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April 6, 2000


A better textbook


- http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

Dear Fellow Scientists,

Six years ago, David Sadava and I wrote a textbook called "Plants, Genes
and Agriculture" that provides some of the basic plant biology, genetic
engineering, plant breeding, crop agriculture information to teach a
one-semester course. My purpose in writing this book was to tell my
colleagues that they can teach basic courses from an integrated point of
view and need not use a standard botany textbook. The book attemps to
integrate many fields and writing it was a real labor of love. I suppose
that some of you have seen this book and may even have used it to prepare
some lectures, even if you did not make it a required text. The book covers
an enormous amount of ground, as you can see from the chapter headings
below. That is the way I wanted it. I did not want a narrow ag biotech text.

The book is now getting out of date and I have been asked by various people
to consider producing an updated version, so they can continue to use it in
their classes. For this I don't have the time and I am also worried about
getting the facts right in such a huge area. A new book would not just be
an updated version of the old one, but should reflect new ideas and new
information that has now become available. My own thinking has also
evolved. Some of the themes that I would like to emerge from the text are
the power of biotechnology and the need for continued genetic improvement,
the power of unravelling the genome, the need for sustainability in
agriculture, the differences in approach needed in tropical and
semitropical agriculture from those that we are familiar with in the
temperate zones, the potentially disruptive effects of global warming and
the influence of political decisions (trade, subsidies, conservation laws,
tax write offs etc) in agriculture.

The purpose of this letter is to find out if there are 20 people out there
who are willing to help me and undertake the writing/rewriting of one
chapter each in their area of expertise. By doing thiss you will gain
neither fame nor
fortune although you will have to do a lot of work. Even writing a single
chapter, properly researched and illustrated, is hard work. When writing
such a book it is just as difficult to decide what to include as what NOT
to include.
Producing a good text can begin to change people's thinking, can affect
thousand of students who begin to see the world differently and can have a
major impact on a field. I sincerely believe that our book has made a small
difference. Since David Sadava has no further interest in this, I will also
need a co-organizer who complements my expertise, which is more in basic
biology rather than in agriculture.

If you are interested in this project, please write to me personally
(mchrispeels@ucsd.edu) and not via the server. After a month I will assess
whether to go forward based on the responses I receive. I also want to hear
from you if you know or have used the book and have ideas about how it
might be improved.

Maarten Chrispeels
Plants, Genes and Agriculture
1. Human population growth
2. Farming Systems: Evolution, Productivity, Sustainability
3. Farming systems of the world
4. Plants and human nutrition
5. Growth and development of flowering plants
6. Energy in plant growth, ecosystems and crop production
7. Nutrition from the soil: water and minerals
8. Life together in the underground
9. The molecular basis of plant breeding and genetic engineering
10.Ten thousand years of crop improvement
11.The Green Revolution and beyond
12.Pests, pathogens and the chemical defenses of plant
13.Strategies for pest control
14 Valuable chemicals from Cell and tissue culture
15 The nuts and bolts of genetic engineering
16 The objectives of crop improvement and genetic manipulation
17. The social implications and the GMO debate
18. Towards a green agriculture
19. Political decisions and the directions of agriculture

The present version of this book has only 16 chapters and is published by
Jones and Bartlett Publishers

Maarten J. Chrispeels, Professor
Department of Biology
University of California
9500, Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0116

Tel (858) 534-2571
Fax (858) 534-4052
e-mail mchrispeels@ucsd.edu
San Diego Center for Molecular Agriculture http://www.sdcma.org