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Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food
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Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  169 ratings  ·  50 reviews
By the year 2050, Earth's population will double. If we continue with current farming practices, vast amounts of wilderness will be lost, millions of birds and billions of insects will die, and the public will lose billions of dollars as a consequence of environmental degradation. Clearly, there must be a better way to meet the need for increased food production.
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Hardcover, 208 pages
Published April 18th 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 578)
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Lena
I first became curious about this book after reading that it was co-authored by an organic farmer and a plant geneticist who also happen to be husband and wife. Given how polarized the conversation about organic food and genetically engineered food tends to be, I hoped this book would provide me with some more balanced information on the topic than is generally available, and that is precisely what it does.

Pam Ronald works at UC Davis, where she has been using the techniques of genetic engineeri
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Adam
I think about agricultural ecology and human nutrition and health pretty much all the time these days, and I rarely think about genetically engineered crops. On one hand, the problems, it's not even on the radar. Simply doing agriculture is about the worst aspect of agriculture - destroying habitat for most native organisms and perpetuating that destruction every year by killing colonizing perennials and maintaining disturbance levels that exclude anybody adapted to a stable perennial ecosystem. ...more
Matt


This is an important book, that I highly recommend folks check out. In the context of the upcoming vote on Prop 37, I wanted to gather further information about genetically engineered (GE) crops. Typically, we are presented with the choice between Organic farming vs. GE crops. This book is written by a husband and wife team. He is a leading organic farmer, running the student farm at UC Davis, focusing on sustainable agriculture. She is a plant geneticist working to improve the nutrition, healt
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Melody Rudenko
Assigned this book in biotech class. I was surprised and a little disappointed by the choice, pop lit instead of hard science, but it's an easy read and basically well written. The personal anecdotes aren't really helpful and have slot of smug overtones, but if you've become used to that type of smug culture (which is becoming more pervasive where I live) the anecdotes will serve the purpose the authors intended rather that just making them come off as self-superior and out of touch. I think thi ...more
Charl(ie|es)
"Genetic engineering is not a panacea for poverty, and more than conventional breeding is or organic practices are, yet it is a valuable tool that farmers can use to address real agricultural problems such as pests, diseases, weeds, stresses, and native habitat destruction. Like any tool, GE can be manipulated by a host of social, economic, and political forces to generate positive or negative social results."

Unfortunately the above quote isn't a good representative of the book as a whole. Inste
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Andrea
As far as being informative, the book definitely did its job. I learned plenty about exactly what genetic engineering of plants means and its benefits, both environmental and humanitarian. It also brought the complications and difficulties of organic farming to light, teaching that it's not as easy as just going cold turkey.
Why did I only give it three stars? Because it's the most strangely formatted book I've ever read. The authors put a lot of their big blocks of information into a "memoir" so
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Hilary
A must-read for anyone interested in the GMO debate or just curious about how organic farming and genetic engineering can intersect to reduce environmental impact, enhance food production, and reduce herbicide/pesticide application. This book refreshingly addresses both the benefits and pit-falls of genetic engineering and the organic movement, resulting in a well-rounded examination of both approaches.

This book touches on the details of genetic engineering in an easy-to-understand way, clearly
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Daniel Cunningham
I think this is a good books in that it ties together the concerns that many people who "believe" in organics have with the concerns that many people who "believe" in GE have: reducing pesticide use, health, water use, etc. and highlights the concerns of GE proponents that (unfortunately, in my experience) are often second-tier concerns for organic-ists: feeding a growing population under the reality of climate change, soil depredation, dwindling water sources and quality, and preservation of re ...more
Meri Elena
"Ronald and Adamchak's clear, rational approach is refreshing, and the balance they present is sorely needed in our increasingly polarized world." --Science

This book is the NC State University common reading assignment this summer, and I was so excited to read it. I'm an environmentally conscious plant genetics major, so it's right up my alley. The two authors, an organic farmer and a plant geneticist, are a married couple who think that organic farming techniques and GM crops are the best way t
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Steve
I love this book, written by a husband-wife team, about what may strike many as an unlikely marriage: genetic engineering and organic farming. The authors' marriage is equally surprising. He is a professor of organic farming, and she is an academic plant geneticist. In this book, they bring together their interests, and point out an important synergy.

