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1. Food and Farming (The Global Village)
2. Farmer's market. (agricultural
3. Four Fish: The Future of the Last
4. Animal Factory: The Looming Threat
5. The Vertical Farm: Feeding the
6. Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen

1. Food and Farming (The Global Village)
by John Baines
Library Binding: 46 Pages (2008-08)
list price: US$32.80 -- used & new: US$29.71
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1599201038
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2. Farmer's market. (agricultural cooperatives compete in the food processing arena to serve farmer-members, not investors)(Cover Story): An article from: Food Processing
by Pan Demetrakakes
 Digital: 10 Pages (1998-08-01)
list price: US$5.95 -- used & new: US$5.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B00098ANI2
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This digital document is an article from Food Processing, published by Putman Media, Inc. on August 1, 1998. The length of the article is 2921 words. The page length shown above is based on a typical 300-word page. The article is delivered in HTML format and is available in your Amazon.com Digital Locker immediately after purchase. You can view it with any web browser.

From the supplier: Agricultural cooperatives consist of farmers who provide a portion of their crops to the cooperative in exchange for a share in its profits. Its primary purpose is to protect its farmer members from price plunges charged by processors and middlemen. Co-ops achieve this by enabling farmers to have their own food processing facilities and a share in their profits. Among the well-know co-op product brands are Land O'Lakes, Ocean Spray, Sunkist and Welch.

Citation Details
Title: Farmer's market. (agricultural cooperatives compete in the food processing arena to serve farmer-members, not investors)(Cover Story)
Author: Pan Demetrakakes
Publication: Food Processing (Magazine/Journal)
Date: August 1, 1998
Publisher: Putman Media, Inc.
Volume: v59Issue: n8Page: p20(5)

Article Type: Cover Story

Distributed by Thomson Gale ... Read more

3. Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food
by Paul Greenberg
Audio CD: Pages (2010-07-15)
list price: US$29.99 -- used & new: US$12.34
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1441872426
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Our relationship with the ocean is undergoing a profound transformation. Just three decades ago nearly everything we ate from the sea was wild. Today rampant overfishing and an unprecedented biotech revolution have brought us to a point where wild and farmed fish occupy equal parts of a complex and confusing marketplace. We stand at the edge of a cataclysm; there is a distinct possibility that our children’s children will never eat a wild fish that has swum freely in the sea.
In Four Fish, award-winning writer and lifelong fisherman Paul Greenberg takes us on a culinary journey, exploring the history of the fish that dominate our menus — salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna — and investigating where each stands at this critical moment in time. He visits Norwegian megafarms that use genetic techniques once pioneered on sheep to grow millions of pounds of salmon a year. He travels to the ancestral river of the Yupik Eskimos to see the only Fair Trade–certified fishing company in the world. He makes clear how PCBs and mercury find their way into seafood; discovers how Mediterranean sea bass went global; challenges the author of Cod to taste the difference between a farmed and a wild cod; and almost sinks to the bottom ofthe South Pacific while searching for an alternative to endangered bluefin tuna.
Fish, Greenberg reveals, are the last truly wild food — for now. By examining the forces that get fish to our dinner tables, he shows how we can start to heal the oceans and fight for a world where healthy and sustainable seafood is the rule rather than the exception.
Amazon.com Review

Paul Greenberg on Four Fish: Fix the Farm, Not the Salmon

When the New York Times reported in June of 2010 that the US Food and Drug Administration was “seriously considering” approving a genetically modified Atlantic salmon for American consumption the cries from environmentalists and food reformers were, predictably, almost audible on the streets.The AquAdvantage® Salmon uses a “genetic on-switch” from a fish called an ocean pout (a very different animal) in combination with a growth gene from a Chinook salmon to achieve double the growth rate of the unmodified creature.The animal’s creator, AquaBounty Technologies of Waltham, MA asserts that the fish will be sterile and grown in out-of-ocean bio-secure containment structures.Nevertheless the emotional worry of genetic contamination of wild fish, the public preoccupation with health risks a modified salmon could pose, and just the overall ick-factor consumers seem to have about GMO food were all on display across the foodie and environmental blogosphere a few days after the Times article ran.

