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Distributed for Reaktion Books

What’s So Controversial about Genetically Modified Food?

The rampant use of genetically modified food incites fierce and seemingly intractable debates among environmental activists, scientists, government regulators, and representatives of the food and agriculture industries. While some portray GMOs as scientific progress, others frame them as a form of perverted science. But why, exactly, are they so controversial? This timely and balanced book explores the science—and myth—that surrounds genetically modified food in order to help us understand just what’s at stake.
John T. Lang begins by grounding the debates in the biology and chemistry behind genetic modification. He then shows how food is deeply imbued with religious, social, cultural, and ethical meanings, which bring a variety of non-scientific issues to the forefront and make genetically modified food a proxy for larger debates regarding topics such as globalization and corporate greed. Centrally, he contends that the controversies surrounding the technology reflect ongoing tensions between social and political power, democratic practice, and corporate responsibility. As Lang illustrates, while modern, mechanized, and genetically enhanced production has given the consumer an unprecedented variety and quantity of food, it has also introduced new social and environmental vulnerabilities and uncertainties into the global food system.
Bringing together science, politics, economics, and culture, this book offers a deeply informed look at an important aspect of modern agriculture. It will prove invaluable to anyone who shops at the grocery store, whether they like the benefits that genetic modification has to offer or fear that nature is something we should have left alone.       

184 pages | 5 x 7 3/4 | © 2016

Biological Sciences: Biochemistry

Food and Gastronomy

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"If you’ve ever looked at a ‘Non GMO’ label in the supermarket and wondered what it really meant, read this book. It’s a thoughtful inquiry into the nature of genetically modified food, and it will get you to think more deeply about all of the food you eat."\

Dan Charles, food and agriculture correspondent for NPR

“Even after decades of use in many parts of the world, genetic modification of foods remains the most bitterly contested innovation in agriculture. Some proponents of the technology characterize the opponents as being scientifically illiterate, but is that really the issue? In this timely book, John T. Lang uses ethical, legal, and cultural frameworks to examine the debates around the use of genetically modified food. I recommend it highly to the many scientists perplexed that the issue is still so controversial if the science is so ‘settled.’ This is by no means an anti-science book but explains how people, very reasonably, might consider other types of evidence when making decisions.”

John Coupland, Pennsylvania State University and President-Elect, Institute of Food Technologists

Table of Contents

        Genetically modified food: remaking the global food system
1 The Illusion of Diversity: global food production and distribution
2 Intellectual Property: protecting or overreaching?
3 Scary Information? Labeling and traceability
4 Scientific Fallibility: contested interests and symbolic battles
5 Getting Back on Track: the tension between idealism and doom

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