The Chemical Educator, Vol. 5, No. 3, S1430-4171(00)03390-2, 10.1007/s00897000390a, © 2000 Springer-Verlag New York, Inc.

Pesticides in Fruits and Vegetables. By Susan E. Kegley and Laura J. Wise. University Science Books: Sausalito, CA, 1998. 8-1/2 x 11 inches, illustrated, 114 pp, softcover, ISBN 0-935702-46-6.

Reviewed by: Michael J. Weaver, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,

One of the most controversial public issues today is public confusion about where pesticides fit into human society. For a teacher to allow the emotional thread to cloud the scientific lessons that can be learned from this issue is a disservice. Doing so robs students and the teacher of an opportunity to convey some basic scientific building blocks and practical experiences associated with chemistry, biology, and environmental sciences.

Susan Kegley and Laura Wise set an excellent example of how to introduce these issues to students in a balanced fashion, without losing the science to the emotional side of this volatile topic. The authors help students decide for themselves how to deal with the pesticide issue through a series of exercises, research data, testing and analysis, and debate. This textbook was written as a module for any general or advanced chemistry course.

Students using this laboratory manual are directed to design their own sampling plan to answer questions about organochlorine pesticides in foods. The authors cover such concepts as structure and solubility relationships of organic compounds, extraction techniques, gas chromatography, and risk assessment. In addition to collecting data, students are asked to prepare themselves for debate of the pesticide issue by reading selected articles referenced in the text. The module, if implemented in the classroom, will take three to four weeks of laboratory time. According to the authors, the module was extensively tested with students enrolled in general chemistry and instrumental analysis at the University of California at Berkeley. The module is also recommended for use in an organic chemistry course. The authors offer a detailed instructor’s manual, complete with instrument parameters, prelaboratory-lecture notes, and evaluation data on the pesticide debate, as a separate resource to this module.

As a pesticide specialist, I particularly appreciated the authors’ coverage of the latest pesticide issues, including the Food Quality Protection Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996. This tied the module to the state of the art of modern food-safety regulation in the United States. This, along with an extensive treatment of the debate and background references, can in itself be useful to teachers and students in other disciplines, including the social sciences and pest-management education. Although it is obvious that parts of the laboratory manual are designed specifically for chemistry students, especially the chapters on analysis and instrumentation, it provides an excellent review of this complex and technical science of pesticide residue analysis and regulation. I would recommend this book as a reference to anyone interested in the issue of pesticides in food or in teaching the subject in high school, college, and adult education courses.