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Life Science


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Postharvest Physiology and Hypobaric Storage of Fresh Produce by Stanley P. Burg (CABI Publishing) is dedicated to preserving the existing theoretical knowledge, applied research and technology relating to hypobaric storage in order to promote an understanding and appreciation of the method. The author's views regarding the postharvest behaviour of commodities at atmospheric pressure were developed in an attempt to explain the documented advantages of LP vs. CA storage and do not always agree with currently accepted concepts in postharvest physiology. Scientific readers may respond to some of this background information with scepticism and disapprobation, but if at the end of the day researchers are motivated to test these concepts, Postharvest Physiology and Hypobaric Storage of Fresh Produce will have been well worth the time and effort expended in writing.

`Controlled atmosphere storage has been the subject of an enormous number of biochemical, physiological and technological studies, yet it is still not known precisely how it works' (Thompson, 1998). Lipton (1977b) commented `It seems after 50 years of work on CA storage, we ought to at least try to see whether there is a common basis for our observations'. LP theory has been developed to a higher degree than the present empirical understanding of CA, but this knowledge is difficult for postharvest physiologists to evaluate unless they possess an intimate familiarity with thermodynamics, mass transport, refrigeration, vacuum technology and the physical laws applicable to an environment resembling that in which earth satellites orbit. It is not possible to plan an LP experiment and interpret its result without considering the manner in which mass and heat are transferred in the medium vacuum range and the influence this has on water loss and the gaseous gradients that arise within a commodity's intercellular spaces. The physical laws governing these processes will be reviewed to assist the reader in understanding the mechanisms that give rise to the unusual results attainable with LP described in the following Table. Postharvest physiologists can easily comprehend the biological factors, but may find the physical computations distracting. Therefore, relevant equations are presented in the Appendix, and computations are included as Examples at the end of each chapter, which the reader can ignore if he so chooses because the text summarizes each example's conclusions and interprets its significance.

The low-pressure storage method originally was called LPS or LP. Later, Tolle (1969, 1972) suggested the term `hypobaric'; Rynearson proposed the trade name `DormavacTM' (dormant in a vacuum) to describe Grumman's intermodal hypobaric container and the original `wet' LP method; more recently the service mark `VacuFresh' became synonymous with the `dry' LP method, and `TransVac' with a new `square' LP container design. Frequently used abbreviations throughout the text include RH (relative humidity), CA (controlled atmosphere storage), MA (modified atmosphere storage), NA (normal atmosphere storage), ICC (internal concentration of CO2) and IEC (internal ethylene concentration). Other abbreviations are defined in the index or when they first appear. To simplify comparisons between results obtained at atmospheric and subatmospheric pressures, the O2, CO2 and NH3 concentrations are expressed as per cent [O2], [CO2] and [NH3], where 2% [O2] refers to an O2 partial pressure of 0.02 atm. According to international conventions, the pressure-unit conversion constants are: 1 atm (standard) = 101.33 kPa (kilopascals) = 1013.3 mbar (millibar) = 760 mm Hg (mm mercury) = 760 torr = 14.696 psi (lb/in2). 

Biocontrol in Protected Culture edited by Roy M. Van Driesche, Kevin M. Heinz, Michael P. Parrella (Ball Publishing) An authoritative reference on the subject of using non-chemical controls on greenhouse-grown crops, this book explains the latest in crop-management techniques from around the globe. The contributing authors come from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Italy, and Asia. Biological control factors and the various types of controls -- predators, parasites, nematodes, and pathogens -- are described. Information is also provided on greenhouse structures, sampling, quality control, specific pests on both ornamental and vegetable crops -- whiteflies, spider mites, leafminers, thrips, aphids, other minor pests -- and soil borne pests. Specific crops are also discussed, including chrysanthemums, poinsettias, cut flowers, foliage plants, woody ornamentals, bedding plants, cucumbers, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

There are over 140 species of insects and mites that are known to be pests in green-houses, glasshouses, and various other protected agricultural production schemes. With introduction, augmentation, and preser­vation of natural enemies as a foundational principle, other compatible techniques may be integrated to develop economic, effective, and sustainable management strategies for these arthropod pests. This book is the most comprehensive overview to date of challenge encountered in developing practical biolog­ical control solutions to arthropod pest prob-lems, but too provides an elaborate menu of biological control options for a diverse array of pest problems occurring on various crops grown in equally diverse environments.

