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Natural Resources and Human Health - Plants of Medicinal and Nutritional Value.
Edited by Shigeaki Baba, Olayiwola Akerele, Yuji Kawaguchi. Elsevier Science Publishers, 655 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10010. 1992. 227 pp. Cloth. $125.75. ISBN 0444 89407 1.

This volume is the Proceedings of the 1st WHO Symposium on Plants and Health for All: Scientific Advancement, held in Kobe, Japan, April 26-28.1991. "Plants and Health for All" was the theme of rite symposium which attracted more than 160 scholars and researchers from 11 nations. The symposium was an outgrowth of the International Consultation on the Conservation of Medicinal Plants in Chiang Mai, Thailand, held in 1987. However, rather than focus on the preservation of medicinal plants, the organizers chose a broader scope: the theme of encompassing the global environment as the home of all medicinal plants and the peoples who utilize them. The keynote address,"Our Earth and Our Health," delivered by Hiroshi Nakajima, WHO Director-General, set the tone of the event. According to the book's preface and the conference statement the conference emphasized specific guidelines and measures for human concern of plants as natural resources -- not just plant human interrelations -- but integrating the concern for botanical natural resources into WHO health policy strategies for the future. Three main points were advanced at the symposium which have as yet been little publicized. Point one is the importance of natural resources for human health. This encompasses the efficient management of natural resources, as an economic development issue, especially for developing countries whose populations have greater reliance on these resources, especially land and water resources. The quality of life is undermined by degradation of these natural resources. Preventing and controlling that degradation is a specific challenge. The second major point is the need for "new approaches to valuing natural resources of importance to human health." Here emphasis was placed on the role of recognizing natural resource systems (such as tropical rain forests, wetlands, drylands, and arable soil) as a means to further develop medicinal plant resources. The third point is "upgrading the qual ity of natural resources through the application of biotechnology." While recognizing the potential of biotechnology to "improved harnessing of the natural wealth," attendees also recognize that there is widespread concern over the potential of the technology to interfere with genetic resources, and further expand the economic and technological gulf between the world's poor and rich.

Against this background are the actual published papers of the volume, which are placed in six major sections: 1) Plants and the Ecosystem; 2) Plants and Technology: Future Orientation; 3) Strategy for Utilization of Medicinal Plants; 3) Clinical Application of Research Results; 5) New Approaches for Health; and 6) Round Table -- Plants and Health for All: Scientific Advancement and Research in Countries. The twenty-five published papers cover a wide-range of current issues and concerns in medicinal plant resources, research, and future development. Overall it is a well-rounded volume which supplies excellent coverage of the issues involved. Unfortunately, the text is reproduced directly from the authors' manuscript copies, which, when reduced from the original typed page into the book's 6.5 X 9.5 inch format, makes it a little like trying to read a book of footnotes.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.