The volume is a good first tool for identification of appropriate field testing methods to address specific questions regarding risk assessment of transgenic plants. However, I think it would be a useful reference for anyone interested in research methods in plant population genetics and ecology. The introduction provides a clear and concise statement of the purpose of the book as well as a good explanation of how to use it. The editors have arranged their volume in a hierarchical and almost intuitive manner, that once familiar with the terminology, the reader will be able to navigate with relative ease.
The book begins with an extensive glossary of terms used throughout the volume that is surprisingly comprehensive given its size. The bulk of the remaining chapters consist of listings and descriptions of key word categories, and subcategories, and the corresponding research methods that each author suggests to be appropriate. Categories are broad terms relating to general life history characteristics of plants. Subcategories are more narrowly defined terms that relate to specific aspects of plant life history. For example, the category "Pollen development and production" has the subcategories "pollen competition, pollen germination, pollen production, and pollen viability." The subcategories can then be used to refer you to a suggested research tool or method that would be appropriate to collect data relevant to risk assessment.
The volume’s strengths lie in its organization and conciseness. The chapters presenting the synopsis of the categories and subcategories provide good working definitions for the reader. The authors include recommendations for methods along with references to the primary literature or reviews on the subject. Also in these synopses are brief statements on what sorts of data are lacking, but still required, and what sorts of tests still need to be developed. This sort of presentation is most useful particularly to those who are new to this area of research.
The chapter on research methods is equally well organized, as tests are numbered and listed in alphabetical order. For each research method one will find a descriptive statement, as well as a brief list of the assumptions and restrictions for the test. The editors try to provide as much information about the method as possible, generally in the space of a single page. Each section provides information on the test system (i.e. lab, field, etc.); opinions about the advantages and appropriateness of each method, and a scaled index for method characters as, sensitivity, equipment requirements, time, and cost. The methods chapter does a fine job of distilling what would otherwise be a dizzying amount of information into synopses that will prove to be good starting points for a proposal or experiment.
The book concludes with review chapters on plant biotechnology and risk assessment in general. The editors have included a chapter on modification techniques, one on the types of traits being inserted into plants, and a concluding review on risk assessment procedures and practices. These chapters, however well written, do not really add to the volume unless this is the first work on risk assessment of transgenic plants you have picked up. I was pleased by the objectiveness of the reviews included. There are no value judgments made regarding biotechnology or its applications, simply a presentation of the techniques and reasons for performing risk assessment in the field.
Overall, I found this book to be a very good reference tool, particularly so for those who are new to this area of research. The editors have put together a comprehensive, yet concise book that is well organized and highly navigable. Though some of the information in the text is outdated, this is not entirely unexpected due to the dynamic nature of this field. However, I do not think that some outdated information distracts from the usefulness of this book as a place to begin exploring research possibilities in risk assessment. The chapter authors point towards World Wide Web resources that can be useful for updating specific information. This is one text I would recommend having on the shelf as a good quick reference tool for anyone interested in risk assessment, or ecological genetics. - Paul E. Arriola, Department of Biology, Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, IL
Kjellsson, G., and V. Simonsen. 1994. Methods for Risk Assessment of Transgenic Plants I. Competition, Establishment and Ecosystem Effects. Birkhauser Verlag, Basel, Switzerland.