Never out of season How having the food we want when we want it threatens our food supply and our future

Rob R. Dunn

Book - 2017

The bananas we eat today aren't our parents' bananas: We eat a recognizable, consistent fruit that was standardized in the 1960s from dozens into one basic banana. But because of that, the banana we love is dangerously susceptible to a pathogen that might wipe them out. That's the story of our food today: Modern science has brought us produce in perpetual abundance--once-rare fruits are seemingly never out of season, and we breed and clone the hardiest, best-tasting varieties of t...he crops we rely on most. As a result, a smaller proportion of people on earth go hungry today than at any other moment in the last thousand years, and the streamlining of our food supply guarantees that the food we buy, from bananas to coffee to wheat, tastes the same every single time. Our corporate food system has nearly perfected the process of turning sunlight, water and nutrients into food. But our crops themselves remain susceptible to nature's fury. And nature always wins.

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

338.19/Dunn
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 338.19/Dunn Checked In
Subjects
Published
New York : Little, Brown and Company 2017.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
vii, 323 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 265-310) and index.
ISBN
9780316260725
031626072X
Main Author
Rob R. Dunn (author)
  • A banana in every bowl
  • An island like ours
  • The perfect pathological storm
  • Escape is temporary
  • My enemy's enemy is my friend
  • Chocolate terrorism
  • The meltdown of the chocolate ecosystem
  • Prospecting for seeds
  • the siege
  • The grass eaters
  • Henry Ford's jungle
  • Why we need wild nature
  • The Red Queen and the long game
  • Fowler's ark
  • Grains, guns, and desertification
  • Preparing for the flood
  • Epilogue: What do I do?
Review by Booklist Reviews

Well researched historically and scientifically, this admonitory book on the future of our foodways is an interesting read on agricultural sustainability. Dunn illustrates the dangers of our simplified and affordable food supply in tales of pathogens and pests that have plagued farms across the globe and threatened myriad commercialized staple crops. As plantations and farms become more homogeneous by planting single varietals, the lack of diversification among crop species opens up a Pandora's box of problems threatening crop success. Entire plantations of such foodstuffs as bananas, coffee, cacao, and potatoes have been wiped out during the last few centuries by various pests, causing famine and threatening entire countries and cultures. Dunn describes the success story of using wasps in Africa to control the mealy bug that was threatening the continent's main staple, cassava. He also champions those who, during the past century, collected and maintained seed banks to protect future generations. The chapters can seem a bit repetitive in discussing the similar issues of various crops, yet overall this is thought-provoking. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Dunn (applied ecology, North Carolina State Univ., Natural History Museum of Denmark, Univ. of Copenhagen; The Man Who Touched His Own Heart) argues that modern science has had an adverse effect on food production: crops are bred and cloned so that people have a boundless surplus, and the process is simplified so that food tastes the same each time. The author begins with the history of the banana and its vulnerability to a pathogen that could kill the fruit. He describes how cacao is one of the most endangered crops in the world because of the disease witches' broom. Dunn also devotes a chapter to Henry Ford's agricultural legacy and how the invention of cars and tractors has affected urban and suburban ways of life. Overall, this book explains how scientists are trying to change the artificial production of food, which in turn will help society. Although this volume is thoroughly researched, with many scholarly sources cited, it's accessible, and general readers will find it comprehensible. VERDICT Recommended for anyone interested in agriculture, agricultural history, food science, or general biology.—Tina Chan, MIT Libs., Cambridge Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Dunn (The Man Who Touched His Own Heart), professor of applied ecology at NC State, cautions against monoculture in this cogent and optimistic examination of our food system, arguing that having whatever food we want whenever we want isn't necessarily a good thing. Using the banana as an example, Dunn shows how the desire for consistency and uniformity in a particular product often ignores the larger picture. Once upon a time, there were all sorts of bananas, but in recent decades commercially available bananas have largely been the Cavendish variety. They are "all genetically identical" and susceptible to an evolved version of the pathogen that destroyed Gros Michel bananas before them. Dunn also looks back at the causes and effects of the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and the threats to African cassava crops during the 1970s. His discussions of Soviet botanist Nikolai Vavilov's remarkable seed collection in the 1940s are inspiring, and he celebrates the work and commitment of the specialists tasked with guarding it during the WWII siege of Leningrad. That scientists and researchers continue to play significant roles in the fight for agricultural diversity and sustainability gives Dunn hope. Agent: Victoria Pryor, Arcadia Literary. (Mar.) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A biologist explains how the scientific breeding of our food supply into only the hardiest and tastiest varieties has made these crops susceptible to Mother Nature and discusses how a single bug or virus can now cause a massive collapse. 35,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The bananas we eat today aren't your parents' bananas: We eat a recognizable, consistent breakfast fruit that was standardized in the 1960s from dozens into one basic banana. But because of that, the banana we love is dangerously susceptible to a pathogen that might wipe them out. That's the story of our food today: Modern science has brought us produce in perpetual abundance once-rare fruits are seemingly never out of season, and we breed and clone the hardiest, best-tasting varieties of the crops we rely on most. As a result, a smaller proportion of people on earth go hungry today than at any other moment in the last thousand years, and the streamlining of our food supply guarantees that the food we buy, from bananas to coffee to wheat, tastes the same every single time. Our corporate food system has nearly perfected the process of turning sunlight, water and nutrients into food. But our crops themselves remain susceptible to the nature's fury. And nature always wins. Authoritative, urgent, and filled with fascinating heroes and villains from around the world, Never Out of Season is the story of the crops we depend on most and the scientists racing to preserve the diversity of life, in order to save our food supply, and us.