Select one of the keywords
Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating    by Jane Goodall, Gary McAvoy & Gail Hudson order for
Harvest for Hope
by Jane Goodall
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, CD

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In her Introduction, Jane Goodall speaks of how her involvement with chimpanzees (which her name brings to mind for most people) evolved to encompass more global issues. She speaks of the barrier that 'corporate control over our food and culture' has built between us and what we eat, 'a barrier that is supposed to prevent us from realizing the devastation and suffering that, so often, is implicit in each bite.' Though she calls it a David and Goliath struggle, Goodall emphasizes that 'every individual makes a difference.'

She builds up gradually to the starker issues, opening with insights obtained from the study of chimps and prehistoric humans into the evolution of eating behaviors. Next comes a survey of foods and culinary customs in different cultures, including a fascinating mention of geophagy (earth eating) shared by both chimps and humans. She discusses how traditional farming has been changed, first by monocultures (planting the same crop), and then by chemical fertilization that creates a vicious circle of increasing pesticide resistance in insects requiring more chemicals (analogous to the overuse of antibiotics in animals and humans). There's a worrying 1994 study on effects of pesticide exposure comparing two groups of Mexican kids - higher exposures correlated to poorer hand-eye coordination and memory problems. Goodall tells us that Rachel Carson's prophecy in Silent Spring 'has been fulfilled in many other places', and wonders 'How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our foods with poisons?'

What Goodall calls a harvest for hope is the trend to produce (and buy) organic food (called biofood in Europe)- the difference between deep and shallow organic is explained further on in the book. But countering that positive development is the 'appearance of genetically modified crops - GM foods.' I've been wondering for some time what the deal is with them. Reading about corn altered to produce its own bacterial toxin (present in every cell), to kill insects, made it clear. You can't wash, scrub or peel it off as you can with pesticides sprayed on fruits. Most of us have heard about GM crops spreading to neighboring farmlands - a kind of biological pollution. Goodall also notes that animals avoid GM foods. It's pretty disturbing, especially concerns about subjective testing, given that human health is at risk. The book tells us that N. American kids have unknowingly 'become the world's lab animals on whom to study the long-term effects of eating GM products.' It advises how to become an anti-GM activist and how to avoid eating GMOs.

After putting me off most of my dinner, Goodall finishes the job by explaining how 'living beings capable of suffering pain and fear' are treated as machines in Animal Factories - the slaughterhouse, was actually the model for Ford's assembly line. Even those without compassion should be concerned by the role this torture of living creatures has in the development of diseases like mad cow and avian 'flu. From land, she moves out to sea, where fish farms, 'the equivalent of floating hog or poultry farms', produce huge amounts of waste. Next Goodall takes on Global Supermarkets, and the enormous distances traveled by so-called fresh food. I was interested to read of the growing popularity in Japan of teikei (putting the farmer's face on the food). Goodall advocates for making time for family meals and for healthier school meals, countering the 'unholy alliance with fast food chains and soft drink companies'. She addresses the Looming Water Crisis, the lack of regulation in bottled waters, and expresses concern over a growing corporate control of global water supplies.

Read this book for clear, logical arguments from an individual known for her wisdom and humanity. Though the problems seem overwhelming, Goodall tells us about the positives too, emphasizing the wondrous things of which the human brain is capable unless 'there is a disconnect between mind and heart'. She provides many specific suggestions of what individuals can do, from talking to a grocer to buying fair-trade and organic, and reducing meat eating. There's plenty of both disturbing and inspiring food for thought in Harvest for Hope.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews