1st Place (Gold) Winner: “Outstanding Book of the Year – Most Progressive Health Book”

I am thrilled and honored for Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food to have been recognized and awarded by the Independent Publisher Book Awards as this year’s 1st Place (Gold) WINNER for “Outstanding Book of the Year — Most Progressive Health Book.” 

According to the Independent Publisher Book Awards website:

The Independent Publisher Book Awards have been conducted annually to honor the year’s best independently published titles.

This year’s contest attracted 3,175 total entries–books came from 49 U.S. states, D.C., and U.S. Virgin Islands; 9 Canadian provinces, and 16 countries around the world: Trinidad to Thailand, Croatia to Czech Republic, and France to Finland.

The “IPPY” Outstanding Book of the Year Awards reward those who exhibit the courage and creativity necessary to take chances, break new ground, and bring about change, not only to the world of publishing, but to our society…These nominees were chosen from our regular entries for exemplifying this daring spirit and this list represents the cutting edge of independent thinking and expression.

Outstanding Book of the Year–Most Progressive Health Book

Gold:  Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food, by Beth H. Harrison, PhD (iUniverse)


The world food “crisis” for many, “opportunity” for multinationals

John Nichols’ article “The World Food Crisis” appeared in the May 12 edition of The Nation. He quoted a Wisconsin dairy farmer who said,

So, they finally figured out, after all these years of pushing globalization and genetically modified seeds, that instead of feeding the world we’ve created a food system that leaves more people hungry. If they’d listened to farmers instead of corporations, they would’ve known this was going to happen.

But hunger isn’t just a new, “current” issue.  Hundreds of millions of people were starving and malnourished last year, even 11% of Americans were “food insecure” according to recent statistics. The only change is that as the scope of the crisis has grown and it has become more difficult to “manage” the hunger that the failed food system accepts, rather than feeds.

The current global food system, created by US-based agribusiness multinationals like Monsanto, Cargill, and ADM and forced into place by the US government and its allies at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, has, according to Nichols,

…planted the seeds of disaster by pressuring farmers here and abroad to produce cash crops for export and alternative fuels rather than grow healthful food for local consumption and regional stability.

The result? Bush called on Congress at the beginning of May to approve $770 million in food aid, a “solution” touted to help alleviate escalating food prices that threaten hunger and increasing social unrest around the world.

According to the Associated Press the money is actually being included in a broader $70 billion Iraq war funding measure for 2009, which means it isn’t helping the crisis at hand; it won’t reach those in need until late next year.  In addition, something else (you won’t hear from the mainstream media) was slipped into that $770 million aid package:  It would direct the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is taxpayer-funded, to spend $150 million of the total aid package on development farming, which includes GE crops.

As I mentioned in Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food, US taxpayer dollars are being used for foreign assistance programs to subsidize the export of GE products to the Third World and to finance GE research. According to their website, USAID’s “training and awareness raising programs” provide companies such as Monsanto opportunities for technology transfer and to “enhance public knowledge and acceptance of biotechnology.”

Multinational agribusinesses are enjoying massive profits out of the world food crisis that is driving millions of people towards starvation. In “Multinationals Make Billions in Profit Out of Growing Global Food Crisis” in The Independent, Geoffrey Lean reported that in April, Monsanto reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543 million to $1.12 billion. Cargill’s net earnings soared by 86% from $553 million to $1.030 billion over the same three months.

The “fix” for what ails the global food system, according to John Nichols, is not more of the same globalization and genetic gimmickry, which has left 37 nations with food crises. 

However, for the multinationals that influence (and determine) public policy, it is business as usual.  What a business opportunity for corporations like global grain giant Cargill, that harvests an 86% rise in profits and Monsanto, that reaps record sales from its herbicides and seeds.  If corporations make a profit, that’s one thing.  But when we taxpayers subsidize these private corporations that make insane profits at the expense of health and the environment, something has to change. 

Keep in mind, food security problems exist, and they are not and never have been solved with GE food. The USDA has acknowledged that GE crop yields are not greater than those of conventional crops and a compelling number of studies by independent scientists demonstrate that GE crop yields are lower than, or at best equivalent to, yields from non-GE varieties.  In addition, GE crops have led to a large increase in pesticide use and have failed to increase yield or tackle world hunger and poverty.

We, the American taxpayers, support the multi-billion dollar biotech industry by massively funding GE crop subsidies, state initiatives, and tax breaks for biotech companies, while biotech crops are exported for foreign aid, and other biotech support is doled out by the US government.

