Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds

By Claire Hope Cummings | Go to book overview

FOUR

The Ownership Society

This is the patent age of new inventions
for killing bodies, and for saving souls,
All propagated with the best intentions.

LORD BYRON


America's Heartland

America's heartland is not so much a place as it is an idea. It's an image that runs deep in the nation's psyche. The visual stereotype that goes with it is a cloudless blue sky, a bright red barn, and amber waves of grain. Sometimes there's an old tractor puttering through the fields. The emotion this image evokes is admiration for the independent farmer and respect for America's rural communities. Just cue up a few chords of fiddle music and you have a theme used by every politician who ever ran for national office. It's a staple image used by agribusiness in its advertising as well. It can be found all over the grocery store, especially on boxes of cereal, put there to suggest that the food you're buying comes from a farm rather than from a factory.

The reality is that the life of the farmer today is all but forgotten. Farmers have been living under harsh economic conditions for the past three decades, a chronic crisis of falling incomes and rising costs. The pain of these challenges was documented by Joel Dyer in his book Harvest of Rage. He explained how the financial losses for farm families were so unbearable that suicide

-65-

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Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • A Note on the Terminology ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xv
  • The Rise of the Techno-Elites 1
  • One - Trade Secrets 3
  • Two - Trespass 23
  • Three - Political Science 45
  • Four - The Ownership Society 65
  • The Turning Points 85
  • Five - Who Owns Rice? 87
  • Six - The Botany of Scarcity 106
  • Seven - The Botany of Abundance 128
  • A Green Wealth 145
  • Eight - Ripe for Change 147
  • Nine - A Conversation with Corn 163
  • Ten - The Down-Turned Hand 179
  • A Cabinet of Seeds Displayed 193
  • Epilogue - The Seeded Earth 195
  • Acknowledgments 206
  • Sources and Resources 209
  • Index 219
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