But, curiously, perhaps the loudest groan that I heard in response to the AquaBounty successes came from salmon farmers.“What I have been noticing over the years,” Thierry Chopin, an aquaculture researcher based in New Brunswick, Canada wrote me, “is that the aquaculture industry is not jumping to embrace what AquaBounty has been proposing.”For years salmon farmers have been waging a public relations war, trying to gain legitimacy as an industry that could be both profitable and produce more food for a hungry world.When a paper published in the journal Nature in 2000 revealed that it took more than three pounds of wild forage fish to grow a single pound of farmed salmon, the salmon industry responded through selective breeding, increased use of soy and other agricultural products and more efficient feeding practices to lower the wild fish use of farmed salmon to the point where some farms claim to have achieved a fish in-fish out ratio of close to 1 pound of wild fish for 1 pound of farmed salmon.When diseases like infectious Salmon Anemia and parasites like sea lice began to run rampant on salmon farms around the world, some regions, like the Bay of Fundy in Canada, instituted better fallowing and crop rotation practices and appear to have had some success in breaking disease and parasite cycles.But in spite of these improvements, a single mention of transgenic salmon in a major media outlet is enough to spoil whatever gains the industry has made in public perception.Indeed, many lay-people I talk with have the impression that transgenic salmon are already a regular part of the farmed salmon market, this despite the fact that there are still no transgenic salmon sold in the United States or anywhere else that I’ve encountered.

Don’t get me wrong.I sincerely do not believe that the salmon industry has solved its environmental problems.But I do think that it suffers an unfair association with the AquaBounty project and that genetic modification distracts from what investment and research really needs to address.The two biggest problems with farming salmon are:

1) Salmon are grown in sea cages, often anchored amidst wild salmon migration routes.This can cause the fouling of waters with wastes and the transmission of diseases and parasites to already seriously threatened and endangered stocks of wild salmon.Selectively bred fish regularly escape and some suggest they may interfere with the lifecycles of wild fish.Even worse, entirely different species of salmon are often raised in non-native environments.Atlantic salmon are regularly farmed in the Pacific and often escape.

2) Farmed salmon consume a huge amount of wild forage fish.Even though feed efficiency on a per fish basis has improved dramatically, salmon farming overall has grown so much that the per-fish efficiency has been all but erased by a much larger overall presence of salmon farming in the world.Atlantic salmon, once limited to the northern latitudes of the northern hemisphere, are now farmed on every single continent save Antarctica.It’s possible farmed salmon escapees may have even reached that most southerly redoubt.Salmon farms exist as far south as Patagonia, South Africa and Tasmania.

So what is the way forward and how do we deal with this transgenic issue?If I were tsar of all salmon farming and could redirect investment money at will, I might take all of those dollars that go into transgenic research and put that money into really confronting the problems that plague the industry.I might look to developing efficient, above ground, re-circulating aquaculture systems.These facilities allow fish to be grown in temperature-controlled environments without any interaction with the wild. Disease transfer and genetic pollution are greatly reduced if not eliminated altogether.Yonathan Zohar a professor and Chair of the Department of Marine Biotechnology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County's has created a test facility right in downtown Baltimore that grows an array of species and even manages to recycle the fish wastes into fuel-grade methane gas that can be used to run pumps or heat water.Though these systems are energy intensive the ability to build them in proximity to markets lessens food miles.Furthermore recirculating systems offer precisely controlled growing conditions and can bring fish to market in half the time as open sea cages.

I might also try to expand on the work of Thierry Chopin who is piloting a program of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture or IMTA where mussels, edible seaweeds, and sea cucumbers are grown in conjunction with salmon in a complex polyculture.Rather than just trying to make an artificially efficient modified salmon, Chopin is trying to make a more efficient system where multiple crops radiate out from a single feed source.Because mussels, sea cucumbers and sea weed can all metabolize the wastes from salmon, they have a potential to neutralize and reuse the effluent that has plagued salmon farms in the past.

Another place I might put my salmon dollars would be the development of alternative feeds that are synthesized from soy and algae and might eventually obviate the need for using wild forage fish in salmon feed.

Finally, I might consider investing in a different fish altogether.Some critics of the aquaculture industry believe we should do away with the farming of salmonids altogether.But to my eye, there is a very entrenched market for salmon flesh and we might be better served finding a different salmon-like fish that has a smaller footprint. The most hopeful alternative I’ve come across is a fish called the arctic char.The arctic char is from the same taxonomic family as salmon, has pretty good feed conversion ratios, rich flesh, and most interestingly of all, because it frequently finds itself crammed into close quarters when its natural arctic lakes freeze, it has high disease resistance and takes extremely well to high stocking densities—densities that are necessary to make out-of-ocean aquaculture operations profitable.And this is exactly what’s happening with char.Most are grown in re-circulating, above ground tanks in Iceland and Canada.

