Contrary to widespread consumer belief, organic farming is not the best way to farm from an environmental point of view. The guiding principle of organic is to rely exclusively on natural inputs. That was decided early in the 20th century, decades before before the scientific disciplines of toxicology, environmental studies and climate science emerged to inform our understanding of how farming practices impact the environment. As both farming and science have progressed, there are now several cutting edge agricultural practices which are good for the environment, but difficult or impossible for organic farmers to implement within the constraints of their pre-scientific rules.
From a fascinating post by plant pathologist S.D. Savage, in which he gives six reasons why organic agriculture is not the most environmentally friendly way to farm.
People interested in food policy (PPS590 students, even though your term paper is due tonight, this means you) should read Savage’s post in full, but if you are in a hurry, here are those six reasons: Continue reading →
Via Open Culture, a mini documentary about the importance of food in Quentin Tarantino’s movies.
From the restaurant scene in which tipping is discussed at length in Reservoir Dogs to Calvin Candie’s seeming addiction to sweets in Django Unchained and from Big Kahuna Burgers (“The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast!”) in Pulp Fiction to the apple strudel in Inglourious Basterds, it’s all there:
We have all seen the commercials on television. Many of them readily fall under the broad name of “poverty porn,” and most of them feature resigned-looking developing-world children set against a sad soundtrack. All of them ask us to help by sponsoring a child in a developing country.
But does international child sponsorship work? In a new article (older, ungated copy here) in the Journal of Political Economy, Bruce Wydick, Paul Glewwe, and Laine Rutledge give an answer that is bound to surprise many development cynics:
Child sponsorship is a leading form of direct aid from wealthy country households to children in developing countries. Over 9 million children are supported through international sponsorship organizations. Using data from six countries, we estimate impacts on several outcomes from sponsorship through Compassion International, a leading child sponsorship organization. To identify program effects, we utilize an age-eligibility rule implemented when programs began in new villages. We find large, statistically significant impacts on years of schooling; primary, secondary, and tertiary school completion; and the probability and quality of employment. Early evidence suggests that these impacts are due, in part, to increases in children’s aspirations.
From an editorial in last Sunday’s New York Times:
Food aid is one of the most important tools of American foreign policy. Since the mid-1950s, the United States has spent nearly $2 billion annually to feed the world’s poor, saving millions of lives. But the process is so rigid and outdated that many more people who could be helped still go hungry. Reforms proposed by President Obama will go a long way toward fixing that problem and should be promptly enacted by Congress. Continue reading →