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The Eco-Foods Guide: What's Good for the Earth is Good for You!
By Cynthia Barstow; Forward by Frances Moore Lappe
New Society Publishers, 2002
288 pp.; $17.95, paperback
ISBN 0-8657-1460-6

In the early 1970s, after studying Frances Moore Lappe's publication, DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET, our family began adding high-protein, meatless meals to our regular menu. We combined corn products with beans. We added nutritional yeast, sesame and sunflower seeds to home-made whole wheat bread. We began shopping at a local food cooperative, searching the bins for less expensive items in bulk. We planted our first vegetable garden. We joined a food buying club. During these many years we have worked to understand terms such as "organic" and "sustainable agriculture." Always, as in the words of that popular bumper sticker, we have tried to "think globally and act locally." But now, thirty years later, we realize that not only has the world's population grown, food sources and distribution services appear to be dominated by only a few corporations and their board members. Suddenly we find ourselves asking: What are the current issues? What do we need to know about food production? Where do we go for information, and why is updated information so important?

If you've found yourself asking these or similar questions, you will enjoy reading Cynthia Barstow's recent book, The Eco-Foods Guide: What's Good for the Earth is Good for You! Page by page, chapter by chapter, Barstow encourages her readers to become "food citizens," eaters who "take an interest in food beyond its affordability and availability." Beginning with a walk through the grocery store, nutritional and ecological information at hand, Barstow demonstrates how someone who once helped market fast foods in New York City became an eco-eater living with her family on an organic farm in Massachusetts. Continuing chapters explore the state of soil in the United States beyond the devastating Dust Bowl of the 1930s, reasons for the use and eventual over-use of pesticides and fertilizers world wide, the development of genetically altered crops (is it really Mendel's fault?), as well as the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, 1994) on local production and consumption of produce. Barstow packs each chapter with enough information about animal and vegetable crops to encourage thoughtful selection and purchase. (Did you know that domestic salmon is often injected with red food coloring to give its flesh the same pinkish color we value in the wild variety?)

Interwoven with similar convincing, if painful to read, details about genetically altered crops and the commercial slaughter of animals, are images from Barstow's journey toward participation in a regional cooperative farm which allows members to pick and pack away in-season crops during good years and suffer a bit of financial loss during crop failure. To become a "food citizen," Barstow maintains, is to consider more than the price of produce and what's easily available because it's been imported. We must be concerned, she says, about "environmental sustainability, the health of farmers and consumers, issues of justice for farmworkers and the poor, and democratic participation in determining where our food system is heading." (p. 238.) The goals are large ones. There is much to learn. Because of this, Cynthia Barstow packs The Eco-Foods Guide with plenty of personal images, historical details and contemporary web-sites to allow each of us to ponder our current beliefs about food production and consumption. Barstow encourages us to believe that what's good for the earth is good for us, too.

---Jeanne Whitehouse

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Canada, V0R 1X0

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