Dr Ross Cameron of the University of Sheffield outlines his latest book (Environmental Horticulture – Science and Management of Green Landscapes), co-authored with Prof. James Hitchmough and how writing the book can sometimes be easier than settling on a name that everyone approves of.
“The Animal Trade” is a book of major importance that will make groundbreaking contributions to the fields of animal welfare and ethics, husbandry, and government policy, nationally and, hopefully, internationally – as befits the expertise of its author, Clive Phillips. It is scholarly and comprehensive in its sweep, as well as being tightly written, so that the reader is sometimes stunned by the sheer sweep of what has been distilled into one sentence. It is also extremely reader and student friendly, with a clear introduction and conclusion to each chapter, as well as excellent diagrams. Its 10 chapters comprise The History of Animal Trade; Trade Policies for Animal Products; Trade Wars, Sanctions and Discriminations; Trade in Meat; Trade in Some Key Animal Products: Dairy, Wool and Fur; Trade in Live Farm Animals; Disease Transmission and Biodiversity Loss Through the Trade in Farm Animals; Trade in Horses, Cats and Dogs; Trade in Wildlife and Exotic Species; The Future of Animal Trade.
A tall, spare, bearded, lively, modest, quietly humorous and gentle man, the animal breeding consultant Ian L Mason was known and respected worldwide for his encyclopaedic and authoritative knowledge of livestock breeds and breeding. It was said of him by a friend in Israel: ‘It is known in Asia that Dr Mason has a beard, wears a beret and rides a bicycle.’ His wife Elizabeth – they were married for nearly 70 years – first met him at Cambridge University in the 1930s when she became aware of a tall (6ft 2), gauche and unpredictable young man with a shock of wavy fair hair and very long legs, who ‘rushed about a lot’.
Long before the creation of various rare-breed organisations in different parts of the world, Ian’s vision had been to conserve indigenous livestock breeds, even then being threatened by the rapid expansion of major commercial breeds. His aim was firstly to identify and catalogue each breed, preferably by seeing them in the field in their own country, and then to promote their protection by educating breeders, institutes, academics and practical farmers about their special qualities. As he wrote in 1974, ‘any extinction or disappearance of a species or breed represents an irreplaceable element of the life diversity that is lost’.
About four years ago, I started to get concerned that the full impact of expansion and intensification of the animal production industries worldwide was not understood, by those in power, by scientists and definitely not by the public. The relatively rapid introduction of intensive farming systems over the last fifty years, and their widespread adoption over many parts of the globe has made many people question the ethics and impact on animal welfare, but no-one has considered the impact from all angles and charted the changes over time, including predictions of what would happen if such trends continued. As well as often displaying a disregard for the animals’ needs, modern intensive animal production systems have major environmental impacts, are morally challengeable, have adverse effects on the health of consumers and use large amounts of resources that are in limited supply, in particular cereals and other staple foods for humans, water and fossil fuels. The trade in live animals, which has been growing with the availability of cheap transport systems, such as by container ship, has additional problems, particularly the spread of diseases both to other animals and to people.
Twenty years after the first edition of the standard book on tree–crop interactions, edited by Peter Huxley and Chin Ong, we now have a second edition. The second edition has explicit attention to climate change, with chapters on microclimate effects and consequences for the various terms of the water balance.
The primary strength of the book remains the focus on a process-level understanding and, as such, on results beyond the location-specific empirical selection of best practices in a given context. The various chapters help in reasoning how changing conditions may have to be accompanied by changing practices, based on what we know of the balance between competition and complementarity. Apart from a chapter on water and two on roots, the focus remains on aboveground interactions; a volume with deeper analysis of belowground interactions had been published ten years ago.
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Milk quotas in the European Union (EU) will be abolished from the 1 April 2015, exactly 31 years after its introduction.
The Dairy Produce Quota Regulations were introduced by the European Economic Community (EEC) on the 2 April 1984 and were originally due to run until 1989, but have been extended many times since then.
