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Absorbing pesticides

Absorbing pesticides

Graham Matthews, Emeritus Professor at Imperial College, is an able communicator. He has taken a topic, pesticides in agriculture, which many will assume prima facie to be dry, technical and of interest only to a few specialists, and has demonstrated that it is both a fascinating subject and one that can be presented in an engaging and informative way. His book, A History of Pesticides, provides an intellectual journey through the topic of agricultural pesticides and it is one for which Professor Matthews is both a knowledgeable and authoritative guide. The book itself has a broad scope, taking the reader from the origins of pesticides to future possibilities, presenting relatively complex issues in a manner that permits ease of reading and understanding with the ready assimilation of knowledge.

The book is logically structured, starting with consideration of the history of pesticides and their development. It then moves on to a discussion of the ways in which pesticides are applied, a review of the principal forms of pesticides in use today, pesticide resistance, integrated pest management, effects on human health and regulatory matters. At 265 pages and with a short prologue, the book represents a substantial read. The scope and content of each chapter are such that they can be read independently, allowing the reader gradually to form an overall understanding of the topic. Each chapter is appropriately referenced and the index at 17 pages is functional. The work is well edited and if there is any criticism it is that some sections leave one hungry for more detail.

Of the many commendable aspects of this book, a valuable feature is its international dimension. The book provides something of a window on the use of pesticides in world agriculture, which is informative, particularly given the many colour plates that illustrate and support the text. The chapter on the application of pesticides is well served by photographs, which help to provide a more complete understanding of the subject. Without the illustrations, a reader with no practical experience of farming and pesticide-related technologies would be left to imagine the contexts of pesticide use, which could limit understanding. In addition to the illustrations, the book also contains a number of figures and tables that support the information and concepts being communicated.

A History of Pesticides is a book that will fit well on the shelves of libraries serving colleges and universities whose mission is the education of students for the agriculture and horticulture sectors. It is also a book that academics and researchers will find extremely useful. Indeed, one can visualise some lecturers making it a core text for modules, using it as a guide to structuring their delivery over a semester. The book will also be of value to farmers who wish to understand the topic better and to develop their mastery of the associated vocabulary for use when speaking with agronomists. Importantly, it will have worth beyond the confines of agriculture for those who wish to gain a grounding in the topic, such as technologists in food manufacturing and supermarket businesses, public health specialists, policy makers and environmental advocacy organisations.

This is a strongly recommended and substantial text of high quality, very well produced by CABI publishers.


Author Graham A. Matthews

Publisher CABI

ISBN 978 1 78639 487 3

Price £95

Reviewer Ralph Early,

Independent Food Scientist and Food Ethicist


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