Of course some people will never embrace a farmed solution for fish.There is a camp that feels very strongly that farmed fish are uniformly bad for the world and inferior on the plate.I have to confess that I don’t always share this opinion.Arctic char strike me as a good environmental compromise and to my palate, they’re pretty tasty.

--Paul Greenberg

... Read more

Customer Reviews (32)

5-0 out of 5 stars Brain Food
So the choices seem to be never eat fish again --because all the wild stocks of salmon, tuna, bass, cod are collapsing or have already collapsed due to impossible fishing pressures-- or focus on farming and eating genetically-modified fish, to the detriment of wild stocks due to possible genetic mixing. Not much of a choice. An important and fascinating book so you can make your own choices about eating fish with clear and informed intent.

4-0 out of 5 stars Not a fish-eye view
This is a serious book about a serious subject, or rather, a small aspect of a serious subject - what are we doing to sea life? Greenberg writes with beautiful ease and "Four Fish" is a delight to read. It is full of information about the four fish, especially their characteristics in the wild and how they are being farmed and the effect of that farming on man's taste for fish. It is a book that sets the mind thinking; deeply and anxiously. So by those counts this should be a four or five star book. I deliberated long on this and almost gave it three stars for the content and the prose. The missing star was intended for the great distraction this book might be to many of its readers. Ultimately, Greenberg has a message for his readers, but that message is at once obscured and blurred by his focus on four fish when the focus must be on the entire sea-life. This is not a personal fault of the book or the author and I am making this point to draw attention to the bigger picture and the bigger problem. We need to know about the squids, and the anchovies, and the threadfins, and the soles; and how can we go on if the population of the world is not reduced? Since it was this book that led me to think of these things, I think the fourth star should be given - one for each fish.

4-0 out of 5 stars A must read for fish eaters
Well written and an entertaining read.Greenberg makes learning about these 4 species and their associated issues easy and worthwhile.Without standing on a soapbox, he depicts each species' troubles and then provides information consumers can use in order to eat fish more sustainably.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great Fish Stories, Could Have Used a More Careful Filleting
This book covers a tasty topic and is easy to wade into. Although it doesn't go into the depths, it's clear the writer has seen a lot along the coastal waters where he is comfortable. The accounts he gives of his own experiences as an ocean predator are interspersed neatly into his narratives about the fates of each of his four classes of fish. But the book could have been even better with some further sentence-by-sentence editing to eliminate repetitions, and deeper explanations of the science involved in resurrecting extirpated populations.

Still, this is worth the bite.

3-0 out of 5 stars Choices
Paul Greenberg presents both problems and alternative solutions in his new book, Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food. Greenberg presents the history and current situation with four fish: salmon, cod, tuna and bass. He explores sustainability and the issue of wild and farmed fish. He presents what he calls four clearly achievable goals for wild fish: a reduction in fishing effort; no-catch areas of the ocean; protect unmanageable species, and protect the bottom of the food chain. This is a readable and informative presentation of an interesting issue. Any reader who's interested in fish, science or more knowledge about what we eat, will likely enjoy this book.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)
... Read more

4. Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment
by David Kirby
Audio CD: Pages (2010-03-02)
list price: US$39.95 -- used & new: US$24.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 144173970X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Swine flu, bird flu, unusual concentrations of cancer, food recalls due to deadly E. coli bacterial contamination: our American food system has gone terribly wrong. Recent public-health crises are raising urgent questions about how our animal-derived food is produced and brought to market. In Animal Factory, best-selling author and investigative journalist David Kirby follows three families and communities whose lives are utterly changed by immense neighboring animal farms. In his thoroughly researched book, Kirby exposes the powerful business and political interests behind large-scale factory farms and tracks their far-reaching fallout that contaminates our air, land, water, and food. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (25)

4-0 out of 5 stars The meat in our markets is cheap for a reason
Some 20 years ago, I visited a farrowing house to see how hog farming had changed since the time I lived on the farm. The sights stuck with me, and through this book, I came to realize that I wasn't just reacting to the idiot who owned the particular site I visited. No, I was reacting to an impending crisis, the shadows of which we see now.

