Chapter One: Mendel's Little Secret
One of the most cherished dreams of plant breeders has been to find a way to transform corn and other cereal grains into super-plants able to reproduce themselves....The term for this type of vegetative miracle is "apomixis."
-- U.S. Department of Agriculture Press Release, 1998
Thinking about how our food is changing at the hands of the genetic engineers leads inevitably to the image of Gregor Mendel, the Moravian monk, breeding peas in his monastery garden a century and a half ago. Dressed always in a black robe, a pair of tweezers in one hand and a camel-hair paintbrush in the other,...