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The Story of Seeds: From Mendel's…

The Story of Seeds: From Mendel's Garden to Your Plate, and How…

by Nancy Castaldo

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This text begins with an explanation of why seeds are at risk and how larger farms, use of pesticides and the desire for uniform large yielding crops have caused so many varieties of food crop seeds to disappear from use. The author explains what seeds contain and gives a history of Gregor Mendel's work with pea plant genetics. The text also tells about Luther Burbank's work of developing new plant varieties and Nikolai Vavelov's seed collection. An entire chapter is dedicated to telling the story of seed scientists who risked or lost their lives protecting Russia's valuable seed collection of 187,000 crop varieties from Germans in World War II. Chapters are also included that tell the story of several war torn countries including Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, and the seed scientists working to protect seed banks in those countries. There are even chapters dealing with the Irish Potato Famine, GMO's, cross pollination and the need for biodiversity of food crops and heirloom varieties. The text details a wide variety of food crops from cocoa, bananas, watermelons, and apples to corn and potatoes. The text includes many photos throughout and small circular information grids to the side of the main text on several pages. These grids gave extra information to the reader; the kind you might want when competing on "Jeopardy"! The author takes a partisan tone in the text as it is clear that he is calling readers to see the need for seed preservation. The author interviews several seed scientists and the passion of those individuals is clear throughout the text. The author uses vivid, precise and emotional language as well as scientific evidence to convince the reader to take a stand on this issue of seed preservation. The author calls the reader to action to save seeds and help protect seeds from genetic modification. The text gives a list of what you can do with seed libraries and seed banks or vaults. The author lists sources and tells of his interviews of scientists around the world. Many additional resources are included for the reader. ( )
  ldbecker | Mar 11, 2018 |
Castaldo's last book, Sniffer Dogs, was awesome but I was a little taken aback to see she'd jumped to such a different subject. Still, I decided to sample it and was intrigued enough that I ordered it for the library before I'd finished reading it!

Castaldo begins by explaining the vital importance of seeds and biodiversity. She discusses how seeds have been viewed and used through history and then the current discussions surrounding genetic modification of seeds. Finally, she discusses the vaults and processes being put into place around the world to protect seeds and biodiversity and how readers can get involved from local seed libraries to buying heirloom seeds and plants.

The resources include a list of seed companies, an overview of seed libraries along with locations in each state, further information that includes organizations, documentaries, books and museums. There is a glossary, author's note about the inspiration behind the book, timeline from Gregor Mendel's birth to Vermont's GMO labeling law in 2014, and index.

Throughout the book are included stories from personal anecdotes to tales of past and current "seed warriors" who are fighting for genetic diversity and saving seeds. There are also discussions of topics such as labeling foods made with GMOs, and interesting facts and seeds and crops.

There are a couple things that bother me, one personal and one just confusing. The seed library in my town (Walworth County Seed Library) is listed, but as far as I know it has not been active since 2014. It might still be ongoing, but their web presence is gone. But if the author knows how to contact them I wish I knew because we could get them involved in our library garden project! Secondly, and this is somewhat a personal gripe, but I feel that books suggesting environmental protection and conservation are always packed with a lot of privilege. Suggestions include buying via a CSA, getting in touch with local farmers, composting and community gardens, the usual suggestions for reducing use of fossil fuels and other projects. However, the assumption that you have time, an appropriate space, money and education to invest in these things bothers me. Of course, that's not the point of the book and I did appreciate that the book didn't just discuss how a typical, middle class suburban family would be affected by biodiversity and GMOs but also other countries, farmers at different levels, and people from many different cultures.

Verdict: Mature readers will appreciate the thoughtful discussion of a controversial current issue; for them, it would make a good pairing with Fleischman's Eyes Wide Open, discussing news and the environment. Less mature readers will be drawn in by Castaldo's excellent storytelling skills and will be fascinated, horrified, and inspired by the stories she tells. I look forward to booktalking this one to upper level students and adults. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780544230239; Published 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library
  JeanLittleLibrary | Aug 7, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0544320239, Hardcover)

Something as small as a seed can have a worldwide impact. Did you know there are top-secret seed vaults hidden throughout the world? And once a seed disappears, that’s it—it’s gone forever? With the growth of genetically modified foods, the use of many seeds is dwindling—of 80,000 edible plants, only about 150 are being cultivated. With a global cast of men and women, scientists and laypeople, and photographic documentation, Nancy Castaldo chronicles where our food comes from, and more importantly, where it is going as she digs deeper into the importance of seeds in our world. This empowering book also calls young adult readers to action with suggestions as to how they can preserve the variety of one of our most valuable food sources through simple everyday actions. Readers of Michael Pollen will enjoy the depth and fascinatingly intricate social economy of seeds.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 02 Feb 2016 16:46:04 -0500)

"With the growth of genetically modified foods, the use of many seeds is dwindling--of 80,000 edible plants, only about 150 are being cultivated. With a global cast of men and women, scientists and laypeople, and photographic documentation, Nancy Castaldo chronicles where our food comes from, and more importantly, where it is going as she digs deeper into the importance of seeds in our world"--Amazon.com.… (more)

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