There might be little or nothing you can do about how your tax dollars are spent, but as a consumer, your dollars wield the most influence.  Stop buying GE food, which contributes to multinational corporations that are only interested in profits.  Tell food manufacturers you don’t want GMOs.  Go to local farmers’ markets.  Find out about local Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs).  A CSA is a way for the food buying public to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. Find a CSA near you. 

You choose with your dollars–and you can make a difference.


$300 billion farm bill and continued big ag $ubsidies

According to Carolyn Lockhead in the San Francisco Chronicle, a conference committee approved most of a nearly $300 billion farm bill that will lock in the nation’s food policy and environmental stewardship on millions of acres of private land for the next five years.

Instead of cutting subsidies, Congress increased spending, raised taxes, and “engaged in budget acrobatics to make everything appear to fit.” Farm bills come around just once every five years and usually go in under the radar of most lawmakers and the public, making it easy for Congress to tout the bills as “aid to family farmers,” when in reality subsidies are about supporting large agribusinesses.

Pelosi offered a ban on payments to farm couples earning more than $2 million; at the same time, she backed a 50% increase in the actual amount of money each “farmer” could get. The bill would spend about $5 billion a year on automatic payments, once again, mostly to farmers of five crops (many of them GE)—corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat, and rice—giving 2/3 of the money to the top 10% of growers, not small family farms.

As I mentioned in Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food, Pelosi’s motivation is to “preserve the re-election prospects of freshman Democrats in rural districts who toppled Republicans and helped secure Democrats their House majority and Pelosi the speakership. Nine of the freshmen sit on the House Agriculture Committee. Several said they feared any vote to reform farm programs would endanger their political prospects.”

To secure votes on this bill, negotiators also added a $93 million write-off for thoroughbred racehorses at the behest of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Arkansas Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln.  What??

Pelosi threatened to blast Bush for killing the food-stamp increase if he vetoes the bill, issuing a statement urging Bush to sign the legislation to “ensure that 38 million Americans – especially children – have improved access to basic nutrition.”

Source: Carolyn Lockhead, San Francisco Chronicle (May 4, 2008), “Farm bill upends normal political order


Study finds non-GE cotton yields more than GE

A study examining genetically engineered cotton varieties found that non-GE varieties yielded more than GE varieties.  The study, “Will transgenic cultivars return more profit?” was published in the January-February 2008 issue of Agronomy Journal. 

Field experiments were conducted from 2001-2004 to compare production systems utilizing cotton cultivars possessing different GE technologies. Cultivars of each type of technology were managed in accordance with their respective genetic capabilities.  In 2001 and 2002 selection of the Roundup Ready GE system resulted in reduced returns to the producer, while higher returns were attained from non-transgenic, Bollgard and Bollgard/Roundup Ready technologies.  Again in 2003, selection of the transgenic cultivars reduced returns, while similar, higher returns were attained from non-transgenic technologies.  According to the authors,

Collectively these results indicate that profitability was most closely associated with yields and not the transgenic technologies.

Source: The Organic & Non-GMO Report May 2008


More proof that organic is more nutritious

A review of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods shows that organic plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains) contain higher levels of 8 out of 11 nutrients studied, including significantly greater concentrations of the health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants.

In this first comprehensive review of the scientific literature comparing nutrient levels in organic and conventional food completed since 2003, a team of scientists concluded that organically grown plant-based foods are 25% more nutrient dense, on average, and deliver more essential nutrients per serving or calorie consumed. Nutrient levels were studied in 236 matched pairs of foods with scientifically valid results on the levels of 10 nutrients, plus nitrates (high levels are undesirable because of food safety risks).

Each matched pair contains, for example, an apple crop grown organically and another apple crop from a nearby conventional farm with similar soils, climate, plant genetics, irrigation systems, nitrogen levels, and harvest practices.

The report was published by The Organic Center and is titled “New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-based Organic Foods.” The co-authors are Charles Benbrook, the Center’s Chief Scientist, Xin Zhao of the University of Florida, and three Washington State University scientists Jaime Yáñez, Neal Davies, and Preston Andrews. Dr. Andrew Weil, a Center board member, wrote the foreword to the report.

The full report and its executive summary are available on The Organic Center’s website

Source:  The Organic & Non-GMO Report, May 2008