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Village Bookstore Welcomes Ellstrand

UCR Geneticist Signs Book on Plant Sex Nov. 15th at Riverside’s Newest Bookstore

The Book is “Dangerous Liaisons? When Cultivated Plants Mate with Wild Relatives”

(November 7, 2003)

Norm EllstrandEnlarge

Norm Ellstrand

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — The potential for trouble when genetically engineered crops mate with their wild relatives is the subject of a new book by Norman C. Ellstrand, Professor of Genetics at the University of California, Riverside and Director of its Biotechnology Impacts Center. He will be talking about the book and signing copies starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, in the first event ever held at The Village Bookstore, 1299 University Avenue, Suite 101, Riverside.

“I’ve always been fascinated by evolution — and sex,” said Ellstrand. “Those interests first drew me down the long path that brought me to writing this book.”

The book, published last month by Johns Hopkins University Press, is especially relevant because of the controversy stirred up in recent years by the field release of transgenic plants. Pollens can transfer genetic changes into wild plant populations, with unintended negative consequences. This is the first book to focus on the issue, Ellstrand said.

“Although such plant liaisons have been going on for thousands of years, the issue has gained significance with the invention of genetically engineered plants,” Ellstrand said. “A topic once of interest only to a small band of plant evolutionists now attracts the attention of activists, policy makers, and players in the world of biotechnology.”

The book describes the consequences of these liaisons, for example, the evolution of new hybrid weeds, the increased risk of extinction if the wild plants are already rare and the potential for contaminating important natural plant varieties. The book ends with recommendations on how to best manage and monitor engineered genes when they inevitably escape into wild populations.

Ellstrand arrived at UCR in 1979 following a year’s postdoctoral stint at Duke University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1978. His varied awards range from a Fulbright Fellowship to Sweden in 1993 to being named a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2000.

What scholars have said of Ellstrand’s “Dangerous Liaisons?”:
“In the stormy sea of debate over genetically modified organisms, Ellstrand's book is a safe and fascinating harbor of science-based opinion on cultivated plants in their larger gene pools. A visionary scientist and an ethical public servant, Ellstrand sets the quality standards for all who will follow.” - Gary Paul Nabhan, Director, Center for Sustainable Environments, author of Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods.

“A well-written, objective account of the prevalence and roles of hybridization in plants, focusing on the relationships between crops and their wild and weedy relatives. This book is important reading for those concerned with the development of agriculture in the future, and the standards that ought to be applied when new strains of crops are developed. Norman Ellstrand has provided us with the best account of this important field.” - Peter H. Raven, Director, Missouri Botanical Garden.

“Buckle up for a rollicking ride through the world of plant sex. Norman Ellstrand, scientific investigator, is on the trail of a little-noticed phenomenon, the migration of plant genes across the boundaries of farmers' fields. He provides a comprehensive and even-tempered look at an old phenomenon that has suddenly acquired new relevance in this era of genetically engineered crops. An essential guide to a fascinating and often startling topic.” - Daniel Charles, author of Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money, and the Future of Food.

“This book brings science to bear on a controversial issue - the possible escape of engineered genes into wild species. Although Ellstrand's discussion is nuanced and sophisticated, his friendly and informal writing style makes it palatable. Ellstrand has produced the rare book that does not compromise the science yet remains a pleasure to read.” - Loren Rieseberg, Indiana University

“With insight, originality and extraordinary scholarship, Norman Ellstrand brings together classical and current knowledge about crop evolution, crop breeding and evolutionary ecology, weaving historical and ultra-contemporary themes into a single, comprehensive treatment. This book is a masterpiece that will be highly influential and widely cited.” - Allison Snow, Ohio State University.

The Village Bookstore, on the corner of University and Iowa, opened for business on October 1, 2003 as a resource for all of the Inland Empire, but especially for the east side of Riverside. The new 8,300 square foot Bookstore is stocked with a large selection of general reading and special interest books, magazines, gifts and clothing items. The Bookstore also carries a large selection of children’s books located in a children’s reading area. A children’s story hour is scheduled for 2 p.m. each Saturday and there will be poetry readings, book signings and book clubs. Business hours are: Monday thru Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 10 p.m. Information: (909) 827-7716.
book cover

book cover


The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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