The Threatened Gene: Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity

By Cary Fowler and Pat Mooney

An examination of the potential environmental catastrophe caused by the loss of genetic diversity in agriculture, tracing the development and loss of diversity.

ISBN: 9780718828301


Since the days of the hunter-gatherers, Man has used for food plants of a vast genetic diversity. Yet the very earliest farming laid the seeds of a frightening tendency, greatly increased by the Agricultural Revolution. Uniformity in agriculture has been growing at an ever-increasing rate, most particularly in the use of plant breeds. As fewer varieties are employed, so the neglected ones disappear and are lost to the global gene pool. Genetic erosion is fast gathering pace.

The southern hemisphere now holds most of the world’s germplasm – the genetic basis of seeds – while the developed world is consolidating its control of genetic resources. Unexpected disasters to a particular crop variety will inevitably hit less developed countries harder than the economic superpowers, which still see the problem in short and local terms.

The Threatened Gene looks at the social effects of genetic erosion, from the Irish potato blight to mass Ethiopian starvation. Control over the gene pool is shifting from farmers to scientists and head of industry, while political considerations determine agricultural policy with increasing frequency.

This comprehensive, uncompromising study is written in lay terms from an international perspective. Despite the grimness of the message, the tale is told with fluency and even humour, and offers a solution to potential disaster in which each reader may play a part.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationLGEN


A Word About Varieties

Part One: Legacy of Diversity
1. Origins of Agriculture
2. Development of Diversity
3. Value of Diversity
4. Genetic Erosion: Losing Diversity
5. Tropical Forests

Part Two: Genetic Technology and Politics
6. Rise of the Genetics Supply Industry
7. Enter Biotechnology
8. Global Conservation Begins
9. Politics of Genetic Resource Control
10. Responsibility and Commitment

Part Three: Reference Material

Endorsements and Reviews

This book is essential reading for all politicians, policy makers, and those of us who just love plants.
Melaku Worede, Vice-Chairman, F.A.O. Commission on Plant Genetic Resources

A masterly treatment of a threat to our planet that most of us have never even heard of … one of those rare books that will make you see the work differently.
Frances Moore Lappé, Institute for Food and Development Policy

Fowler and Mooney … are warning us of valuable resources now threatened, but still available to conserve, and they offer both public policy and hands-on ways of doing that.
Jack Doyle, Environmental Policy Institute/Friends of the Earth