PERSONAL: Male. Education: Illinois Wesleyan University, B.A., 1972; University of Illinois, Springfield, M.A., 1973. Hobbies and other interests: Fishing.
ADDRESSES: Home—Fairhaven, MD. Office—c/o St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, MO, Washington correspondent, 1984—. Co-founder, Bay Weekly (newspaper).
AWARDS, HONORS: Society of Professional Journalists Award, 1989, for "Trashing the Earth"; Raymond Clapper Award, 1989, for "Trashing the Earth," 1993, for "Broken Trust," and 1999, for a series on genetic engineering; Outstanding Alumni Award, University of Illinois, Springfield, 1996; multiple nominations for the Pulitzer Prize.
Dinner at the New Gene Café: How Genetic Engineering Is Changing What We Eat, How We Live, and the Global Politics of Food, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A study of the global water supply.
SIDELIGHTS: Bill Lambrecht is a journalist who has long specialized in both political and environmental reportage. In his first book, he demonstrates how these issues are related; Dinner at the New Gene Café: How Genetic Engineering Is Changing What We Eat, How We Live, and the Global Politics of Food brings Lambrecht's years of researching and reporting on science, technology, business, agriculture, politics, and the environment to bear on the controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Lambrecht's primary career has been as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. St. Louis is the home of the Monsanto Company, a leading biotechnology corporation that found itself at the center of the debate over GMOs. Lambrecht's research, however, took him to thirteen different countries over a period of several years. Lambrecht labors to tell all sides of the story, including in the book interviews with Monsanto chairman Robert B. Shapiro, farmers who hope GMOs will rescue a faltering agricultural sector, and anti-GMO activists. Speaking to the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology Web site, Lambrecht recalled, "You find people on both sides of the debate that wanted me to write more about their issues, but I had to be balanced and objective. . . . I write from the intersection of science and politics. I'm a journalist, not an advocate. I wrote this book to give people what they need to make choices about a transforming technology."
In fact, one of the major themes of Lambrecht's book is how little information the public currently has about GMOs, which do not have to be labeled as such under current U.S. government regulations. Lambrecht suggests that U.S. consumers lack the awareness of the sources of their food that other countries have developed, in part because they have not experienced the famines and scares familiar to Europe and other nations. A press release from Lambrecht's alma mater, Illinois Wesleyan University, quoted the journalist emphasizing the importance of better public awareness: "Food sustains life and my view is that people should know the origin of what they eat. In a few short years, a handful of companies have swiftly organized the beginning of the genetic transformation of our food supply....Ithas enormous implications politically, economically and, in many countries, culturally." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called Dinner at the New Gene Café an "indispensable history" of the GMO debate, remarking on the extensive testimony from major players in the GMO controversy and Lambrecht's balanced approach to the topic.
In an interview with Katherine Mieszkowski for Salon.com, Lambrecht said that his research has not led him to worry unduly about GMOs. "I have more concerns about pesticides and chemicals than I do about GMOs," he explained, "and if I'm hungry late some night and somebody sticks a bag of chips in front of me, I'm not about to pull my hand away at the prospect of there being a trace of modified ingredients in the bag." Instead, Lambrecht hopes that increased public awareness will lead to better uses of GMOs. He told Mieszkowski, "It sometimes seems that American consumers think their food grows in the back room of a grocery store. There's a disconnect between eating and where food comes from in this country that is not found in Europe and many parts of the world. In the U.S., we've become almost an island, and the sooner that companies realize that they're going to have accede to labeling, the quicker they will be able to get on to the types of genetic applications that they're promising, such as healthier food, even food that wards off disease."
Despite his objectivity, Lambrecht concludes that corporate interests have not been completely forthcoming about GMOs in the past, a policy that will have to change, in his view. In an Illinois Wesleyan University press release, Lambrecht asserted, "Big companies aligned with big government believe that they can use political muscle to achieve any end. But . . . it's my sense that the United States one day soon will join the debate raging around the world about genetically modified organisms and force companies to tell people on labels what it is they're doing to what we eat."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, August, 2001, Irwin Weintraub, review of Dinner at the New Gene Café, p. 146.
Publishers Weekly, July 30, 2001, review of Dinner at the New Gene Café, p. 70.
Illinois Wesleyan University Web site,http://www.iwu.edu/ (January 21, 2002), press release announcing a speech by Bill Lambrecht, with biography.
Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology Web Site, http://pewagbiotech.org/ (March 19, 2002), profile of Bill Lambrecht.
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (October 19, 2001), Katherine Mieszkowski, "The Genetically Engineered Pause That Refreshes."
Washington Post Writers Group,http://www.postwritersgroup.com/ (October 7, 2001) Neal Pierce, "Biobelt St. Louis—Could It Be True?"*