Story: Dr. Fox sounds the alarm bell for the proliferation of genetically engineered plants, animals and foods, warning that these man-made creations are bypassing normal channels of FDA approval and are being unleashed into the ecosystem – and our own bodies.
Review: Talk about a book inspiring some mixed emotions. It’s very interesting, though out of necessity it spends a lot of time educating readers in the scientific lingo, as well as the abbreviations and acronyms thereof. But the book boils down to this: a powerful assembly of giant food processing, pharmaceutical and genetic engineering corporations, wielding massive influence with lawmakers and federal agencies, have already placed consumers, small farmers and numerous indigenous cultures in a stranglehold. What’s at stake? Unforseen long-term consequences – diseases, ecological contamination, and the destruction of ecologically necessary regions to make way for industrializd farming. Fox also raises a very real question involving the suffering animals engineered to grow grotesquely overmuscled to produce more meat. This is an interesting aspect of the debate, because on the one hand, the animals are going to be slaughtered and eaten anyway – but should steps be taken to minimize their suffering until that time?
It is the animal debate that ultimately bogs “Beyond Evolution” down. For what it’s worth, I actually agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Fox’s proposal that animals have souls and have a value to the Earth that goes far beyond the price of their meat on the open market. But where Fox stumbles is in pushing the metaphysical side of the argument a lot more than he uses scientific data and hard numbers to back up his position on the issue. Too often, he brings new-age-ish mysticism into play, introducing terms like “ahimsa” (which he equates to a principle of nonharmfulness), and as much as I agree with him, bringing that element into the discussion is likely to chase some readers off or convince them to dismiss the author as a bit of a tree-hugger. When so much of the book is spent educating the reader about the science behind the gene-splicing industry, adding this element creates a bit of cognitive dissonance: are we talking science, or metaphysics?
And it saddens me to say that, because, despite the number of burgers I wolf down in the average year, I agree that gene-splicing our way to meatier animals is a biological atrocity, while also allowing that the same description may be applied to me eating that last quarter pounder with cheese. (Fortunately, Fox doesn’t try to hard-sell vegetarianism in “Beyond Evolution”.)
On the flipside, I appreciate and applaud Fox’s unrelenting willingness to name names, be they corporate entities or legislative figures who may have sold out to the interests of the corporations. And Fox is admirably non-partisan about it: he name-checks those in the former Clinton administration as well as the former Bush (Sr.) Administration. And while Dr. Fox’s style veers dangerously close to the literary equivalent of running down the street and screaming “They’re putting something in your food!” from time to time, I think this is a truly worthwhile, eye-opening book. Just be open-minded and be ready to deal with some stylistic and perhaps ideological speed bumps.
Author: Dr. Michael W. Fox
Publisher: The Lyons Press