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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

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  290 Ratings  ·  58 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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Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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
Apr 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 19, 2012 rated it really liked it

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
Melody Rudenko
Apr 01, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
"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
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: popular_science
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
Rob Best
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Joel Finkle
Jul 26, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Meri Elena
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
"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
Jun 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Sissel Mangurten
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food-systems
This was a bit slow and meandering, but I'm glad I read it simply because it made me put more thought into my stance on GE/GM food. I can agree that a variety of corn that reduces pesticide use by millions of pounds per year is beneficial and worthwhile to pursue, but I also think it needs to be carefully studied over time to try and capture any unintended consequences. I do not think eating this corn will kill me or anyone else; I am also not convinced that replacing the worldwide crop with it ...more
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
Aug 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-for-school
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
Dec 11, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Shane Vanoosterhout
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
The science of genetically engineered (GE) food crops, popularly (but not scientifically) referred to as GMOs, is poorly understood by most folks who have an opinion on the subject. Monsanto has been vilified by millions as a kind of corporate Dr. Frankenstein. Thus it's been easy for anti-GE crusaders to unleash a tidal wave of emotional propaganda that serves to misinform, mislead, and further erode the public's tenuous knowledge of genetically engineered food.

The author's approach to the sub
Gina Rheault
May 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Plant genetics could do good, is the point, and in papaya and rice genetic engineering probably has done so. The author, a plant geneticist, argues for discernment in discussing GMO's and, her partner, an organic farmer, describes the attention to detail as he takes his class at UC Davis through the cycle of sowing, growing, harvesting vegetables.

However, GMO, as its done today is mostly, in Michael Pollan's words, "a bandaid on monoculture". And in ignoring that genetic engineering exists in a
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
Kevin Fath
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
This book cuts through a lot of the confusion about plant genetics and organic food. There are vested commercial interests behind the organic food movement and biotechnology, but one has definitely won the public relations battle. This book moves past the politics and paranoia and explains the science and practicalities in a fairly accessible manner.

The writing is a little choppy. Neither of the authors is a professional writer and it really shows. As a scientist myself, I'm not always a fan of
Mar 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Greg Davis
Nov 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
With a strong background in both molecular biology/genetics and organic agriculture, I'm often left dumbstruck conversing with many hysterical anti-GE (GMO) adherents. On the one hand, remaining open-minded to the evolving understanding of climate change makes one "anti-science" if not solidly, and religiously, in the "humans created it all" camp, but ignoring the hard science behind GE agriculture is frequently presented as "progressive", and not being a "pawn to the corporations". Huh?

The cont
John Herlihy
May 06, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
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
Stephanie Jones
Aug 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great book for anyone interested in the debate about using genetic modification tools in agriculture. It explains the science clearly (though understandably watered down) and lays out the concerns of those worried about the use of such a tool in food crops. I also appreciated the section on finding and citing reliable sources. It's definitely a mix of autobiography with discussion, so be prepared for recipes and some personal anecdotes. I was surprised by this but thought it made it more readabl ...more
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“David Pimentel, a Cornell University professor of ecology and agriculture analyzed a 22-year organic versus conventional farming trial done at the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania. He concluded that organic farming produced the same yields of corn and soybeans as conventional farming, but used 30 percent less energy (Pimentel 2005). Scientists at the Research Institute” 0 likes
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