Genetic engineering has a wide range of cultural, economic, and ethical implications, yet it has become almost an article of faith that regulatory decisions about biotechnology be based only on evidence of specific quantifiable risks; to consider anything else is said to “politicize” regulation. In this study of social protest against genetically engineered food, Abby Kinchy turns the conventional argument on its head.
The Metamorphosis of Plants, originally published in 1790, was Goethe's first major attempt to describe what he called in a letter to a friend "the truth about the how of the organism." Inspired by the diversity of flora he found on a journey to Italy, Goethe sought a unity of form in diverse structures. He came to see in the leaf the germ of a plant's metamorphosis—"the true Proteus who can hide or reveal himself in all vegetal forms"—from the root and stem leaves to the calyx and corolla, to pistil and stamens.
Virtually all cultures consume drugs from psychoactive plants. Caffeine, for example, is probably the most common stimulant in the world, and many modern medicines, such as morphine and codeine, are derived from plant sources. In these cases, scientific research has revealed the composition of the plants and how they interact with the nervous system.
Plants that catch and feed upon animals exert a strange fascination of their own. The mobile tentacles of the Sundews, the snapping lobes of the Venus Fly Trap and the slippery, baited pitfalls of the Pitcher Plants provide the stuff of which science fiction is made. Yet far from being fantasy, these extraordinary organisms are fact, and this book explores in depth the astonishingly subtle manner in which each type of trap entices, catches, and digests its prey.