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Margaret Campbell is a forensic pathologist from Chicago. Li Yan is a Beijing detective with a horribly burned corpse on his hands.
She has a broken life behind her, a lonely future dedicated to her profession in front. He has survived two decades of violent change by marrying himself to a career which now promises, at last, to bring him the respected place in Chinese society that his family lost
in the Cultural Revolution.
Neither of them is ready for the
consequences of asking the wrong questions about the dead man.
The ones that lead to the terrifying truth.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Intense and fascinating (Good Book Guide)
Stunningly original, highly topical and extremely well written novel. (Scotland on Sunday)
Is the book any good?The answer is a very solid...yes...it's engaging, topical...and certainly qualifies Peter May as a name to watch. (Shots)
Two years ago I attended a conference on GM foods in Edinburgh. I went in with an open mind to hear what the scientists had to say. I came out with fear in my heart, and a determination to do whatever I could to stop them.
So I did the only thing I knew how - write a thriller that lifts the lid on a Pandora's box of GM horrors, exploring the doomsday scenario of what might happen if the scientists get it wrong.
After an incredible journey that took me around the world to China, and many hours spent on the Internet talking to people across the globe, the fruits of that determination have finally reached the bookshelves.
"The Firemaker" is set in Beijing amidst political and commercial intrigue leading to murder. Although it is fiction, it is soundly based in fact. It is my way of sharing my fears about the potentially lethal threat that these Frankenstein foods could pose to all of us .
But I didn't just want to tell a scary story.
I wanted to communicate the anger I felt at that Edinburgh conference, when I listened to Professor John Smith, a Government food advisor, declaring there is no point in trying to explain GM foods to people, because they are too stupid to understand it.
I wanted to share the disgust I felt at hearing him shout down the argument for labelling by asserting that: "In ten years time all food will be genetically engineered."
And, most of all, I wanted to share the fear I experienced as I delved into the murky world of the biotech companies, and discovered what was really happening...
...that viruses used to transfer genes from food to food have been shown in the laboratory to mutate, with the potential to affect humans, animals or crops and lead to devastating epidemics or famine...
...that a genetically engineered food supplement has killed thirty-seven people in the United States, and permanently disabled another fifteen hundred...
...that new proteins in GM foods have already led to severe allergic reactions in some people, and may also be causing autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, lupus and diabetes...
...that the use of antibiotic resistance genes in the GM process is creating antibiotic resistant superbugs, making antibiotics ineffective in treating human and animal diseases...
...that cross pollination can spread weed-killer resistance from GM crops to other plants, creating superweeds, altering the ecology, and threatening wildlife.
In addition, I found that top geneticists around the world are vehemently opposed to the further development of GM crops.
Norman Ellstrand, Professor of Genetics at the University of California, believes that within ten years we will have "a moderate to large-scale ecological or economic catastrophe" as a result of releasing genetically modified organisms into the environment.
Joe Cummins, Professor Emeritus of Genetics at the University of Western Ontario, claims that "human consumers are test organisms in a terribly designed experiment".
So why, when there is so much evidence to the contrary, are the biotech companies still insisting that GM foods are completely safe, and the Government still refusing to place a moratorium on further research?
The answer lies back in that Edinburgh seminar of 1997 when Professor Michael Wilson, then depute director of the Scottish Crop Research Institute, told his audience: "World markets for biologically developed products and processes will be $100 billion by the turn of the century."
GM foods means big bucks. And when the stakes are that high, you can be sure the big boys aren't just going to walk away. They're going to try to influence the decision-makers by making donations to political parties, and by ensuring that the scientists who advise governments are reliant on them for research funding.
Even so, they have found themselves fighting a losing battle in Europe and the UK, where consumers are wary, and most supermarkets have now banned GM products from their shelves. But they are already well-entrenched in third world and developing countries where lack of regulation means they can experiment almost at will - without any regard for the environment.
That is why the book is set in China. A developing country with more than a fifth of the world's population to feed, China has a very powerful incentive to increase food production. And in spite of spectacular crop failures in the US and India, that's exactly what the biotech companies are promising they can do.
So money, corruption and GM rice are the keys to my story - with murder as the catalyst, and China as the backdrop.
Having meticulously researched the GM component of the book, I went to China to research the setting.
Although I had been there twice, I went this time with the calling card of an ex-New York cop who is one of the world's leading authorities on crime and terrorism.
Dr. Richard Ward has personally trained the top five hundred police officers in China. I conferred with him by e-mail for nearly a year before we finally met in Paris. There he ran his rule of approval over me before providing me with an introduction to a host of extraordinary contacts in Beijing.
His name opened doors for me that no Western writer has ever passed through before. I received unprecedented access to the Beijing police, and was finally, uniquely, able to provide my story with the stamp of absolute authenticity.
So now "The Firemaker" is out there. I have achieved that, at least. For too long the biotech companies have had it all their own way. Who knows. Maybe they're right - and maybe the scaremongers are wrong.
But let's get the debate out in the open, put the facts on the table and let us decide - not them... or the government.
After all, we are the consumer, in the most real sense of the word. And we don't want to be eating the seeds of our own destruction. Do we?
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Book Description Coronet Books, 1999. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110340738359