Click here to read an excerpt from Uncertain Peril.
"I hope everyone reads it."
—John Seabrook, staff writer, The New Yorker
Praise for Uncertain
Booklist - December 15, 2007
"…a meticulous and lucid exposé…this wake-up
call should renew
public debate about our food and land use."
— Donna Seaman
Library Journal - December 15, 2007
"Her persuasive book reminds us all that we can no longer be
observers to the world around us—our future depends on it.
recommended for all academic and public libraries."
Publisher's Weekly - November 19, 2007
"...a persuasive account of a lesser-known but potentially apocalyptic
threat to the world’s ecology and food supply—the privatization
Earth’s seed stock… [Cummings'] authoritative portrait
of another way
in which our planet is at peril provides stark food for thought."
Kirkus Reviews - December 1, 2007
"…her description of the hit-or-miss nature of the genetic-engineering
process—which studies suggest may be at the root of alleged
impacts associated with GMOs—will unnerve many. A firm but
strident attack on 'techno-elites' that raises serious questions
way we farm."
Grist - May 2, 2008
"Claire Hope Cummings' new book...is a sharp and elegant analysis of the biotech seed debate."
What other authors are saying about Uncertain Peril:
"With Uncertain Peril, Claire
Hope Cummings offers an indispensable
contribution to the debate over biotechnology. She rightly focuses
attention on the seed, and what its privatization and manipulation
mean for the future of food."
—Michael Pollan, author, In
Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma
"Our current approach to industrial agriculture
will someday seem so
bizarre that our descendants won’t understand what we were
This fine volume provides the details of the way we do things now—and
the keys to getting toward a farming future that might actually
—Bill McKibben, author, Deep Economy
"Uncertain Peril gives us
passionate and persuasive reasons why we
need more public discussion of the risks and benefits of agricultural
biotechnology. Cummings never loses sight of the key question:
Who decides what foods we eat?"
—Marion Nestle, author, Food Politics and What to Eat
"A wake-up call about the
threats facing our seeds and the freedom of
—Vandana Shiva, author of Stolen Harvest and editor of Manifestos
the Future of Food and Seed
"As agriculture continues
to industrialize and globalize, our society has
not thought hard enough about whether this is the kind of agricultural
system we want. Fortunately, along comes this timely and valuable
to do a lot of important thinking for us. I hope everyone reads
—John Seabrook, staff writer, The New Yorker
"The clearest and most passionate analysis
and overview of the biotech seeds debate I’ve ever encountered. Writing with passion,
Cummings tells the story of seeds as not only the first link in the food chain but also
as our only hope for food security in the midst of global warming. I commend Uncertain Peril to anybody who wants to understand who
owns, controls, and is directing the fate of our seeds."
—Pat Mooney, author of Shattering and executive director
of the ETC
"This is a magnificent work.
Claire Cummings now
takes her place with Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry,
Vandana Shiva and other great philosophers and critics
deeply concerned over the grim new directions of
industrial, hi-tech agriculture, as it undermines
ages-old traditional, highly successful relationships
between the cultures, the earth and the seeds, that
are at the core of all plantlife and human existence.
Variously told through personal stories, experiences
and musings on the cultural and biological
significance of seeds, together with keen journalistic
and scientific analyses of the impacts of
biotechnology and other technical interventions into
natural processes, the book should be required reading
for anyone interested in sustainable futures."
director, International Forum on Globalization; author, "In
the Absence of the Sacred," and co-editor, "The Case
Against the Global
Full review from Library Journal:
"Seeds grow up to be many fundamental things: food, fiber for
and lumber for houses. The plants also filter our air as they release
oxygen. That plants are fundamental to our existence on this planet
seems obvious, yet as journalist and former environmental lawyer
Cummings argues here, genetically engineered plants seriously
threaten the world's seed supply and the future existence of plants.
Cummings carefully builds her arguments against genetically modified
organisms (GMOs) much like a court case, relentlessly providing piece
after piece of damning evidence. She contends that GMOs are a creation
of big agribusiness to make money, and, with just a handful of
companies controlling the market, the have created an enforced
dependence on GMOs. Furthermore, she argues, government agencies
and research institutions are both implicitly and explicitly supporting
these endeavors. Her persuasive book reminds us all that we can no
longer be passive observers to the world around us—our future
on it. Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries."
Full review in Publisher’s
Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds
Claire Hope Cummings. Beacon Press, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8070-
Former environmental lawyer and
one-time farmer Cummings offers a persuasive account of a lesser-known
but potentially apocalyptic threat
to the world's ecology and food supply—the privatization of
seed stock. For almost a century, the U.S. Department of Agriculture
has provided seeds at no cost to farmers who then saved seeds from
harvest to another, eventually developing strains best suited to
regional climates. But Cummings also tells how seeds became lucrative,
patentable private properties for some of the nation's most powerful
agribusinesses. Cummings bemoans the "plague of sameness" intensified
by the advent of such fitfully regulated companies as Monsanto, which
now not only own genetically modified seed varieties, but also sue
farmers when wind inevitably blows seeds onto their neighboring fields.
According to Cummings, this "tyranny of
technological[ly]elite" threatens agricultural diversity and
sources. Among the author's many startling statistics is that 97%
vegetables whose seeds were once available from the USDA are now
extinct. Cummings heralds plans for a "Doomsday Vault" to
existing natural seed stock, and finds comfort in organic farming's
growth, but her authoritative portrait of another way in which
our planet is at peril provides stark food for thought. (Mar.)
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