That is, genetic engineering and organic agriculture need not be at odds with each other. In fact, genetic engineering can be a valuable tool to th
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S.
These two authors are not professional writers, and it shows. And despite this I'm giving the book 5 stars. Because at the end of the day they manage to take the complexities of food production and bioengineering and communicate pragmatically, passionately and most importantly accurately. Yes there are times when the maxim "show don't tell" is executed with far less skill than I would like in a book. But I forgive the writers for the occasional stilted dialogue or overly florid description. Beca ...more
Audrey
I can't remember where I first heard about this book, but I'm glad that I read it. It is written by a married couple, the woman is a scientist who genetically engineers rice and the man is an organic farmer. They do a good job of describing what organic and GE actually mean. It struck me that even though these terms are used widely (more so organic) and seen on grocery store shelves, many don't understand them.

After reading Tomorrow's Table, I have a better understanding of GE and the benefits i
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Drew
One of the first things that I was reminded of by reading this book is how hard it is to farm. In addition to physically taxing work. The economic rewards are rarely enough to make it appealing from an investment standpoint. Yet the importance of growing more food for an expanding population with less pesticides on less ground has never been more obvious. The book is written from the two points of view that most people want to hear from the most, scientist and farmer. I think everyone wants to b ...more
Rob Best
"Tomorrow's Table" is a very well researched account of organic farming and genetic engineering. Ronald and Adamchak do an excellent job of presenting the two topics side by side and merging them to show how prevailing trends in food science are affecting what is marketed and eaten. Most importantly, though, they provide a scientific context for two of today's most controversial and hottest buzz words in the arena of food. The only drawback to the book, in my opinion, is the storytelling style t ...more
Ed
With the writing of this contentious book, the authors set in motion a very heated debate as to the nature of genetic engineering and its ability to be married with organic farming as the solution for truly sustainable agriculture. Pamela and Raoul are wife and husband, geneticist and organic farmer. “Tomorrow’s Table” is written as a memoir, dialogue with friends, and a textbook on organic farming and genetic engineering. Pamela, as a geneticist, works to distinguish between genetic engineering ...more
Sissel Mangurten
An essential book for understanding GMOs. Tackling GM-debate from two perspectives, this work beautifully sums up almost every aspect necessary to understand the technology, applications and debate. Although written by respectively an organic farmer and a geneticist, it's very much accessible to readers without a background in the natural sciences.
The fact that it's written in the style of a dialogue makes it both engaging and personal; the genetically modified crops are no longer just the produ
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Joel Finkle
This is a slim book, designed to be neither too technical nor too political, covering many of the issues that put organic farmers at odds with genetic engineering, and softly knocking most of them down. It's unnatural? Well, conventional breeding permitted by the organic regulations permits modifying plants through radiation and mutagenic chemicals (such as Calrose rice). Foreign DNA? Would you rather be eating papaya ringspot virus in every bite of papaya? And so on. It's an entertaining read, ...more
Jared
This is a must read for anyone serious about food sovereignty. There are basically two categories of people who respond negatively to genetically modified foods: 1) people who understand GE crops, 2) people who don't.
This book is written to give people an overview of the GE crop industry and to answer some of the "myths" with facts about GE crops. I don't know what I think about it yet, but at least I know more about some of the objections to GE crops and answers to those objections by scientis
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John Herlihy
Really important topic, there needs to be more awareness as to the benefits of GMOs. The combination of genetic understanding and manipulation with organic farming is how we will feed the world. The culture and media spends so much time and effort demonizing the science, little attention is given to the success stories and recent research that shows how they can be used safely. Tomorrow's Table does that, but at times comes off as snobby; even preachy. The California hippie authors, a yogi PhD a ...more
Brandt Kurowski
This was an enjoyable, quick read, interspersed with interesting anecdotes and even recipes, but the content is a bit one-sided. It focuses primarily on genetic engineering, and provides a decent explanation for those who are unfamiliar with the specifics. This book would be well suited to someone who wants to know more about GMOs but would prefer to avoid overly technical details, however if you want a solid scientific primer on genetically engineered plants I'd recommend Nina Fedoroff's book i ...more
Irene
Hm. This book was good, but not that good. Mainly because the authors clearly aren't writers. But they wrote this book to prove a point, and they did. They built a case for GMO's or GE foods, as opposed to organic and conventional foods. Although the in-text citations were wonky, the sources were credible, and led me to think more about this issue. The authors, a married couple, used their skills as a farmer and a professor of genetics to inform and convince the reader that GMO's are not harmful ...more
Kevin Fath
Written by a plant genetic engineer and her farmer husband who are both actively involved in eating and growing organic food. The book provides an accessible and refreshing look at the science (not myths) of genetic engineering (GE)and it's promise for improving the lives of the poorest while reducing the use of synthetic inputs in agriculture. The biggest takeaway for me was that the debate should not be about whether GE should be used but HOW and by WHOM.

