Sunday, April 15, 2018

Who says U.S. farmers aren't feeding the world?

There have been some to push back regarding the notion that U.S. farmers 'feed the world.'  However, this adds some perspective for consideration:

“Syngenta (2014) reported that the demand for grain has increased almost 90% since 1980 and that each year 2.4 billion tons of grain is consumed annually through food, fuel and feed. The four main contributing crops include soybean and maize (feed), and rice and wheat (food). In South Africa, half of the maize produced is used for animal feed, of which 70% is for poultry (Goldblatt, 2012). Furthermore, any significant rise in the demand for meat results in a similar rise in the demand for grain because one kilogram beef requires seven kilograms grain to produce, one kilogram pork requires four kilograms of grain and a kilogram of poultry requires two kilograms of grain (Syngenta, 2014). It is thus evident that agriculture is mainly demand driven and the grain industry specifically will continue to play a vital role in the global economy. The challenge will be to meet the growing demand by means of increased production.”

from: A COMPETENCY MODEL FOR DATA SCIENTISTS IN GRAIN SA YOLANDI KRUGER Field study submitted to the UFS Business School in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of MAGISTER in BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION at the University of the Free State Supervisor: Prof. M. KotzĂ© Co-supervisor: Mr J.F. de Villiers (2015)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

From the tweet stream February 22, 2018

From my economic sense blog post - The 'free-from' Nash equilibrium food marketing strategy.

A meta analysis summarizing 21 years of research related to GMO corn. Results - healthier and better yielding. 

"Results provided strong evidence that GE maize performed better than its near isogenic line: grain yield was 5.6 to 24.5% higher with lower concentrations of mycotoxins (−28.8%), fumonisin (−30.6%) and thricotecens (−36.5%)....The results support the cultivation of GE maize, mainly due to enhanced grain quality and reduction of human exposure to mycotoxins."

Beyond proof of concept - blockchain

“Before the blockchain test, it took Walmart six days, 18 hours and 26 minutes to trace the mangoes back to their original source, he said. Blockchain not only cut that time down to an unbelievable 2.2 seconds” - from 

Corn may soon be fixing its own nitrogen:

"Pivot Bio is on a mission to replace all nitrogen fertilizer with microbes that adhere to the crop’s root system and spoon-feed the crop each day. These microbes mature as the crop grows, matching the supply of nitrogen to the need of each plant." 

Facial recognition for managing cattle.

If you think that is cool, check out  Image-based ex-vivo drug screening for patients.

Some research on gene drives.

Follow me at @AgEconomist 

Friday, February 2, 2018

What if they made a movie about Elinor Ostrom?


Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. By Elinor Ostrom (HT: Cafe Hyek, Don Boudreaux)

"Predictions that individuals will not devise, precommit to, and monitor their own rules to change the structure of interdependent situations so as to obtain joint benefits are not consistent with evidence that some individuals have overcome these problems, although others have not."

i.e. sometimes people devise cooperative ways to escape from a Nash Equilibrium without resorting to taxes or regulation.

In the movie A Beautiful Mind, there is a scene where John Nash states "Smith was wrong." I wonder if they made a movie about Elinor Ostrom if there would be a scene where she could say "Nash was wrong."  Of course both statements are just terse jabs failing to capture the actual subtleties and nuances of economic theory.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

StonyField faces backlash for bad optics on fear based marketing exploiting young girls

Too bad....really really used to like that brown cow whole milk's like melted ice cream. Could you imagine the oil companies making a video of young girls saying climate change is a scam? Well that is essentially what StonyField has done with their add promoting their products. Then trying to back track with bad science in statements citing IARCs opinion on glyphosate. They followed that by taking harsh tones and actions in social media against the efforts of those in the agricultural and scientific communities to discuss these issues. This has created a backlash from the scientific community and a PR nightmare for StonyField.

