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Blogs discussing Darwinian Agriculture

The bloggers and commentators at Agricultural Biodiversity set the standard for insightful discussion of many agricultural issues, so I was hoping they would review my book. Jeremy Cherfas has just posted the first half of a two-part review.

Tyler Cowen also mentions my book, briefly, in the web version of his op-ed on world hunger in the New York Times, posted on his blog, Marginal Revolution.

Cherfas's review and Cowen's mention are both positive. Both are reasonable summaries. Both somewhat over-state my doubts about biotechnology's potential, however. Yes, many of the approaches suggested or tried by biotechnologists have already been tested and rejected by natural selection. But some tradeoffs rejected by natural selection may be acceptable to us. Less-bitter cucumbers may attract rabbits, but we can build fences.

Eventually, we may learn how to design and implement improvements so radically different from anything that exists now that they have never been tested by natural selection. Radical innovations may carry unknown risks, however.


Less bitter cucumbers is a reasonable trade-off. But less spiky millets and less bitter lupins were a disaster, mostly because birds are much harder to keep out.

Do less bitter cukes actually attract rabbits - or might the mechanism more resemble a failure to repel rabbits like bitter cukes?

You are right, of course.

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