I wanted to write a post about GMOs, but I really don’t have anything to say about the topic that I haven’t said before. So instead of beating a dead horse, I thought I would just link to stuff that has come out on the topic in the last few months:
- From the MIT Technology Review: Why We Will Need GM Foods.
- From the always excellent Amy Harmon in the New York Times: A Lonely Quest for Facts on GM Crops.
- From NPR: GMOs and the Dilemma of Bias.
- The places that need GM crops the most for their subsistence are being “starved for science,” as Rob Paarlberg said: Tension over GM Crops Grows in Tanzania.
- My über-productive Oklahoma State ag econ colleague Jayson Lusk and his coauthor Henry Miller in the New York Times: We Need GMO Wheat. If you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor, and get a copy of Jayson’s book The Food Police.
- “But wait,” you say, “what about the science against GMOs?” Funny you should ask: Kevin Folta has a post titled “Séralini’s Connections to Quack Science and Strange Philosophies.” Continue reading
An article in the latest issue of Food Policy by my grad-school colleague and coauthor Sudha Narayanan explores the heterogeneity in welfare gains from participating in high-value agriculture for South Indian smallholder farmers:
This paper assesses the variable impact of participation in high value agriculture through contract farming arrangements in southern India. Using survey data for 474 farmers in four commodity sectors, gherkins, papaya marigold and broiler, an endogenous switching model is used to estimate net profits from participation. Findings suggest that average treatments effect vary widely across contract commodities. Papaya and broiler contracting offer clear net gains for participants whereas marigold contracting leaves participants worse off. For gherkins, while contracting holds net gains for participating farmers overall, this is true of contracts with some firms but not others. The standard deviations of point estimates of treatment effects are quite large indicating variability in profit gains even within the same commodity sectors. Thus, notwithstanding the sign of average treatment effects, contract farming arrangements have diverse impacts on income for individual farmers and these could have implications for sustained participation of farmers in high value agriculture.
After looking at correlations between participation in contract farming and welfare in the late 1990s and early to mid-2000s, the literature began focusing on both internal validity (by using more sophisticated means of teasing out causal relationships from correlations) and external validity (by looking at more than one commodity) in the late 2000s and early 2010s. It’s nice to see the literature delve a bit deeper now by looking at the heterogeneity in treatment effects.
This is also the only study I know of where a negative welfare effect is reported (for marigold farming). Such findings are presumably rare because contracts in which growers lose out tend to not last more than one or two seasons.
Q: Do you have a food message that you want to convey?
A: Part of my live show is a 20-minute political diatribe called “10 things I’m pretty sure that I’m sure about food.” It’s basically a slide-show lecture wrapped up in a rant. I think that my overarching message in it is, “Look, we’ve gotten to where we’ve idolized food to the point that we’re missing the experience.” You know, the most magical thing about food is its ability to connect human beings to one another. That’s the real miracle of food.
But if you’re looking so closely at the food that you miss the people you’re sitting with, then food is no longer a good thing. Then it’s a bad thing. I think those of us in the food media have to be very, very, very careful how much we objectify the food itself.
From a Q&A with Alton Brown in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Click here for an answer (whose language is slightly NSFW…)
Joking aside: I know blogging has been light these past few weeks, but with the start of classes and seeing six job-market candidates (all of whom I have to meet with, attend a seminar by, and have dinner with), there has been little time for anything else. Regular blogging should resume next week.
(ht: Mathieu Lalonde.)