Genetic engineering has a wide range of cultural, economic, and ethical implications, yet it has become almost an article of faith that regulatory decisions about biotechnology be based only on evidence of specific quantifiable risks; to consider anything else is said to “politicize” regulation. In this study of social protest against genetically engineered food, Abby Kinchy turns the conventional argument on its head.
All life depends on plants, but we often take them for granted in our everyday lives. It is easy to ignore the fact that we are facing a crisis: scientists estimate that one third of all flowering plant species are threatened with extinction. This lavishly illustrated volume considers the essential conservation role of botanic gardens, telling the story of how a global network is working to save our botanical heritage.
The Metamorphosis of Plants, published in 1790, was Goethe’s first major attempt to describe what he called in a letter to a friend “the truth about the how of the organism.” Inspired by the diversity of flora he found on a journey to Italy, Goethe sought a unity of form in diverse structures. He came to see in the leaf the germ of a plant’s metamorphosis--“the true Proteus who can hide or reveal himself in all vegetal forms”—from the root and stem leaves to the calyx and corolla, to pistil and stamens.
Virtually all cultures consume drugs from psychoactive plants. Caffeine, for example, is probably the most common stimulant in the world, and many modern medicines, such as morphine and codeine, are derived from plant sources. In these cases, scientific research has revealed the composition of the plants and how they interact with the nervous system. There are also many herbal medications with reputed therapeutic value that have not yet gained acceptance into mainstream medicine, partly because there has not been enough research to support their usefulness.
The mobile tentacles of the Sundews, the snapping lobes of the Venus Fly Trap, and the slippery, baited pitfalls of the Pitcher Plants seem the stuff of science fiction, yet these amazing plants do exist. Adrian Slack focuses on some fifty species, using photographs, line drawings, and diagrams to illustrate their peculiarities. He explores in detail the wily manner in which each type of plant entices, catches, and digests its prey.