It'll be a long while before I subsidize animal husbandry of this ilk. The meat in our (US) markets might be some of the cheapest (at check-out) in the world, but there is an unseen price for that bargain, and we will all chip in to pay that tab one day all too soon.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent read! Switch to organic now!!
Excellent read. Time for every American to switch to organic meat and foods. Drugs, pesticides and chemicals are there everywhere. If you want to protect your family, switch to organic now.

4-0 out of 5 stars Not your family farm anymore
I was raised on a small family farm in Wisconsin. This book puts into light what "farming" has become. It shows what large producers/investing firms consider farming. It's truly a shame that without government/state guidelines, these large factory farms can set up shop under the radar. Not all large factory farms are environmentally or morally irresponsible, and anyone looking at this book may get the wrong impression. Just like any business, there is always going to be a select group that will give a black eye. If you're looking for a book that is informative with research to back it up, this is the book to read.

2-0 out of 5 stars Where's the Beef?
I'm still waiting for this decade's version of "The Jungle". This book is not bad, lots of relevant data, but still lots more missing. The other thing is that this book will need to be updated at least every year or so.
I'll read the next one if there is one.

5-0 out of 5 stars Read This, City Folk
This book exposes a serious, increasingly encroaching problem in our society, the ability of corporations, insensitive to personal responsibility, to run amok over our way of life. In this case, BIG CORPORATE AGRICULTURE has penetrated our society and is shoving down our throats stuff called food--and we pay for it in so many ways. More disease, more environmental degradation, more political maneuvering--all leading to incredible personal and societal costs.

The book is engaging. It tells the personal battles of some incredible citizens, fighting almost impossible odds against this invasive cancer in our society that, at its root, begins with corporate greed woven into a citizenry who are seriously uninformed about the food we eat.

The book is engaging but could have used some serious editing to cut the repetition. Important messages like this need to be more to the point if they are intended to cause change.

I fully support the author's laudable argument for more sustainable farming practices and local food production and marketing. But, he omitted one important assumption. Even if, ideally, we could return to sustainable farm practices, largely dependent on family farms and local marketing, it would eventually be self-limiting. We (by `we', I mean all the world's peoples) do not have the land and water resources to produce for our rapidly growing population the kind of food that we now eat, as long as we sustain our voracious appetite for animal protein-based foods.

I am a product of the family farm (milking cows) and began more than a half century ago a research career promoting the animal protein-based food that we produced. But our research program eventually produced findings that challenged my naivete. I learned that, collectively, we would need far less of the earth's resources, achieve far greater health at much lower disease care costs and reduce environmental degradation, if only we were to develop a dietary lifestyle that depended on our use of whole plant-based foods.

I firmly believe that the message in this book, along with a similar message in Fast Food Nation, would go much further if we altered our preferences for food, thus reducing our need for the very food that allows factory farming even to exist.

Just remember this: advanced heart disease, diabetes, obesity, several autoimmune diseases and other 'nuisance' ailments cannot only be prevented but actually be stopped in their tracks and CURED. Moreover, cancer also can be experimentally reversed by the same strategy--this was extensively investigated in our laboratory and published. ... Read more

5. The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century
by Dickson Despommier
Audio CD: Pages (2010-10-12)
list price: US$24.99 -- used & new: US$17.03
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400168295
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

Imagine a world where every town has its own local food source, grown in the safest way possible, where no drop of water or particle of light is wasted, and where a simple elevator ride can transport you to nature's grocery store---imagine the world of the vertical farm.
Amazon.com Review
Product Description
When Columbia professor Dickson Despommier set out to solve America's food, water, and energy crises, he didn't just think big - he thought up. Despommier's stroke of genius, The Vertical Farm, has excited scientists, architects, and politicians around the globe. These farms, grown inside skyscrapers, would provide solutions to many of the serious problems we currently face, including: allowing year-round crop production; providing food to areas currently lacking arable land; immunity to weather-related crop failure; re-use of water collected by de-humidification of the indoor environment; new employment opportunities; no use of pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides; drastically reduced dependence on fossil fuels; no crop loss due to shipping or storage; no agricultural runoff; and, many more. Vertical farming can be located on abandoned city properties, creating new urban revenue streams. They will employ lots of skilled and unskilled labor. They can be run on wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal energy. They can be used to grow plants for pharmaceutical purposes or for converting gray water back into drinking water. In the tradition of the bestselling The World Without Us, this is a totally original landmark work destined to become a classic. With stunning illustrations and clear and entertaining writing, this book will appeal to anyone concerned about America's future.