According to this regulation, the milk market in the EU is regulated by a quota system. Every member country has a production quota which it distributes to farmers. Whenever a member country exceeds its quota, it has to pay a penalty (‘super levy’) to the EU.
Abolition of milk quotas has been heavily criticized by farmers. However, in the light of globalization of dairy markets in recent years, together with increased consumption of dairy products outside the EU, milk quotas have long outlived their usefulness for EU countries. It is estimated that global milk production between 2008 and 2013, for example, increased by over 90 billion litres - equivalent to over half of the entire EU production of 160 million litres.
Apart from distorting production across the EU, national quotas have facilitated dairy market development in other countries. For example, New Zealand and Australia, which produce only 5% of global milk, account for 40% of global exports of dairy products. Meanwhile, the EU accounts for 24% of the global milk production, and 24% of world cheese, butter, skimmed milk powder (SMP) and whole milk powder (WMP) exports, according to figures presented by CLAL (dairy brokerage firm).
“Does your new book have 10 or 11 chapters?” a colleague of mine at the University of Washington (UW) Graduate School asked when he heard about my forthcoming textbook, Genetic Epidemiology: Methods and Applications. “How did you know, it has 11 chapters,” I replied. He said he was initially puzzled by the fact that, of the many textbooks he had read by UW faculty, they all had 10 or 11 chapters. Then he realized that there are ten weeks during quarter of teaching at UW. Add an introductory chapter, and there are 11 chapters! Sure enough, that describes how this book came about, based on over 20 years of teaching genetic epidemiology, the interdisciplinary field that integrates human genetics and epidemiology, to UW graduate students.
Genetic epidemiology research methods are key to discovering how genetic factors influence health and disease, and to understanding how genes and environmental risk factors interact. Innovations in genomic technology, recent statistical and computational developments, the availability DNA samples and environmental data from large population-based and family studies, and the application of rigorous epidemiologic study designs using these resources, have resulted in rapid advances and growing interest in this field.
“Are you planning a second edition of Fundamentals of Genetic Epidemiology?” I asked Muin Khoury, Director of the Office of Genomics and Public Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the lead author of the now classic textbook published in 1993. That book has been used by countless public health researchers to design, implement, and analyze the data from genetic epidemiology studies. No, he responded, and after 20 years, a new, comprehensive book is urgently needed. As he later wrote in the forward to the new book, “Prior to the genomics era, the field consisted primarily of population and statistical geneticists, and a few epidemiologists interested in searching for the genetic basis of human disease. Today, the thriving field of genetic epidemiology is integrated into clinical and public health research.” Terri Beaty, another 1993 author, contributed to the current textbook, writing portions of two chapters. (Bernice Cohen, the third author of the 1993 book passed away in 2011, after a distinguished career at Johns Hopkins University).
Overall, the goal of the new textbook is to provide students with a contemporary working knowledge of the fundamentals of genetic epidemiology research methods. Following an overview of the discipline, the next 6 chapters (weeks!) begin with review key genetic concepts, provide an update on relevant genomic technology such as genome-wide SNP chips and DNA sequencing, and describe methods for assessing the magnitude of genetic influences on diseases and risk factors. Then, the book focuses on research study designs for discovering disease susceptibility genes, including family-based linkage analysis, candidate gene, genome-wide, and rare variant association studies, assessing gene–environment interactions and epistasis (gene-gene interactions), and statistical analyses of data from these studies. Specific applications of each research method are illustrated using a variety of diseases and risk factors relevant to public health. Local Seattle colleagues from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and from the UW, many of whom have given guest lectures in the course for several years, made important contributions to these chapters, including Barbara McKnight, Bruce Psaty, Steve Schwartz, and Janet Stanford. Long time colleagues who are too far away to lecture were still willing to help write these chapters, included Terri Beaty (Johns Hopkins University) and Ruth Ottman (Columbia University).
