Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds

By Claire Hope Cummings | Go to book overview

ONE

Trade Secrets

History celebrates the battle-fields whereon we meet
our death, but scorns to speak of the ploughed fields
whereby we thrive; it knows the names of the king's
bastards, but cannot tell the origin of wheat. That is
the way of human folly.

J. H. FABRE, The Wonders of Instinct


Abu Ghraib, Baghdad, Iraq

Iraq is located in the legendary Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, where wheat, barley, lentils, and other important grains were first domesticated thousands of years ago. Ancient texts, the Bible, archaeological evidence, and LANDSAT images have led scholars to believe that southern Iraq might be where the biblical Garden of Eden was. An ancient valley, now underwater, has been found where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, mentioned in the Book of Genesis, empty into the Persian Gulf.

Iraq has a priceless seed heritage. Since ancient times, cereals, vegetables, dates, fiber, and medicinal plants that are unique to Iraq have been grown here. In the mid-1970s, Iraq's Ministry of Agriculture gathered seeds from all over the country and established a collection containing 1,400 different “accessions,” or distinct varieties. They built a seed bank along with a plant-breeding institute and botanical garden in a suburb west of Baghdad known as Abu Ghraib, not far from the now infamous prison. Then, in

-3-

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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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