A Look Inside Vertical Farm
(Click on Images to Enlarge)

Pyramid Farm by Eric Ellingsen and Dickson Despommier Urban Farm, Urban Epicenter by Jung Min Nam
The Dragonfly Tower by Vincent Callebaut Harvest Green by Romses Architects
... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars A must read!Nothing short of revolutionary.
A must read.Without a doubt, the ideas and concepts in The Vertical Farm are nothing short of revolutionary.Although much of the info has made it into talk shows, websites, and other media, I'd still recommend reading the book itself, as Dr. Despommier lays out a narrative that wraps up problem and solution in a comprehensive, easily digestible way.Part ecological manifesto, part vision statement, The Vertical Farm demonstrates the type of holistic thinking required to solve today's environmental challenges.The author focuses on the way in which human behavior -- namely food production -- impacts the environment, and how we can actually change it.Perhaps for the first time in this field, he truly melds such diverse disciplines as biology, ecological sciences, engineering and materials science, sociology, history, and politics, to show the sheer magnitude of the threats that modern human civilization has created for itself.This is the first half or so of the book, and it isn't until the second half that he offers a solution that appears tantalizingly achievable, using technology that to a large extent already exists, to create a man-made ecological system that could represent a breakthrough. Some of the latter part of the book rambles a bit as he goes off on some tangents (which are still relevant) on the potential benefits of the vertical farm concept.However, this is only a small observation; the book's power is its systems-level approach to provide a blueprint rather than a detailed way ahead.As he readily admits, much more actual work remains to be done to make the vertical farm a reality.The reader will probably finish the book wondering at least two things: what can we do to make this happen, and do we as a society have the political and collective will to realize his vision?

2-0 out of 5 stars It's sociology.I thought it was going to be about gardening.
I guess I didn't read carefully enough.I thought it was going to be something a city person could do in their apartment.There is so much empty space where I live that this seems pretty sci-fi to me.
Though it could be the way things go, it wouldn't surprise me if life moves back toward decentralization /rural/human power for food production of the past.
Especially as oil runs out.
I guess I can see this method as a source of luxuries like lettuce and cucumbers, but hot house wheat seems over the top.

3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting Idea for High Tech Farming
The author posits an interesting idea for high tech farming closer to where food consumers live. The idea has applications for future space settlements as well.

The book is somewhat ruined by the evident attitude by the author that things began to go to hell when agriculture was invented to start with, though, hence only three stars.

4-0 out of 5 stars The right direction and approach for sustainability
`The Vertical Farm' is probably the quintessential survey of an idea whose time will come at some point in the next century. That idea--the urbanization of farming through self-contained and self-sustaining multi-level buildings--is fascinating on many levels and will inevitably be pursued for a variety of reasons.

The author Dr. Dickson Despommier lists the benefits of vertical farms in his chapter on `Advantages'. To begin, the farms allow for year-round crop production (since it's basically a glorified greenhouse, it can manage this) and minimal weather-related crop failure; no agricultural runoff; ecosystem restoration (where horizontal farms used to be); elimination of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers; a more efficient use of water (by 70-95 percent); reduction in distribution costs (economical and environmental); greater control of food production in the realm of safety and security. Despommier also lists new employment opportunities, the use of wastewater, and the use of post-harvest plant material, though these are not strictly limited to the vertical farm.

It is clear that Despommier's main goals lie in the reduction of pollution and sustainability. I don't think anyone can deny the validity of such goals, though the author will probably run into resistance from those who aren't concerned with pollution (for instance, those who drive Hummers just to spite Global Warming alarmists). For this reason, Despommier is satisfied with using the government and a large bureaucracy to fund the development of vertical farms, despite all the unintended costs that such a system brings.

But the concepts housed in this theory can be embraced by everyone for reasons not even enumerated in the book. The benefit this reader is most interested in, for example, is rather overlooked by Despommier, and that is increased autonomy and a detachment from the system. While the author's liberal inclinations lead him to take for granted interdependency and community, I would argue that the best rationale for the vertical farm is independence and the development of personal farming technologies. A book on that front has yet to be outlined.

The author is very credible and so his ideas are not easily dispatched by the ardent conventionalist. This study should be seen for what it is, however, and that is a theoretical survey, not an empirical study of vertical farms. The amount of research the author has amassed should suffice to satisfy the rigorous mind. The summary of logistical matters is very informative and seems to cover all the bases.

