The Northwestern Health Advocate

Center for Healthcare Innovation and Policy

Stay current with the latest policy and research news in integrative health care

Welcome to our May edition of The Northwestern Health Advocate. Opioid abuse continues to be in the nation's focus, a major report on GMOs was published just as local farmers are sowing their fields, and many state legislatures are winding down their sessions. Read on for the latest updates. Please note, this publication will be on hiatus for the summer months. We will resume again in September. Enjoy!

Healthcare Practice

The History of Opioid Abuse in the US

Take a moment to digest these sobering statistics: Americans consume

  • 99% of the world's hydrocodone
  • 80% of the world's oxycodone
  • 65% of the worlds hydromorphone

How did the US get to this level of mis-use and abuse? Click here for a fascinating lesson on the history of opioids by Aaron Carroll, of The Incidental Economist.

There are numerous initiatives at local, state, and regional levels to advocate for more appropriate use of opioids within the broader context of more effective pain management. The Policy section of this newsletter highlights a few bills gaining momentum in this arena.

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Evolution of the GMO Debate

Just this week, the National Academy of Sciences completed a seminal report, weighing in on genetically engineered (GE) foods. Far from being the final word, this report is the most comprehensive review to date on the safety, environmental impact, and economics related to GE crops.

Among the benefits, high quality research demonstrates that:

· Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are safe to eat.

· GE plants decrease the amount of pesticides and insecticides needed to produce a favorable yield.

Key areas where GE crops have not lived up to the hype:

· Yield does not significantly increase, compared to conventional plant breeding

· Insects can and do develop resistance to GE crops

Summary findings that address some of the more controversial aspects of the GMO debate include:

· While there are statistically significant differences in nutrient and chemical compositions between genetically engineered and non-GE plants, this difference is within the range of naturally occurring variation in non-GE crops.

· Data does not support the assertion that GE crops increase cancer rates, obesity, autism, kidney disease, or GI diseases.

· GMOs do not decrease wild plant or insect life on farms where GE crops are grown.

Predictably, the report is under fire from anti-GMO groups, criticizing members of the committee as biased, and questioning the integrity of the research under consideration. Also debated is the increasingly blurred line in what constitutes genetically modified foods--whether engineered or through conventional breeding techniques.

With approximately 12% of the world’s crops fitting the classification of “genetically engineered”, further research and oversight of the genetic modification industry is warranted. The report’s authors wisely caution in their conclusion, “policy regarding GE crops has scientific, legal, and social dimensions, and not all issues can be answered by science alone. Indeed, conclusions about GE crops often depend on how stakeholders and decision-makers set priorities among and weigh different considerations and values.”

Call To Action

Legislatures Heat Up as they Wind Down

The Minnesota state legislature is scheduled to adjourn May 23, although there are significant debates, bills, and compromises yet to be made. It will no doubt be a flurry of activity through the final moments of the session.

The Northwestern Health Advocate has featured several bills on both state and national levels, whose futures are still undecided. Online links allow you to follow bills in the Minnesota House and Minnesota Senate; similar sites exist for every other state legislature. (formerly allows you to track federal legislation. This site also allows you to follow a particular bill or topic by sending updates to your email. Many state legislature websites also feature this option.

As we look toward summer, take note of when your representatives are holding town hall meetings or campaign events. These are excellent opportunities to have direct conversations about healthcare access, provider non-discrimination, and parity in the healthcare marketplace. Legislators know that they work for their constituents—a palpable reality in an election year! Take advantage of this and exercise your right as a US citizen to petition your government on policy matters that matter to you.

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Center for Healthcare Innovation and Policy

Michele Maiers, DC, MPH, PhD
Executive Director of Research and Innovation