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Patenting Life? Stop!

Patenting Life? Stop!
by Sean McDonagh
Dominican Publications (2003)
RRP $32.95 (paperback)

Fr McDonagh tackles the important contemporary environmental issue of biotechnology’s developing challenge and its current negative impact on the diversity of life in our world and the move toward making more artificially genetically modified food products.

A single crop like corn used to have many varieties which have contributed to their God-given ability to adapt to new environments and diseases. Patenting and marketing has led to a severe reduction in the diversity of certain staple food crops. Direct genetic manipulation of a species while promising much in increased yields and vigour, still presents many problems in terms of unplanned effects, toxicity and spreading of GM species.

McDonagh introduces these issues from a Christian perspective as well as summarising the national and corporate politics which threaten an ongoing major environment impact.

These issues will affect us all in the next decade on a daily basis. However, I found some aspects of McDonagh’s analysis frustrating.

His examples flit from the assumed evils of transnational companies to crop production in Asia and Africa to Dolly the sheep, almost at random.

Much of the content and proposed activism would be found in any secular documentary reporting and on the excellent list of websites included in the book’s appendix.

Biblical and Christian reflection was expected and this could have been more thorough to highlight the contribution that clear Christian thinking can make to this issue.

His final chapter is the best and summarises the issues and what is at stake for all of us while we live on this planet. A useful read for those new to the issue; the experienced reader will be looking for more.