McMahon, Joseph A. and Melauku Geboye Desta. Research Handbook on the WTO Agriculture Agreement: New and Emerging Issues in International Agricultural Trade Law. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2012, 336 pages inclusive of index.  Hardcover, $195.00, ISBN 978-1848441163

I grew up on a farm in Iowa and have lived in several states in which agriculture is a major industry and agribusiness and trade are vital to the state’s economy.  When I saw the title “Research Handbook on the WTO Agriculture Agreement:  New and Emerging Issues in International Agricultural Trade Law,” I jumped at the chance to check it out.  This title, part of the Edgar Elgar series of research handbooks on the World Trade Organization, would be an excellent addition to law libraries that have an interest in international law, agricultural law, international trade, or intellectual property, to name but a few.

The book is a collaborative effort with a multi-disciplinary group of experts from several countries contributing to each of the book’s chapters.  The book is arranged in a logical, orderly format.  The first chapter sets the scene, providing much needed context behind the Agreement on Agriculture.  Other topics discussed in the book include food security, plant intellectual property, genetically modified organisms, biofuels, and climate change.  These are all issues that, according to the editors, have either been lacking in coverage in the rules of the Agreement on Agriculture or have received scant notice in the existing scholarly literature.  The editors have done a commendable job of ensuring that each chapter builds upon the information presented in the previous chapters.  One thing to keep in mind is that each of these topics contains a dizzying array of acronyms.  The editors have included a quick reference section at the beginning of the book containing all of these abbreviations, and each group of authors has included the meanings of the abbreviations within the text of their articles.  I found myself having to refer to the chart at the beginning quite frequently.  While I could figure out that WTO stands for World Trade Organization, I wasn't as adept at always remembering that ASSINEL stands for the International Association of Plant Breeders. 

Each chapter includes a complete bibliography of sources, ranging from scholarly articles to official government publications.  The sources are current (through early 2012) and reputable. 

Of course, I found some topics more interesting than others.  I was particularly interested in plant intellectual property, genetically modified organisms, and biofuels, and those chapters were a fascinating read.  The authors present the facts, scenarios, and then recommend possible solutions to problems.  The issue of food security runs through virtually every chapter.  This is a topic to which many of us give little thought, but is one that is of critical importance in many lesser developed nations.  I found the international focus of the book to be refreshing, as there is not an American-based perspective on the issues.  I appreciated reading the points of view of individuals from other nations.  The cost of the book ($195 USD) can be a bit daunting, but for law libraries with a special interest in agriculture, international law, or any of the topics contained within the book, it would be well worth the purchase.

Timothy Gatton is Reference Librarian for Public, Clinical, and Student Services at Oklahoma City University Law Library.