For more than a century, we have relied on chemical cures to keep our bodies free from disease and our farms free from bugs and weeds. We rarely consider human and agricultural health together, but both are based on the same ecology, and both are being threatened by organisms that have evolved to resist our antibiotics and pesticides. Patients suffer from C.diff, a painful, potentially lethal gut infection associated with multiple rounds of antibiotics; orange groves rot from insect-borne bacteria; and the blight responsible for the Irish potato famine outmaneuvers fungicides. Our chemicals are failing us.
Fortunately, scientists are finding new solutions that work with, rather than against, nature. Emily Monosson explores science's most innovative strategies, from high-tech gene editing to the ancient practice of fecal transplants. There are viruses that infect and bust apart bacteria; vaccines engineered to better provoke our natural defenses; and insect pheromones that throw crop-destroying moths into a misguided sexual frenzy. Some technologies will ultimately fizzle; others may hold the key to abundant food and unprecedented health. Each represents a growing understanding of how to employ ecology for our own protection.
Monosson gives readers a peek into the fascinating and hopeful world of natural defenses. Her book is full of optimism, not simply for particular cures, but for a sustainable approach to human welfare that will benefit generations to come.
"Monosson shows us how to borrow the best from nature and technology to protect people, plants, and the planet. A must-read for anyone looking for sustainable solutions for fighting infection and maintaining health."
– Daphne Miller MD, author of Farmacology: Total Health from the Ground Up
"In Natural Defense, Emily Monosson introduces readers to scientists grappling with both human and landscape health and trying to work with, instead of beat back, nature. A hopeful vision of how humans might thrive on this planet."
– Kristin Ohlson, author of The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet
"Our solutions to controlling pests and disease face a formidable foe: evolution. Monosson takes us on a clear-eyed tour of biological alternatives in both medicine and farming, which may help lessen our reliance on antibiotics, pesticides, and more. With deft prose and fascinating anecdotes, Monosson's survey of the latest scientific research leaves us in awe of humankind's ingenuity."
– Brooke Borel, author of Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World
Chapter 1. Natural Allies: Our Bacterial Protectors
Chapter 2. Natural Allies: How the Smallest of All Can Help Feed the World
Chapter 3. The Enemy of Our Enemy is Our Friend: Infecting the Infection
Chapter 4. The Enemy of Our Enemy is Our Friend: Replacing Pesticides with Nature’s Chemistry
Chapter 5. Provocation: GMOs and the Science of Protecting Plants, Naturally
Chapter 6. Provocation: The Next Generation of Vaccines
Chapter 7. Know Thine Enemy: Diagnosing Crop Disease Goes High Tech
Chapter 8. Know Thine Enemy: The Future of Diagnostics
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Emily Monosson is an environmental toxicologist and writer. She is an independent scholar at the Ronin Institute and an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of Unnatural Selection: How We are Changing Life, Gene by Gene and Evolution in a Toxic World: How Life Responds to Chemical Threats, and editor of Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory: Women Scientists Speak Out.