First Fruit: The Creation of the Flavr Savr Tomato and the Birth of Biotech Foods – Belinda Martineau
|First Fruit: The Creation of the Flavr Savr Tomato and the Birth of Biotech Foods|
|Type: ||eBook |
|Released: ||2001 |
|Publisher: ||McGraw-Hill Companies |
|Page Count: ||269 |
|Format: ||pdf |
|Language: ||English |
|ISBN-10: ||0071360565 |
|ISBN-13: ||9780071360562 |
Engaging both sides of the agricultural biotech controversy and hoping to initiate a reasoned dialogue, geneticist Belinda Martineau explores the development and eventual failure of the Flavr Savr tomato in First Fruit. One of the Calgene scientists who worked on the tomato (the first genetically modified food on the market), she offers great insight into the scientific and business factors that drive the research and marketing of biotech products. Concerned about the eager and simplistic denial of most of her colleagues when faced with protests from consumer advocates, she wants to see more direct communication between the two sides.
Using the story of Flavr Savr's development, Martineau shows the reader both the quality of biotech research and the power of management to obfuscate or otherwise affect that work. Though straying into dead-end stories of her colleagues' interactions a little too often, for the most part the narrative flows smoothly and draws the reader along swiftly to the tomato's eventual, inevitable demise in the market. Ironically, the Flavr Savr failed more because it couldn't live up to Calgene's nearly messianic marketing than from any protester's work, even if it did launch a few activists' careers. Telling industry to pay more heed to honesty and research while suggesting that the public pursue better scientific education shouldn't be asking too much--perhaps First Fruit will help de-escalate the debate. --Rob Lightner
From the Inside Flap
Amid the storm of controversy raging over insect-resistant corn, Roundup®-Ready soybeans, and other "Frankenfoods," few people remember the humble tomato that gave birth to the brave new world of biotech food. First Fruit is the fascinating inside story of the rise and fall of the Flavr SavrTM tomato, the first genetically engineered whole food ever brought to market.
Created by Calgene, a small California-based biotech start-up, the Flavr Savr went on sale in Spring 1994, just three days after receiving approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Despite its premium price and mixed reviews from environmentalists and tomato tasters, the world first biotech food, proudly labeled as such, sold like hot cakes. But amid that high demand, Calgene's ability to supply MacGregor's® tomatoes, grown from Flavr Savr seeds, was extremely limited. Instead of taking a generous bite out of the $4 billion U.S. retail market for fresh tomatoes, Calgene suffered negative gross margins in its tomato business that led to losses to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a year. The Flavr Savr gene was, in the end, of only marginal value to a fresh market tomato business. Less than two years after its national rollout, the Flavr Savr tomato forever disappeared from the shelves.
In a fast-paced narrative full of colorful characters, surprising twists and turns, and more than a few eye-opening revelations, former Calgene scientist Belinda Martineau chronicles the making of the Flavr Savr, from its conception to its ignominious disappearance. In the process she explains how genes are added to or, as in the case of the Flavr Savr, effectively switched off in plants through genetic engineering. She describes the experiments that not only convinced FDA regulators that the Flavr Savr tomato was "as safe as tomatoes bred by conventional means" but also paved the regulatory road for all the biotech foods that have followed. First Fruit also offers a revealing glimpse into how corporate decisions like whether to label genetically engineered products and how to "position" a "slow-to-rot" tomato as a vine-ripened, farm-stand-fresh consumer's dream are made in ag biotech start-ups.
During her seven years as a member of the team that developed the tomato and secured its regulatory approval, Martineau underwent a transformation from devout believer in the promise of biotechnology to battle-weary skeptic. As a consequence, her story contains a degree of depth and candor unusual at a time when most of what is written about genetically engineered foods is steeped in the rhetoric of those on one side or the other of the impassioned debate over agricultural biotechnology. First Fruit is a frank assessment of this revolutionary new technology, its benefits as well as its risks, and the multibillion dollar industry it engendered. Raising as many provocative questions as it answers, it serves as a cautionary tale for the dawning Biotech Age.
"Martineau's book provides direction for the future as well as a guide to the past."
"A remarkably insightful journey behind industry's closed doors on one side, and the public world of regulatory affairs on the other. [Dr. Martineau] captures the excitement of those providing the scientific foundation for agricultural biotechnology and explains the expanding array of science needed to address the complex regulatory hurdles that color perceptions of farmers, consumers and advocacy groups."
Principal Research Officer, Biotechnology
International Service for National Agricultural Research
The Hague, The Netherlands. Download First Fruit: The Creation of the Flavr Savr Tomato and the Birth of Biotech Foods – Belinda Martineau PDF free