Now all that is needed is that our demand for efficiency and conservation rise to match our demand for delicious meals. Once it does, the vertical farm will be a matter of course.

4-0 out of 5 stars A truly good scientific read!
I enjoyed the book immensely and found the concept timely, interesting and practical.In fact, I'm thinking about seeing whether my skeptics meetup will try to get the author to stop by while on his tour.Food insecurity is a worry for those of us living in cities.Here in mine, there was a gas shortage last year and grocery stores began running out of food in just a few days.I dutifully plant my little ornamental kale plants and summer tomatoes, but could never feed the family on what I can grow.This is a wonderful way to make food local, even in cities, and protect against some natural disasters that can emperil the food supply.

The author does repeat statistics and examples a few times in the book, which was mildly annoying but certainly not a frequent or serious issue.Other cons:I thought the projections of how goof-proof these vertical farms would be were a little rosy; nothing is ever foolproof.As the book points out, many of our most important food crops can no longer grow without human intervention; we've bred them for desirable traits and lost some of their hardiness in exchange.Growing all our food in large-scale greenhouses (a) makes the greenhouse owners very powerful; and (b) allows our food to be further modified and self-sufficiency even further out of reach.Still, faced with the environmental degradation caused by current farming methods, the self-contained, water conserving vertical farm is worth pursuing.But I was frustrated - this was a call to action, with no practical action I can take to achieve the ideal except perhaps to help it gain wider acceptance.This isn't the author's fault, of course.In a way, it's a compliment that my biggest complaint was a lack of avenues for putting this timely idea into practice. ... Read more

6. Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization
by Spencer Wells
Audio CD: Pages (2010-06-08)
list price: US$24.99 -- used & new: US$15.22
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400166268
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

Using the latest genetic and anthropological data, Spencer Wells demonstrates that although humankind's decision to control our own food supply is what propelled us into the modern world, it had many downsides that we're just now beginning to recognize.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (20)

3-0 out of 5 stars oddly idiosyncratic
i like the author's writing and the work he is doing in human genetics, i'm not so sure about this book however. it's a bit odd and disorganized.

he has a really good idea. how has the genetics of human beings, shaped by nearly 200K years of evolution as a small group hunter-gatherer been changed by the neolithic revolution (growing plants and raising animals) of about 10k years? he looks at hypertension, obesity, diabetes then animal viruses, then religion.

the problem is unity around a big theme, or how the bits and pieces join together to tell a coherent story. as is the books is more like a broken pearl necklace, bits of interesting trivia without the connecting string through them.

the book could do with a rewrite paying careful attention to how each section supports and elaborates on the central theme. how is the genetics of human beings being subverted by a new way of living? or how what we are is in conflict with how we live.

it's an important issue and deserves the best possible study and presentation. it's an interesting and gripping book, hence i finished it, eager to learn more but disappointed with what i was unable to build in an organized re-memorable way after reading it. a shame but i suspect the author has lots more to say and i look forward to reading more from him.

5-0 out of 5 stars review of Pandora's Seed by Spencer wells
If you are even remotely interested in how we (humans) arrived at our present state, this book will prove to be as fascinating as anything you have ever read.I won't go into the details other than to say that the author's ability to explain the complexities of population genetics is in large part one of the books' values.I found it worth reading several times- the first time as the MP3 audio version and then as a paper book so that I could mull over some of the more complex topics.Absolutely worthseveral reads and the author himself is excellent at narrating it.

3-0 out of 5 stars All our problems started 10,000 years ago
Most of our major modern day problems can be traced back to the development of agriculture ten thousand years ago.Can we do anything about it?Yes, learn from people that still retain a link to the way we lived for virtually our entire evolutionary history.

2-0 out of 5 stars Pandora's Seed: Ignorance
I was really excited about this book after seeing the author on The Daily Show, but the more I read it, the more disillusioned I became until I finally admitted that while there are interesting facts in the book, the book is really a mess.

When Spencer Wells talks about genetics, he has a lot of interesting and relevant things to say. When he's talking about other subjects - such as obesity and nutrition, leisure, and global warming - he tends to parrot the common media take on the subject whether it's right or not.

For example, throughout the entire book, there is a lot of discussion given to climate and how it interacted with our food supply to give rise to agriculture. I found it very interesting and surprising to see that even though it wasn't explicitly stated, way back in the day whenever the climate was warmer, the earth got wetter. There's even a map of the Sahara showing it about the size of the country of Egypt.

