Anglo-Irish playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) once wrote: “Science is always wrong. It never solves a problem without creating 10 more.” And Maine author Caitlin Shetterly proves he was right.

“Modified” is Shetterly’s fascinating and alarming explanation of what GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) foods and byproducts really are, how they are created and how they adversely affect humans, nature and the environment. Shetterly is neither a doctor nor a scientist. She is a journalist trying to make sense of GMO concerns, pros and cons. And what she discovers is surprising and disturbing.

She is also an “accidental” activist, the result of her finally solving her own health and allergy problems linked to GMO corn. As she explains, science created GMOs to boost crop production and produce more food, with seeds and crops having DNA inserted to resist drought and pests, creating their own immune system. Good idea, right? Except she reveals that GMO genes cannot be made in nature, only in a laboratory, with harmful side effects for our health, soil and water.

This is a well-written scientific journey, with loads of scientific jargon and technology. She shows that GMO food and byproducts are everywhere, and that most people have no idea how much they consume or are exposed to. For example, 90 percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is GMO, used for food (fresh and packaged) as well as byproducts in plastics, pharmaceuticals, animal feed, bio fuels, toys, dishes and sneakers.

Shetterly tells of European efforts to keep all GMOs out of their food (or at least be labeled as GMO), how Big Ag and Bio-tech giants like Monsanto, Du Pont, Dow and ConAgra stifle dissent and criticism, and why “Food Democracy Now!” is the loudest and most influential anti-GMO organization in the nation’s growing food movement.


The pulp magazines of the 1930s-1950s were wildly popular for their lurid stories of lustful dames, beady-eyed goons with guns, nasty villains, crime and violence. And now Hallowell author L.E. Barrett is bringing the pulps back with this first book in his planned “Kennebec River Trilogy.”

“The Boys From Joppa” is an ambitious and uneven blend of pulp fiction, mystery and historical commentary, taking place in Hallowell in the 1960s. Joppa is a tough neighborhood of beat-up houses, rundown tenements and dead end opportunities, where poor working-class folks did whatever they could to just get by. Barrett paints a vivid picture of the neighborhood’s poverty and hopelessness.

Dip’s Store is a fixture in Joppa, a phony grocery store that sells only beer and smokes, and where Dip also runs a betting operation. The cops would love to close him down, but Dip always manages to dodge the law. Dip’s Store is the nucleus of this story, all the plotlines run through Dip’s somehow, and he knows everybody’s business.

Numerous characters and subplots cross throughout the story, from the gang of inept, petty thieves who steal a railroad boxcar full of liquor and don’t know what to do with it, to the dead body floating in the Kennebec River, the kid hanging in a surprised man’s barn and the bumbling cops, the wife-beating husbands and the cheating housewives.

Loaded with criminal behavior, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, graphic sexual activity and snappy dialogue and action, this reads like a hyperactive Mickey Spillane meets Don Knotts. The ending is abrupt, with no plot resolution, setting the obvious hook to pick up the sequel — “Dummer’s Lane.” Still, this is fast, fun pulp reading, but don’t expect too much.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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