.

    The book details the tactics that industry uses to shut down or bury inconvenient research, including ignoring it, attempting to discredit the research or its authors, and funding competing studies so poorly designed that no meaningful findings can possibly be extracted. The layout is an exemplar of clarity. Each double-page spread is devoted to a particular problem with GM foods. The table of contents gives a one-sentence summary of each of the food risks and provides quick access to the evidence. [Review (shortened) thanks to Claire Robinson, GM Watch.]

Genetically modified food: a short guide for the confused, Andy Rees, Pluto Press, 2006, 0-7453-2439-8 £12.99.
»  This is not a comfortable book to read, and will leave a newcomer to the subject gasping in disbelief.  It is based on a concise and carefully referenced catalogue of evidence that GM food survives only through the abuse of power and the abuse of science.  It is unlikly that anyone who takes time to look at this evidence would fail to reach that conclusion. The facts are underpinned by innumerable quotes from key players and the book's coverage of news is useful. The author is a former editor of GM Watch's 'Weekly Watch'. Extensive references, resources list, and index. Essential source, highly recommended by LABB.

Seeds of deception: exposing industry and government lies about the safety of the genetically engineered foods you're eating, Jeffrey M Smith, UK Edition published April 2004: 1-903998-41-7 £9.95 from Green Books - has foreword by Michael Meacher MP.
»  Smith, who used to work for a GM testing company, has written the story of the GM foods scam in an account that is as compelling as it is lucid. He has an extraordinary gift for writing about this complex and highly technical subject in prose that romps along as effortlessly as a railway station novelette -- but without compromising one iota of journalistic integrity or scientific rigour. Among the glowing commendations of the book is one by Arpad Pusztai that pays tribute to Smith's presentation of the science.  Smith looks at all the major GM stories and uncovers astonishing stories of fraud and persecution of whistle-blowers. There are chapters on: the Pusztai affair; the L-tryptophan incident; and reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson's investigation into Monsanto's GM bovine growth hormone rBGH. [Review (shortened) thanks to Claire Robinson, GM Watch]  See also the book's website which carries up to date material.  Extensive references, Index.  Essential source, highly recommended by LABB.

How to avoid GM food - hundreds of brands, products and ingredients to avoid, Joanna Blythman, Fourth Estate, 1999, 1-84115-187-4 £4.99 Now out of print, but available on Internet.
»  "A leading investigative food journalist advises on GM foods, aiming to inform readers of all the implications. She provides a strategy for identifying and avoiding GM foods when shopping, and lists GM products, brand by brand, from baby foods to drinks and vitamins." In its day this was an indispensable shopper's guide. Now however, labelling laws have been tightened somewhat and many suppliers have radically altered their policies on GM products. The book remains useful by way of introduction, including information on GM 'processing aids', which are still largely unlabelled.

Don't worry, it's safe to eat: the true story of GM food, BSE, and Foot and Mouth, Andrew Rowell, Earthscan Publications, 2003, 1-85383-932-9  £16.99 (hardback).
»  "shows why the public no longer believes politicians and scientists ... uncovers how critical scientists were marginalised while commercial interests overruled precaution ... exposes the myths of the GM revolution."  Useful source, extensively referenced, with index.  Recommended by LABB.

Genetic engineering, food and our environment - a brief guide, Luke Anderson, Green Books, 1999, 1-870098-78-1 £3.95
»  Covers science, environment, patents, industry, campaign resources. Concise factual information, extensively referenced, with index.

Genetic engineering and you, Moyra Bremner, Harper Collins, 1999, 0-00-653190-3  £6.99
»  Essential source book, encyclopedic in its criticism of current developments. Paints a broad picture without being too academic. Skips some of the science basics, but covers most other aspects in some detail, including GE 'human' insulin.  Glossary, references.

Genetic engineering, dream or nightmare - the brave new world of bad science and big business, Mae-Wan Ho, Gateway (Gill & Macmillan, Dublin), 2nd ed.1999, 0-7171-2980-2  £14.99   New extended reprint now available, price £12.00.
»  Definitive work, but heavy going and 'academic' in style in places. The late Dr Ho was a well known British scientist, who had the courage to speak out about her concerns.  Glossary, references, index. Also available on CD-ROM,  price £6.00.

Captive State - the corporate takeover of Britain, George Monbiot, Macmillan, 2000, 0-333-90164-9  £12.99 (hardback) Cheaper paperback version available (£6.99)
»  This is a detailed exposé of business practice in Britain, and its relationship with government. Several case histories are described, such as the Skye Bridge, NHS building contracts, and University finances. Four chapters encompass the (GM) food industry.  References, index.

Improving nature? - the science and ethics of genetic engineering, Michael Reiss & Roger Straughan, Cambridge U.P., 2001, 0-521-00847-6  £8.95.
»  A thought-provoking and well-written book. It would be useful as an introduction to slightly more scientific detail at the cell / DNA level, and as a summary of many of the pro and anti arguments. However, there are several omissions of facts (e.g. tryptophan accident, horizontal gene transfer) and a quite subtle acceptance of many standard industry arguments. (There is controversy about GE human insulin, for example.) Definitely not the last word.  References, index.

The thread of life - the story of genes and genetic engineering , Susan Aldridge, Canto/Cambridge U.P., 1998, 0-521-62509-2  £8.95
»  Step by step intro to molecular biology, good explanation of scientific details. Self-contained, but not 'light reading'. Like many technical primers, dismissive of drawbacks and critics of GM.  Reading list, index.

Reshaping Life - key issues in genetic engineering, G.J.V.Nossal & R.L.Coppel, Cambridge University Press, 2002, 0-521-52423-7   £16.95.
»  Similar in flavour to 'The thread of life', this is perhaps slightly easier to read and is slanted towards medical applications.  Good coverage of significant developments.  Identifies many concerns but unfortunately does not expand on these to any extent.  Glossary, reading list, index.

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