The core audience for this book is agri-cultural professionals, yet the material is sufficiently thought-provoking that it is expected to find its way onto the bookshelves of biological control researchers and into college-level classrooms specializing in biological control or pest management. Each of the authors involved with the project is a researcher who works closely with commer­cial greenhouse growers. The book outlines the principles and applications of biological control for management of arthropod pests infesting protected cultures—greenhouses, glasshouses, and shaded structures.

After presenting the fundamental princi­ples of biological control–based pest manage-ment within protected culture, several chap­ters address the prerequisites for a successfulprogram in terms of greenhouse/glasshouse structure, working with providers of natural enemies, practical aspects of sampling, and management of insecticides. Several chapters address biological control of specific pests and identify those practices that work and those that do not in vegetable and ornamental crop production systems. Current implemen­tation and the future of biological control–based pest management systems in the most important protected crops worldwide are presented in the concluding chapters.

Biological control within protected cultivation is practiced to varying degrees throughout the world under quite different social, economic, and technical conditions. Contributions to the book reflect such a diver­sity of situations: from the total reliance on biological control in the high-technology glasshouses of northern Europe and Canada to difficulties of its use in the open-air struc­tures common to the Mediterranean region, temperate eastern Asia, and South America. Furthermore, the ensemble of authors repre­sents a global view of the subject in terms of geographic location, expertise, and perspec­tive (including research, extension, allied industries, and regulator). Yet the structure of the book permits easy comparison of view-points associated with the different pests and crop production systems. Probably no book published to date has offered such a complete treatment of biological control in protected culture. 

Introgression from Genetically Modified Plants into Wild Relatives by Hans C. M. Den Nijs, D. Bartsch, Jeremy Sweet (CABI Publishing) Introgression is the incorporation of a gene from one organism complex into another as a result of hybridization. A major concern of the use of genetically modified plants is the unintentional spread of the new genes from cultivated plants to their wild relatives and the subsequent impacts on the ecology of wild plants and their associated flora and fauna. This book reviews these issues, focusing on the ecological and evolutionary effects of introducing GM cultivars. It presents current knowledge of crop-wild relatives hybridization and introgression, and the measurement and prediction of their consequences. As a result it represents a major contribution to the debate about the risks of GM crops and measures, such as post commercialisation monitoring, required to determine the longer term impacts of GM crops on ecosystems. 

The conference was divided into four main sessions, and these sessions are reported as sections in these proceedings as follows:

1. Hybridization in crop—wild relative complexes: the baseline, Chapters 2—13

In two introductory chapters, van Tienderen and Bleeker discuss the process of hybridization as an evolutionary principle, and the role of hybridization in the evolution in the genus Rorippa. Other authors then discuss the extent to which introgression has already taken place in a range of wild species and crops. They describe studies of historical processes and current experiments by examining plant morphology and genome banding patterns in crop—wild relative complexes of Daucus carota, Beta vulgaris, Triticum, Fragaria, Populus, Brassica, Phaseolus, Oryza, Glycine and Lactuca.

2. Gene flow: introgression and adoption of genes, Chapters 14—20 

After having established the incidence of the initial step of hybridization or interbreeding, a crucial next question is whether or not the crop genes establish in the wild-type genome, and are consecutively able to spread in its population complex. Further to this, to be able to assess any ecological impact of introgression, studies of performance and fitness analyses are necessary. In this section of the volume, case studies are presented of key crops, for which such data are becoming available: Beta, Brassica and Helianthus.