Yet in the chapter that discussed global warming, the notion that increased temperatures would bring an increase in drought and dry weather (and thus a problem with our food supply) was heavily leaned upon. This seeming contradiction left me baffled.

Another contradiction concerned activity levels and exercise. There are lots of mentions of our hunter-gatherer ancestors having lots of free time for leisurely pursuits, the work load increasing dramatically as we became more agriculturally based, and yet in the section on obesity, Wells attributes the obesity epidemic in part to the idea that our lifestyles are less active than before.

And then there are random facts that are not cited in the back of the book - like the reference on page 181 to the fact that it takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef. There are a lot of estimates out there, and they range from less than 500 gallons to more than 5,000, but what they all share is the assumption that the cow is fed corn - which isn't what cows evolved to eat.

When discussing energy conservation, water shortages, climate change, and what we can do to improve our situation, it would have been nice if Wells had stretched his research muscles a little bit more and maybe given suggestions like innovating agriculture [again] to be more earth-friendly, as well as more in line with humanity's own evolution. Instead, the suggestion was to want less.

All in all, I found that this book meandered horribly, and suffered greatly when the author discussed subjects not in his area of expertise. Given the lack of clear focus, and the regurgitation of common knowledge - whether supported by science or not - I ended up very disappointed, despite the cool information the book provided.

3-0 out of 5 stars A Good Introduction and General Overview of Current Topics in Genetics
In Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization the author, Spencer Wells, puts forth his thesis that the development of civilization, particularly the adoption of agriculture, has had a profound impact on the evolution of the human genome. In the opening chapter he cites some very interesting recent work by the geneticist Johnathan Pritchard and his colleagues to elucidate which parts of the human genome has undergone the most recent and intense selection pressure. No surprise they found that genes for skin pigmentation, lactase and alcohol dehydrogenase as well as genes involved in metabolizing sugars and fats all showed recent selection pressures. In the chapter the author also gives a brief overview of the migration of Homo sapiens out of Africa (a much better review of this topic is available in Wells' The Journey of Man).
The rest of the book goes on to introduce themes as diverse as: global warming, the depletion of the world's fisheries, areas of origin for domesticated agriculture, the influence of historic weather patterns on the development of cultures and empires, industrial agriculture and obesity in America, the FOXP2gene and its influence on brain language development in humans, the over-prescription of mood modifying drugs, and the rise of fundamentalism. That is a lot to try to cover and pull together cohesively in just 210 pages. Wells gives a very good, but brief overview of many of these topics and cites a number of very good books (some several times) that cover each topic in more depth. Three of the books he cites more than once, Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nationand Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steelall deserve to be read on their own merits. Several very interesting papers by Svante Paabo, Johnathan Pritchard and colleagues are available online such as their paper "Sequencing and Analysis of Neanderthal Genomic DNA," which is available on the NIH website.
Excellent books on climate change and its influence on the development of civilizations are available from Brian Fagan, such as The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization (cited by Wells) and Floods, Famines and Emperors: El Nino and the Fate of Civilizations (not cited). Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works and The Language Instinct are two excellent books on the cultural influences and the genetics involved in the development of language and the human mind. Wells mentions the interaction between genetics, malaria and the expansion of agriculture, but cites very little new information. Christopher Wills gave a much better explanation of the complex interaction of genetic polymorphisms, the several types of malaria and its vectors and agriculture in his book Children of Prometheus: The Accelerating Pace of Human Evolution which was published twelve years ago. The ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan does a muchbetter job of describing the interactions between genes, environments, disease and diets in his book Why Some Like it Hot. When Wells goes on the ground and spends time with the Polynesians of Tuvalu, the native fishermen of Kerkennah or the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers of Tanzania to describe their traditional methods of food production and their culture, how it might indicate the types of changes that have occurred in "modern cultures" and how it is being impacted by modern development, he seems most in his element. Still, I could not help but think about similar travel logs written by Robert Kaplan, who delves into not just the current political and cultural influences in a particular geographic area from a boot-on-the-ground point of view, but also gives a historical context as well as a review of the most influential books previously written about the same area. I guess, in the end, I liked Pandora's Seed and felt that it brought up in a general way a lot of very interesting topics, butas I worked my , butas I worked my through each chapter I kept thinking to myself, "there are better, more in depth books on this particular topic". ... Read more

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