First Fruit: The Creation of the Flavr Savr Tomato and the Birth of Biotech Food

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9780071400275: First Fruit: The Creation of the Flavr Savr Tomato and the Birth of Biotech Food

In 1994 a little biotech firm called Calgene introduced the Flavr Savr tomato, the first genetically-engineered food brought to market. Belinda Martineau served on the scientific team that developed the Flavr Savr, and when Calgene voluntarily submitted its product for FDA and USDA approval, Martineau provided most of the scientific evidence that led to its certification as safe for human consumption. She concurred with Calgene's belief that the approval process would inform the public of the pros and cons of genetically-modified foods. Yet ultimately the process of engineering the Flavr Savr and bringing it to market made her question the validity of the product. The Flavr Savr was generally accepted by the public, despite some fierce opposition by environmentalists and consumer advocates, yet it did not prove to be commercially viable. This is an inside look at the making of the Flavr Savr from its conception, through its introduction to market, to its disappearance. Martineau reveals how the science of genetic engineering is really done, how corporate decisions are really made in biotech start-ups, and how the regulatory system does and does not work. Most importantly, the work goes behind the emotional issues surrounding genetically-modified foods and shows that the benefits and risks of this brave new technology are much more complicated than people realise.

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Review:

"A must read for those interested in understanding the history and future of biotech food." - Choice

From the Back Cover:

"[Dr. Martineau] captures the excitement of those providing the scientific foundation for agricultural biotechnology."­­Joel Cohen, Principal Research Officer, Biotechnology, International Service for National Agricultural Research, The Hague, The Netherlands

In the wake of controversy surrounding genetically engineered crops, few remember the humble tomato that began the new world of biotech food. First Fruit is the inside story of the rise and fall of the Flavr SavrTM tomato, the first genetically engineered whole food brought to market.

In a narrative of colorful characters and eye-opening revelations, Belinda Martineau chronicles the making of the Flavr Savr, from its conception to its ignominious demise. In fascinating detail, she explains how genes are added to or switched off in plants through genetic engineering. She describes the experiments that convinced FDA regulators that the Flavr Savr tomato was "as safe as tomatoes bred by conventional means" and paved the regulatory road for the biotech foods that have followed. First Fruit also offers a revealing glimpse into how corporate decisions surrounding the "design" of these new foods are made.

First Fruit is a frank assessment of this revolutionary new technology, its benefits, its risks, and the multibillion dollar industry it created. Raising as many questions as it answers, it is a cautionary tale for the dawning Biotech Age.

"Martineau's book provides direction for the future as well as a guide to the past."­­Rebecca Goldburg, Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense

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