Fitness differences brought about by the influx of transgene traits may take several or more generations for incorporation into a significant proportion of the wild population. This series of chapters reports that fitness genes can increase the fecundity and reproduction of hybrid and backcross generations, making it more likely that the traits will become incorporated (Helianthus, Pilson et al., Chapter 17, this volume; Brassica, Jorgensen et al., Chapter 19, this volume). However, in order to assess their final effects on the viability and behaviour of a population (i.e. on the evolutionary scale), demographic and matrix modelling tools are needed that integrate as many data as possible from short-term empirical and experimental (field) studies. Suggestions for such modelling are presented in the last section (4) of this volume.

3. Impact and consequences of novel traits, Chapters 21—24

In this section, the objective was to assess the extent to which knowledge is available on new and novel traits that are being introduced, such as insect, virus and fungus resistance. The four chapters generally conclude that we

often lack appropriate data from sound ecological studies to make solid evaluations. The authors generally considered that, although a fair basis of knowledge is available, one has to acknowledge that a better insight into environmental processes and effects is necessary. This is particularly the case for taxa that as yet have low levels of domestication, such as perennial crops and forest trees, where knowledge of ecological interactions of their wild relatives with pathogens is limited.

4. Monitoring: field studies, modelling and scientific standards for regulation, Chapters 25—27

Data on interactions between genotypes and their environment described in the sections above need to be supplemented by surveys and monitoring studies that examine and map the distribution of both crop and related wild plant species. Monitoring of GMO is conducted to achieve any of four specific objectives: (i) confirm compliance with regulatory requirements; (ii) collect information necessary for controlling and managing potentially adverse environmental situations or systems; (iii) assess environmental quality; and (iv) detect 'unexpected' and potentially damaging effects (Suter, 1993). As such, monitoring may be recommended to reduce uncertainty on the impact of large-scale releases remaining from environmental risk assessment (ERA). In addition, monitoring can be designed to confirm conclusions of ERA with additional data and modelling, or provide informa­tional feedback on system status or condition. Monitoring is not a substitute for biosafety research or ERA. Rather, it is integrated with research and risk assessment to ensure that ecological systems and processes of value are being protected. In addition, some papers reported biogeographical models that were developed to estimate and predict the impact of a novel gene introgression into wild species. Special attention is given to an evaluation of different sorts of models, which can help in producing accurate predictions of various kinds. EU directive 2001/18 requires mandatory monitoring schemes to accompany the introduction of each GM crop. The chapters in this section establish some parts of a framework of what and how to monitor, especially in relation to gene flow and introgression, and how to analyze and report the monitoring data.

Coffee: Recent Developments by R. J. Clarke, O. G. Vitzthum (Blackwell Publishers) Coffee, one of the most commercially important crops grown, is distributed and traded globally in a multi-million dollar world industry. This exciting new book brings together in one volume the most important recent developments affecting the crop. Contributions from 20 internationally-respected coffee scientists and technologists from around the world provide a vast wealth of new information in the subject areas in which they are expert.

The book commences with three cutting-edge chapters covering non-volatile and volatile compounds that determine the flavour of coffee. Chapters covering technology follow, including comprehensive information on developments in roasting techniques, decaffeination, the science and technology of instant coffee and home/catering beverage preparation. The physiological effects of coffee drinking are considered in a fascinating chapter on coffee and health. Agronomic aspects of coffee breeding and growing are covered specifically in chapters concentrating on these aspects, particularly focussing on newly-emerging molecular and cellular techniques. Finally, recent activities of some international organisations are reviewed in a lengthy appendix. 

The editors of Coffee: Recent Developments have drawn together a comprehensive and extremely important book that should be on the shelves of all those involved in coffee. The book is a vital tool for food scientists, food technologists and agricultural scientists and the commercially important information included in the book makes it a 'must have reference' to all food companies involved with coffee. All libraries in universities, and research stations where any aspect of the coffee crop is studied or taught should have copies of the book available.

