Category: Agriculture

Bette Midler, the Jenny McCarthy of Food Policy?

BetteMidlerActress Jenny McCarthy is well-known for opposing vaccines, because they “cause autism.” Never mind the fact that there is an overwhelming body of research that shows that vaccines do not cause autism, Jenny McCarthy just knows. Because Jenny McCarthy is a celebrity, she commands much more attention than her knowledge of medicine would normally command.

Likewise with Bette Midler, who has taken to pontificating about genetically modified organisms in the tweet above (and probably elsewhere; I didn’t want to look…)

Really, is it be too much to ask from celebrities that they stick to what they know?

(ht: David Rieff, via Twitter.)

Why Farmers in Developing Countries Sometimes Love Risk

Using a unique data set collected among farmers in India’s semiarid tropics, we document the surprising prevalence of risk-taking behavior in the face of realistically framed high-stakes gambles. We hypothesize that this apparently anomalous behavior is due to a combination of credit constraints and nonconvexities in production. In particular, the high-stakes nature of the gambles creates the potential for a farmer to undertake a productive investment that would normally be unaffordable and thereby move to a permanently higher level of income. We show that the degree to which farmers are willing to accept risk in return for this opportunity appears to relate in an intuitive way to their current agricultural production technology as well as the demographic composition of their household.

A new paper by Annemie Maertens, A.V. Chari, and David Just.

Standing Up for GMOs


Rice is the major dietary staple for almost half of humanity, but white rice grains lack vitamin A. Research scientists Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer and their teams developed a rice variety whose grains accumulate β-carotene. It took them, in collaboration with IRRI, 25 years to develop and test varieties that express sufficient quantities of the precursor that a few ounces of cooked rice can provide enough β-carotene to eliminate the morbidity and mortality of vitamin A deficiency. It took time, as well, to obtain the right to distribute Golden Rice seeds, which contain patented molecular constructs, free of charge to resource-poor farmers. Continue reading