Lappé, Marc 1943-

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LAPPÉ, Marc 1943-

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "lah-pay"; born January 14, 1943, in Irvington, NJ; son of Paul and Jeanette (Baum) Lappé; married Nichol Lovera, November 5, 1977 (died, February 7, 1996); children: Anthony, Anna, Matthew, Martine, Gina. Education: Wesleyan University, B.A., 1964; University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D., 1968. Hobbies and other interests: Skin diving, reading Franz Kafka, and swimming.

ADDRESSES: Offıce—Center for Ethics and Toxics, P.O. Box 673, 39120 Ocean Dr., Gualala, CA 95445. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: State University of New York, College at Purchase, acting assistant professor of biology, 1975-76; Institute of Society, Ethics, and Life Sciences, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, associate for biological sciences, 1971-76; affiliated with California Department of Health Services, chief of office of Health, Law, and Values, 1976-77, chief of office of planning and evaluation, 1977-79, and chief of hazard evaluation system, 1979-81; University of California, Berkeley, adjunct associate professor of health policy, 1981-86; University of Illinois, Chicago, director of humanistic studies program, 1986-88, professor of ethics and health policy, 1988-93; currently director of the Center for Ethics and Toxics, Gualala, CA; adjunct instructor, College of Marin. Fellow of Hastings Center.

MEMBER: American Public Health Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Warner-Chilcott Award; Anna Fuller Fund fellow; honorary postdoctoral fellow of University of California, Berkeley; National Science Foundation/National Endowment for the Humanities Award, 1982.


(Editor, with Robert S. Morison) Conference on Ethical and Scientific Issues Posed by Human Uses of Molecular Genetics, New York Academy of Sciences (New York, NY), 1976.

Genetic Politics: The Limits of Biological Control, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1979.

Germs That Won't Die: Medical Consequences of theMisuse of Antibiotics, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1982.

Broken Code: The Exploitation of DNA, Sierra Club Books (San Francisco, CA), 1984.

When Antibiotics Fail: Restoring the Ecology of theBody, North Atlantic Books (Berkeley, CA), 1986.

Chemical Deception: The Toxic Threat to Health and the Environment, Sierra Club Books (San Francisco, CA), 1991.

Evolutionary Medicine: Rethinking the Origins of Disease, Sierra Club Books (San Francisco, CA), 1994, reprinted as Breakout: The Evolving Threat of Drug-Resistant Disease, 1995.

(Editor, with Timothy F. Murphy) Justice and the Human Genome Project, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1994.

Life's Greatest Miracle, photographic illustrations by Fred Burrell, Longmeadow Press (Stamford, CT), 1995.

The Body's Edge: Our Cultural Obsession with Skin, Holt (New York, NY), 1996.

The Tao of Immunology: A Revolutionary New Understanding of Our Body's Defenses, Plenum Press (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Britt Bailey) Against the Grain: Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food, Common Courage Press (Monroe, ME), 1998.

(Editor, with Britt Bailey) Engineering the Farm: TheSocial and Ethical Aspects of Agricultural Biotechnology, Island Press (Washington, DC), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Marc Lappé is a trained toxicologist who has written extensively, and critically, of such world health issues as genetically engineered foods, overuse of antibiotics, and rapidly evolving diseases. The director of the nonprofit Center for Ethics and Toxics in California, Lappé was one of the first popular writers to warn against indiscriminate use of antibiotics—a topic that has gained momentum in the wake of an onset of antibiotic-resistant disease strains. Since the mid-1970s he has also headed campaigns to curb the use of toxic substances in agriculture and to educate the public about popular products that may contain genetically altered plants. To quote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, the author's works offer "a fascinating and frightening exploration into the linked worlds of evolution and medicine."

In Broken Code: The Exploitation of DNA, Lappé discusses industry's use of gene-splicing to increase profits as well as its tendency to dominate a science originally developed by public institutions. Fierce competition among corporations marketing genetically produced goods has encouraged talented scientists to leave universities for the private sector and withhold knowledge from each other. "A respected critic of the health and genetic sciences," according to Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor David Graber, Lappé advocates using the technology for the public good and criticizes the private sector for stifling scientific exchange. Graber observed Lappé's "concern for the social responsibility of science and scientists, and his socialist ideology, are openly, objectively and dispassionately presented." The reviewer found the detailed and scholarly account "excessively daunting" at times, but he praised it, in the end, as "a real book, by a scientist-author who knows what he's talking about."

The Tao of Immunology: A Revolutionary New Understanding of Our Body's Defenses proposes a new model for perception of the healthy immune system. Here Lappé challenges the model of the immune system as an army of defense that must be given arsenals of antibiotics, vaccines, and medicines to do its job. He suggests instead that the body should not overextend, overexert, or overcommit itself to healing; rather, that a gentle compromise with nature should be sought. In the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Roberto R. Kretschmer found the volume "informative, and even the experts will find some provocative ideas." Kretschmer added, however, that "the fundamental proposition is painstakingly built mostly on, granted, observed exceptions, rather than on the rules of immune reactions." According to Arthur Noble in Natural Health, "If Lappé's proposed Taoist understanding of the immune system is correct, it carries significant implications for health care and medicine." Noble went on to comment: "Lappé's subject is huge, and because he is determined to explain it accurately instead of simply, the complexities sometimes stack up and the going gets tough. But Lappé is an enthusiastic and expert guide, capable of steering the reader through the hard parts."

The evidence presented in Against the Grain: Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food argues that the corporate takeover of agriculture is posing a significant hazard to the world's food supply and the health of individuals. Lappé and coauthor Britt Bailey discuss how big business is creating genetically altered products that depend upon certain herbicides and that are used in food products without labeling. The book warns that these products might not be safe and that they may cause natural species to mutate. The Ecologist reviewer Miyoko Sakashita noted that Against the Grain is "a comprehensive report on the current issues related to genetically engineered food crops. It forms a general overview of the current state of the industry—discussing new products, dangers, regulation, resistance, and offering recommendations." The reviewer felt that the book fills an important need. "Dissemination of information about agricultural biotechnology is long overdue, and this book provides exactly the sort of information needed if we are to halt what risks becoming another runaway industrial technology."



Booklist, September 1, 1994, William Beatty, review of Evolutionary Medicine: Rethinking the Origins of Disease, p. 13; May 15, 1996, William Beatty, review of The Body's Edge: Our Cultural Obsession with the Skin, p. 1556.

E, January, 1999, review of Against the Grain: Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food, p. 53.

Ecologist, January-February, 1999, Miyoko Sakashita, review of Against the Grain, p. 49.

Health Facts, July, 1997, review of When AntibioticsFail: Restoring the Ecology of the Body, p. 4.

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, September 23, 1998, Roberto R. Kretschmer, review of The Tao of Immunology: A Revolutionary New Understanding of Our Body's Defenses, p. 1111.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 18, 1985.

Natural Health, July-August, 1998, Arthur Noble, review of The Tao of Immunology, p. 170.

Nutrition Health Review, winter, 1996, review of Breakout: The Evolving Threat of Drug-Resistant Disease, p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, September 26, 1994, review of Evolutionary Medicine, p. 67; April 29, 1996, review of The Body's Edge, p. 58; September 15, 1997, review of The Tao of Immunology, p. 61.

Sierra, January, 2000, Bob Schildgen, review of Against the Grain, p. 116; July, 2001, review of Against the Grain, p. 70.


CETOS (Center for Ethics and Toxics), (March 19, 2003), information about Lappé.

The Net Net, (March 19, 2003), Caitlin Burke, review of The Body's Edge.*