Cross-Cultural Biotechnology by Michael C. Brannigan (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) (Hardcover) is a rich blend of analyses by leading experts from various cultures and disciplines. A compact introduction to a complex field, it illustrates biotechnology's profound impact upon the environment and society. Moreover, it underscores the vital relevance of cultural values. This book empowers readers to more critically assess biotechnology's value and effectiveness within both specific cultural and global contexts. 

What is biotechnology? What are its goals? Are there global benefits, or are there more perils than promises? Why is it that the poor remain poor? This new anthology provides an accessible and captivating introduction to these and other vital concerns in biotechnology. By examining these concerns within a cross-cultural framework, Cross-Cultural Biotechnology offers a distinctive approach to helping readers understand the major legal, ethical, and social issues in this rapidly growing field.


Part l outlines major global issues and international policies. The ubiquitous tension between commercialization and equitable access is made abundantly clear, as is the need for global part­nership. Part 2 examines specific biotechnological challenges in various cultures: genetic research in the United States, genetic testing and regulatory concerns in Canada, embryonic research in Europe, overcoming past legacies in the former Soviet republic, Jewish and Islamic perspectives on biotechnologies, food security issues in Africa, Confucianism in Asia, and the role of indigenous cultures. Part 3 explores global challenges: the need to balance intellectual property rights and fair access; the need for media sensitivity to cultural contexts; and, finally, the need to better understand and prepare for bioterrorism.

Although Western voices still dominate the discussion, it is time to listen to viewpoints from other cultures. By exposing biotechnology within a global context, this volume challenges us to cultivate a shared human vision and vividly shows that cross-cultural bridge building is needed now more than ever.

Dinner at the New Gene Cafe: How Genetic Engineering Is Changing What We Eat, How We Live, and the Global Politics of Food by Bill Lambrecht (St. Martins) Recent headlines will tell you that biotechonology companies are knocking down barriers as they race one another to alter the genetic building blocks of the world's food. In the United States, the primary venue for this quiet revolution, the acreage of genetically modified crops has soared from zero to more than 70 million acres since 1996. More than half of America's processed grocery products-from cornflakes to granola bars to diet drinks-contain gene-altered ingredients. But the U.S., unlike Europe and other democratic nations, does not require labeling of modified food. Resistance to this technology is growing fast and furious-sometimes even violent.

Dinner at the New Gene Cafe lays out the battle lines of the impending collision between a powerful but unproved technology and a gathering resistance from people worried about the safety of genetic change and the power of those who own the technology. Amid the furor, this precocious science is cutting applications of dangerous insecticides, and the next wave of modified crops could deliver more nutritious food and even food that wards off disease. But even before people weigh the potential costs and benefits, this Mendelian magic is thrusting itself on the world in Orwellian fashion.

Author Bill Lambrecht has watched the technology from its inception and traveled the world to witness its introduction. Timely and important, Dinner at the New Gene Cafe examines the growing international struggle over a matter that is vital to everyone on the planet: the very nature of our food, who shall shape our food supply, and who shall own it.

Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money, and the Future of Food by Daniel Charles (Perseus Publishing) A riveting tale of the battle over genetically engineered foods, and an inside look at a biotech food empire.

Once confined to the research laboratory, the genetic engineering of plants is now a big business that is changing the face of modern agriculture. Giant corporations are creating designer crops with strange powers-from cholesterol-reducing soybeans to plants that act as miniature drug factories, churning out everything from vaccines to insulin. They promise great benefits: better health for consumers, more productive agriculture-even an end to world hunger. But the vision has a dark side, one of profit-driven tampering with life and the possible destruction of entire ecosystems. In Lords of the Harvest, Daniel Charles takes us deep inside research labs, farm sheds, and corporate boardrooms to reveal the hidden story behind this agricultural revolution. He tells how a handful of scientists at Monsanto drove biotechnology from the lab into the field, and how the company's opponents are fighting back with every tool available to them, including the cynical manipulation of public fears. A dramatic account of boundless ambition, political intrigue, and the quest for knowledge, Lords of the Harvest is ultimately a story of idealism and of conflicting dreams about the shape of a better world.