Book Review: “Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food”

By the year 2050, the number of people on Earth is expected to increase to 9.2 billion from the current 6.7 billion.  What is the best way to produce enough food to feed all these people?  If we continue with current farming practicies, vast amounts of wilderness will be lost, millions of birds and billions of insects will died, farm workers will be at increased risk of disease, and the public will lose billions of dollars as a consequence of environmental degradation.  Clearly, there must be a better way to resolve the need for increased food production with the desire to minimize its impact.

Tomorrow’s Table is a well-written and engaging book written by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak.  Ronald is a plant geneticist and Adamchak is an organic farmer.  And they are both married.

The books opens up with Ronald and Adamchak taking turns in narrating a chapter.  It reads like a story, as Ronald is meandering her way through a rice paddy at the University of California Davis.  You soon realize that Ronald is working on creating a type of rice that will survive, completely submerged in water for up to two weeks – in an effort to help poor farmers in southeast Asia.  And Adamchak is in a crop field lecturing to his class about organic farming techniques, of which you get a very nice synopsis of the history and evolution of it.  Early on, there is a series of interesting exchanges between Adamchak and a student about the applicability of organic versus conventional farming practicies.

The book wonderfully swaps narrative with science, but never quite bogging the reader down in the technical details.  Although the book touches on some of the controversial aspects surrounding the issue of genetic engineering and whether there is utility in organic farming practices – both authors keep their positions focused on how they both have a place in the production of food.

I recommend this book as a good introduction for those interested in learning the fundamentals and science of genetic engineering and organic farming.

And you can listen to my interview with Pam Ronald on this week’s episode of Critical Wit.