Category: Uncategorized

The Chance Result the Whole World Yearned To Believe

My colleagues and I recruited actual human subjects in Germany. We ran an actual clinical trial, with subjects randomly assigned to different diet regimes. And the statistically significant benefits of chocolate that we reported are based on the actual data. It was, in fact, a fairly typical study for the field of diet research. Which is to say: It was terrible science. The results are meaningless, and the health claims that the media blasted out to millions of people around the world are utterly unfounded.

From a fascinating article with the click-baity title “I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here’s How,” by John Bohannon on io9.

“But wait,” you say, “if this was all based on actual data and the finding wasn’t false, why are the findings meaningless?” Because of this: Continue reading

Food Luddites and Culinary Modernism

Food historian and philosopher of science and technology Rachel Laudan, whose book Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History just came out in paperback this last month, has a great article in the latest issue of Jacobin magazine.

There are just too many excellent tidbits to Rachel’s article that I have to quote many of them. There’s this:

It is a mark of sophistication to bemoan the steel roller mill and supermarket bread while yearning for stone­ ground flour and brick ovens; to seek out heirloom apples and pumpkins while despising modern tomatoes and hybrid corn; to be hostile to agronomists who develop high-yielding modern crops and to home economists who invent new recipes for General Mills.

And this: Continue reading

A Theory of Community-Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) contracts allow consumers to buy claims on a farm’s future production. In turn, the consumer provides working capital to the farm during the growing season. CSA contracts also provide risk management for farmers with limited access to Federal crop insurance by transferring part of the farm’s risk to the consumer. We derive a theory of CSA contract pricing for the two most prevalent types of CSA contracts: yield contracts, in which consumers receive a percentage of the farm’s production, and weight contracts, in which consumers receive fixed quantities. We develop a two-period model in which expected utility maximizing producers and consumers engage in CSA contracting in the first period based on anticipation of yields and spot prices in the second period. Using the model, we generate several testable hypotheses to be explored in future research. Additionally, we present an overview of the data necessary to test the propositions and potential challenges that might arise in related empirical work.

That is the abstract of a new article by my long-time friend and former grad-school colleague Jaclyn Kropp and her coauthor Tom Sproul in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

This is fascinating for a few different reasons. First off, from the point of view of novelty, this is exactly the kind of topic that I think agricultural and applied economists should be spending some time working on, given the rise in CSA popularity. Second, from a contract-theoretic perspective, I found it interesting that there were two types of contracts, as highlighted in the abstract: a contract wherein production risk is shared by the producer and the consumer (yield contract), and a contract where all risk is borne by the producer (weight contract). Finally, I like that the paper pays attention to both the theory and, in a more limited fashion, the empirics of CSA. Continue reading