See Stonyfield Organic Gets Taken to Task for Anti-GMO Propaganda Video

See also:

Consumers Wising up to Misleading Food Labels
Food with Integrity is Catching On

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Sensors and CRISPR driving productivity and sustainability

This edible sensor could reveal what our gut microbes are up to

“Wouldn’t it be nice if our microbiomes could serve up diet advice—some science-based assurance that our food and medicines act in harmony with our resident microbes to keep us healthy? For that to happen, scientists will need to better understand how the interaction between food and microbes affects the chemical composition of our guts.” - Science

Think of how this could be used to optimize rations in livestock!

Engineers make wearable sensors for plants, enabling measurements of water use in crops

More precise and never before possible measures of phenotype through sensors can aid genetic improvements....also "The technology could "open a new route" for a wide variety of applications, the authors wrote in their paper, including sensors for biomedical diagnostics, for checking the structural integrity of buildings, for monitoring the environment" - Science Daily

Meet the Woman Using CRISPR to Breed All-Male “Terminator Cattle”

"Van Eenennaam, in fact, got the funding for the cattle project from a U.S. Department of Agriculture program looking at the potential hazards of gene-modified organisms. The department wants ways to sterilize GM organisms, including catfish and poplar trees, so their DNA modifications don’t spread to wild relatives."

"Van Eenennaam’s long-term goal is to make beef production more efficient. Males yield more meat than females and don’t get pregnant or go into heat. She thinks the ersatz males should be about 15 percent more efficient at turning grass and grain into muscle than females."

See also:

Consumers are wising up to misleading food labels

Nice piece in the Washington Post: Savvier shoppers see through misleading food labels. Here’s how. 

"Companies advertise what’s “not” in their foods to exploit the knowledge gap that consumers have. It’s natural for a shopper to assume if a food “does not contain” something, that’s a good thing (even if they have no idea what it means). Marketers prey on consumer vulnerabilities, then charge a premium for products that never contained that “evil” ingredient in the first place."

See also: Food with Integrity is Catching On

Sunday, December 31, 2017

CRISPR 2.0 Not Your Father's GMOs - How CRISPR is different

CRISPR ISN’T ENOUGH ANY MORE. GET READY FOR GENE EDITING 2.0  - Wired "Usually, when we’ve referred to Crispr, we’ve really meant Crispr/Cas9—a riboprotein complex composed of a short strand of RNA and an efficient DNA-cutting enzyme. It did for biology and medicine what the Model T did for manufacturing and transportation; democratizing access to a revolutionary technology and disrupting the status quo in the process….But like the Model T, Crispr Classic is somewhat clunky, unreliable, and a bit dangerous. It can’t bind to just any place in the genome. It sometimes cuts in the wrong places. And it has no off-switch. If the Model T was prone to overheating, Crispr Classic is prone to overeating."

These are not your father's GMOs - MIT Technology Review - some good info in this article. For one thing it explains (indirectly) how CRISPR is different from previous GE food technologies both in terms of technique and application.

Due to the fact that it is so much like other 'unregulated' crop improvement techniques (like mutagenesis) the costs of bringing this to market are much less:

"It’s counting on that to cut at least half the 13 years and $130 million that companies have, on average, invested in order to create a new GMO and get it into farmers’ hands"

The applications are also ripe for making food healthier:

Marketing “healthier” food made from GMOs has been a taller order. But if gene-edited plants can avoid the stigma of GMOs, that could change.

But there are some criticisms, that seem unfounded and hypocritical:

"To the critics, any attempt to reclassify engineered plants as natural is a dangerous fiction. “If they don’t have to go through the regulatory requirements, then it is game on again for genetic modification in agriculture,” says Jim Thomas, head of a nonprofit called the ETC Group that lobbies on environmental issues. “That is the prize. They are constructing a definition of a GMO so that gene editing falls outside it....Some organic associations have already said such plants cannot carry that label, reasoning that they really are GMOs."

I am not sure anyone is constructing a definition of GMO that is any different than the one the organic food lobby applies to mutagenesis in their own certification.