Selecting books can be fun, of course, but it can also be challenging. Obviously, I want to choose books that interest people, books that will make them stop and think – “Hey, that’s just the topic I’d like to learn more about” – when they see it on the shelf. Since I don’t currently own a crystal ball, I have to do my best to guess what topics will interest our patrons.
Fiction is easy. Certain authors are so popular, they have become automatic purchases. Books by slightly less popular authors are considered if they have good reviews, or if I know they write in a similar vein with the Must Have authors. I also watch for movie and television releases, because if a new show is broadcast, or a new movie released, we inevitably get requests for the book or books.
Non-fiction takes a bit more thought. What have people enjoyed in the past? Is there a section that has outdated books? What’s happening in the world right now that people may want to read about? One current topic of interest (and debate) is genetically modified foods. As I looked over our shelves, I quickly realized I had nothing of substance on the topic. To truly understand the pros and cons of GM foods, one needs to understand the science behind agricultural biotechnology and genetics—and both of those topics can be rather dry. I wanted to find some titles that would explain the science in an easy-to-understand fashion and that would try and dispassionately explain the controversy. The following books should give anyone an excellent foundation when it comes to genetic modification of foods.
Mendel in the Kitchen by Nina Federoff and Nancy Marie Brown gives an excellent explanation of basic genetics, and how it applies to GM foods. Federoff, a molecular biologist, argues in favor of GM foods solving hunger problems as our world population continues to grow. The information is very accessible and should give the reader a good foundation of the science involved.
Food Politics: what everyone needs to know by Robert Paarlberg focuses on world agriculture and world hunger as seen by Western countries and Third World countries.
Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto—the promises and perils of the biotech harvest is by Peter Pringle, a journalist reporting on the global war raging over GM foods. He shows how both sides have made false promises and engaged in scaremongering, and tries to find and make sense of the reality of the topic.
The World according to Monsanto: Pollution, corruption and the control of our food supply by Marie-Monique Robin rounds out the new collection.
You can’t discuss GMOs without mentioning Monsanto, and Robin makes a good assessment of the company and its alarming legal and political tactics to maintain its monopoly in our food supply.