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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Predicting Impacts of Climate Change on Agricultural Systems and Developing Potentials for Adaptation

Location: Plant Physiology and Genetics Research

Title: Beer, Bread and the Seeds of Change

Author
item White, Jeffrey

Submitted to: Field Crops Research
Publication Type: Literature Review
Publication Acceptance Date: April 20, 2011
Publication Date: July 18, 2011
Citation: White, J.W., 2011. Beer, Bread and the Seeds of Change. Field Crops Research, 123:51.

Interpretive Summary: Agricultural research continually seeks to understand what processes might render a system unsustainable or in a more positive light, what innovations might truly transform society. The book Beer, Bread and the Seeds of Change, by Thomas R. Sinclair and Carol J. Sinclair, delivers a thought-provoking view of the role of agriculture throughout history, starting with the Sumerians and ending with the USA in the past 60 years. The epilog briefly examines the implications of the US producing ethanol as a fuel. Themes emphasized in the book are that advances in food production, processing and preservation have underlain the rise and prosperity of civilizations throughout history, and that environmental degradation, most notably through soil erosion and salinization of irrigated lands, has brought civilizations to ruin. From this view of history, the contribution of “great figures in history” rank far behind changes in agriculture that were brought about in large part by incremental improvements from unheralded farmers, millers, brewers, bakers and others. The book is written in an accessible style making it of interest to a wide audience of potential readers ranging from undergraduates to members of the general public. This book review thus should allow interested people to decide whether to read the book or to seek alternate sources of information.

Technical Abstract: Agricultural research continually seeks to understand what processes might render a system unsustainable or in a more positive light, what innovations might truly transform society. The book Beer, Bread and the Seeds of Change, by Thomas R. Sinclair and Carol J. Sinclair, delivers a thought-provoking view of the role of agriculture throughout history, starting with the Sumerians and ending with the USA in the past 60 years. The epilog briefly examines the implications of the US producing ethanol as a fuel. Themes emphasized in the book are that advances in food production, processing and preservation have underlain the rise and prosperity of civilizations throughout history, and that environmental degradation, most notably through soil erosion and salinization of irrigated lands, has brought civilizations to ruin. From this view of history, the contribution of “great figures in history” rank far behind changes in agriculture that were brought about in large part by incremental improvements from unheralded farmers, millers, brewers, bakers and others. The book is written in an accessible style making it of interest to a wide audience of potential readers ranging from undergraduates to members of the general public. This book review thus should allow interested people to decide whether to read the book or to seek alternate sources of information.

Last Modified: 12/28/2014
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