In This Review

Bountiful Harvest: Technology, Food Safety, and the Environment
Bountiful Harvest: Technology, Food Safety, and the Environment
By Thomas R. Degregori
Cato Institute, 2002, 263 pp.

Some postmodernist and environmentalist observers suggest that humankind is increasingly being poisoned by industrial chemicals -- as pesticides, herbicides, and other forms. Legislation often forces environmental enforcement agencies in the United States and Europe to take a zero-tolerance approach. DeGregori asks a simple question: If we are being poisoned by the products of the modern age, why are human beings living longer and healthier lives than they did in 1950 or 1900? This thoughtful book takes on the antitechnological intellectual movement that goes back to the philosophers of classical Greece (with parallels in Chinese and Indian civilizations) to argue that this bias is misguided, given that human well-being and creative development are worthy objectives. He documents in illuminating detail how technophobia and nostalgia for a simpler, more benign past -- which in fact never existed for most people -- threatens to jeopardize continuing economic progress, especially in poor regions of the world. The author is a forthright techno-optimist, but he embeds this optimism in a sophisticated view of technological evolution that acknowledges and addresses its attendant risks along with its great promise.