The authors promote a whole new fronti
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Estelle
4.5 stars for the explanations and discussions of the benefits of, and issues surrounding, organic farming and genetic engineering, especially the need to move the focus of GE discussions away from just process to coming up with solutions for how to bring GE back away from solely being for private corporate profit to its use for public good - especially in tandem with organic farming practices.

3 stars for the anecdotal descriptions. Although meant as a starting point and framework for some of t
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Caroline
An excellent discussion of issues involving genetically engineered food with solid documentation. Covers the scientific, economic, agricultural, environmental and policy aspects of the issue without all the hyperbole. Anybody who is concerned about GMOs or GE food and wants to understand the issue better should read this. The consumer debate is generally uninformed, full of apocryphal stories, rumors and unsubstantiated claims. The authors also provide the reader with some tools for how to tell ...more
Rachel
What drew me to this book was the offering of two perspectives : a genetic engineer and an organic farmer. Plus, they were married. I mean, if they could make it work, there has got to be a way both groups can work together.

This book helped me better identify what I don't like about the GE industry. It's not the GE products themselves (with the exception of roundup ready crops), it's the nature of the corporations that control the industry.

The authors were condescending at times, but the writin
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Malina
I enjoyed reading this book and learning more about genetic engineering, organic gardening and how the two can overlap. It was dense and technical in some of the descriptions but made an effort to be approachable by including recipes and conversations had with friends. It was definitely a good read, but not as amazing as other food books. The authors make some very good points, have some interesting perspectives and overall the book is very informative.
Alexander
The material here is excellent - both sides, considered from a rational scientific viewpoint and also as part of conversations with non-experts with standard concerns about genetic engineering. The writing feels... stilted, at times (likely a result of transcribing and cleaning up conversations and experiences), but the pair of viewpoints is great. This replaces 'Mendel in the Kitchen' as my go-to for basic GE reading recommendation.
Andrea
This should be insightful. The authors are married and both work at UC Davis. He's an organic farmer and she's a plant genetic scientist. I think they're trying to argue that genetically engineering plants can work in harmony with organic farming. This book is scientific, but also about their individual jobs and how they apply their beliefs within their family. I'm curious to hear about how they eat. We shall see.....
Karen
Better than I thought. What a great idea, a husband who is an organic farmer and his wife who is into gmo crops. They actually have me believing that in some cases, GMO crops are the way to go. If you can reduce pesticides by 75% and by mixing plants that are close relatives it seems like a reasonable trade.

Good read for anyone who feels passionate about organics or GMO crops, shows another side to the story.
Ian
Pretty enjoyable read. I should have read this with a few other people because I can imagine many exciting discussions resulting from the group read. If you're like me and are tired of polarized debates surrounding important agricultural and food security questions, give Tomorrow's Table a try. At the very least the well-documented text will get thinking about the issue of GE foods.
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