Claire Hope Cummings
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Click here to read an excerpt from Uncertain Peril.

"I hope everyone reads it."
—John Seabrook, staff writer, The New Yorker

Praise for Uncertain Peril:

Starred Review
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

Starred Review
Library Journal - December 15, 2007
"Her persuasive book reminds us all that we can no longer be passive observers to the world around us—our future depends on it. Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries."

Review
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 of the Earth’s seed stock… [Cummings'] authoritative portrait of another way in which our planet is at peril provides stark food for thought."

Review
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 health impacts associated with GMOs—will unnerve many. A firm but not strident attack on 'techno-elites' that raises serious questions about the way we farm."

Review
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 our attention on the seed, and what its privatization and manipulation may mean for the future of food."
—Michael Pollan, author, In Defense of 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 thinking. 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 work."
—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 the seed."
—Vandana Shiva, author of Stolen Harvest and editor of Manifestos on 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 book to do a lot of important thinking for us. I hope everyone reads it."
—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 Group

"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."
—Jerry Mander, director, International Forum on Globalization; author, "In the Absence of the Sacred," and co-editor, "The Case Against the Global Economy."

Full review from Library Journal:

"Seeds grow up to be many fundamental things: food, fiber for clothing, 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 depends on it. Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries."

Full review in Publisher’s Weekly:
Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds
Claire Hope Cummings. Beacon Press, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8070- 8580-6

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 the Earth's 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 one harvest to another, eventually developing strains best suited to local or 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 the technological[ly]elite" threatens agricultural diversity and taints food sources. Among the author's many startling statistics is that 97% of 75 vegetables whose seeds were once available from the USDA are now extinct. Cummings heralds plans for a "Doomsday Vault" to shelter 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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