“The book will be out of date as soon as it is published,” commented one of the books coauthors as he was completing writing his chapter. Although this is inevitable for a field as dynamic as genetic epidemiology, many fundamental concepts remain highly relevant to the field, and can be newly interpreted in the “omics” era. For example, the notion of “heritability” (the proportion of variation in a disease or risk factor attributable to genetic influences) was developed long before the word “genomics” existed, and is now essential to determining the contribution of genetic variants found to be associated with disease in genome-wide association studies (GWAS). The statistical genetic analysis approaches originally developed to examine single major gene effects in families (segregation and linkage analysis) have evolved into methods using exome sequencing data to identify rare variants causing Mendelian diseases. The principles of genetic association analysis first developed in candidate gene studies, including the role of indirect association due to linkage disequilibrium and bias due to population stratification confounding, are being examined in both GWAS and DNA sequencing studies, most recently in studies using extreme trait sequencing. Statistical and biological models designed to describe the complexities of gene-environment interactions and epistasis can now be applied to the extensive data available from large-scale, international, collaborations to identify combinations of genetic, behavioral, dietary, and environmental factors that contribute to health and disease.
The final 4 chapters of the book describe completely new areas of genetic epidemiology that have emerged in the last two decades:
Non-Mendelian genetics: Mitochondrial DNA variation, parental and parent-of-origin effects, de novo variation, and epigenetic factors (heritable characteristics of chromosomes other than DNA sequence variation that influence gene expression) are mechanisms that to date have been examined primarily in either rare conditions or subsets of common conditions.
Web-based resources: A remarkable array of statistical software, genomic databases containing genotype and phenotype data, and population reference panels with high-throughput SNP genotyping and next-generation sequencing data are either freely available or can be obtained through monitored access.
Ethical issues: Because genetic epidemiology studies require the voluntary participation of both patients and healthy individuals, researcher-participant interactions pose a host of important ethical and regulatory concerns that need to be addressed at the earliest stages of designing and implementing a study.
Public health and clinical applications: Translating findings from genetic epidemiology research studies to clinical practice and improved public health outcomes can be regarded as a four-phase translational framework: T1: Discovery to candidate health application; T2: Health application to evidence-based guidelines; T3: Guidelines to health practice; and T4: Practice to population health impact.
Once again, both local and distant colleagues with wide ranging expertise contributed to these chapters: Steve Schwartz from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Timothy Thornton, Stephanie M. Fullerton, and Kelly Edwards from the University of Washington, and Marta Gwinn and W. David Dodson, both affiliated with the Office of Public Health Genomics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To conclude, quoting once again from Muin Khoury’s forward, “I am confident that the book will be a great resource for researchers, students and practitioners from multiple scientific disciplines.”
Welcome to a new monthly series called CABI
Author Focus. Each month one of the many talented authors or editors of books
published by CABI will be writing about an element of their research. This
month Kurt Lamour, editor of Phytophthora: A Global Perspective, writes for us on his experiences of this plant-damagng pathogen. As well as
Phytophthora, Kurt co-edited Oomycete Genetics and
Genomics: Diversity, Interactions and Research Tool with Sophien Kamoun.
Potato famine! Starvation and emigration! For
many folks the only Phytophthora they’ll ever hear of, albeit tangentially, is
through tales of the infamous potato blight that occurred in mid-1800 Ireland. I’ve often used the famine as a reference
point to help answer questions concerning what it is I do for a living; although
I’ve learned this conversational strategy can be tricky.
To mark International Day of Forests, we brought together
three experts in the field to suggest their own thoughts on what lies ahead for
forests. Below they offer their hopes, and fears, for these vital ecosystems in
the years to come.
National Parks all around the world attract many millions of visitors, help to protect habitats and wildlife, and provide areas where urban dwellers can go for a break from their normal lives. The world's first national park is generally held to be Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872 in the USA. But while parks and other protected areas are still being established, many existing ones are under pressure from growing populations, recreational pressure, and not least from tightening public purses. So it's probably not entirely coincidental that a report on the economic value of national parks in the USA, where the concept was first put into practice, was released on 1 March, the same day that 'sequestration' - the automatic implementation of budget cuts implemented when legislators failed to come up with a new budget deal - came into force, with national parks hit along with all other areas of government spending.