Environmental Impacts of Farming

The Swedish Food Agency (Svenska Livsmedelsverket SLV) recently published a report on a many-faceted breakdown of environmental effects in farming per one kilogram of farming product. This report was also discussed in an opinion piece in the Sweden’s largest newspaper, Dagens Nyheter (under the title “Organic farming has never been better for the environment”).

In this SLV’s report the researchers looked at environmental impacts separated into the subtopics of climate, over-fertilization, acidification, eco-toxicity, energy use, and land use. They determined there to be a difference between the two when a study would find more than 10 % variation in the two farming systems’ respective impacts, and when two thirds of the studies considered would be in agreement over the effect. The number inside each cell signifies the number of studies considered. They compared these effects per one kilogram product for nine categories of food product: milk, beef, pork, chicken, eggs, fish and seafood, vegetables, and fruits and berries. (Note, category fish and seafood shortened to ‘fish’ and category fruit and berries to ‘fruit’for space reasons in the version I translated and created into the infographic you see below. The table with its numbers and colours was provided as is in the report).

Environmental impact of organic vs conventional farming

The table can be found in the DN article or originally on page 41 in the SLV’s report

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Posted in agriculture, biotechnology, climate, environment, organic, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Reasons to Love the Rotavirus Vaccine

Happy Mother’s Day! Today I’m celebrating the rotavirus vaccine. It has given such an immense gift to thousands of mothers in the developing world. Not to say that it isn’t great that so many mothers in the developed world have also been spared seeing their babies struggle through vomiting and diarrhea. Luckily the disease is rarely deadly for those of us blessed with access to plenty of clean food and water, and quality medical care.

Reasons to love the roativirus vaccine


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Has Alternative Medicine Been Studied Enough?

I’m very happy to introduce my first guest writer, as this piece was a collaboration between me and Lee-Ann MacDonald. Lee-Ann is a Canadian mother of two, who has varied experience from studies into fields as diverse as Arts and Holistic Health as well as Nursing and Pharmacology. She is also an active member of science forums Healthy through Science and Alive with Science, where we discovered our shared interest of looking at alternative medicine from a scientific perspective. 

alt med feeling

Alternative medicine has a very wholesome image

Alternative medicine, Integrative medicine, or as it now brands itself, Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) gets referred to as the gentler, better approach to western medicine and pharmaceuticals, without the side effects or the money gouging. One of the main cries have been, “there needs to be more research because it obviously has merit”, and, “it doesn’t have the funding behind it that Big Pharma does to conduct research”. But is that true?

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The Great Myth of Vaccines and Autism

For a long time I thought there would be no need for me to write about the misconception that vaccines would somehow be connected to autism. This is a point that has been so extensively studied that there is no way the myth could persist. Right? Well, after several requests to include this topic, and coming across online discussion forums referring people to my articles where many still vigorously subscribe to this idea, I decided it was time. If you are in a hurry, here is a graphic summary of some of the main conclusions from the research:

autism is genetic

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Posted in health, medicine, parenting, Uncategorized, vaccines | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Welcome to Thoughtscapism

logo basicI want to understand the world, which makes me passionate about science. I wish to express and explore the human condition through language, which makes me passionate about writing. In order to do these things, I must question my assumptions, test the limits of my imagination, and strive to express myself in ways that may reach the minds of others.

My thoughtscapes range from science…

How to make sense of topics of the natural world and science in the light of contradictory reports? I focus on areas where I find the communication between scientists and the public to be lacking, and the concepts shrouded by misinformation. Children, nature, and wildlife are especially important to me, so I spend a great deal of time reading about health, medicine, and the use of natural resources. You can find my scientific writing and infographics in the categories of health, environment, agriculture, and climate. I try to present the topics in a way that makes them approachable for everyone.

Love of written expression has been an integral part of me long before I had heard about the importance of evidence and critical thinking, however, which brings us…

…to the fantastical worlds of fiction

I write fiction because I can’t imagine a life without stories. The natural world is enriched by our beautiful ability to create and visit other worlds with our minds. If you would like to visit the worlds I’ve created, you can find my essays, short stories (soon), and a blurb of my upcoming fantasy novel When I was Gwen under fiction.

profile iida

My name is Iida Ruishalme

Who am I?

I grew up in Finland, where I spent a considerable fraction of my time immersed in the lands of make-believe. I lived eight years in Sweden, most of it while studying biology and psychology, before moving on to Switzerland soon a decade ago. You can read more about me in the about section. Geographical coordinates aside, no matter where I’ve laid my head, I’ve always been a sovereign citizen of books, thoughts, and dreams.


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Monocultures – the Great Evil of Modern Ag?

One real problem with monoculture is that it is often used as a strong argument but in a poorly defined way. The influential food journalist Michael Pollan has gone as far as to claim that monoculture is the “real problem”, the “great evil in american agriculture”. Another common worry is that modern biotech crops lead to “more monoculture”. A major problem with these arguments is that monoculture as a concept is very broad. Before we specify which type and degree of monoculture is the issue, we don’t really know what we are talking about. What is monoculture, and what is it not? In this piece I take a look at this ominous method and its role in modern farming.

Monoculture (1)

Some wineries may have been growing nothing but grapes for hundred(s of) years. Are they the crown of all the ills in agriculture? No, but they are extreme examples of monoculture – which does not equal terrible farming. On the other hand, 90 % of modern farming area is actually not practiced as a monoculture year after year, but they routinely rotate crops.

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Posted in agriculture, biotechnology, environment, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

If You Care About Bees, Look Past Neonicotinoids

There is a claim that keeps coming up in www.public-domain-image.com (public domain image)discussions: that one commonly used pesticide class would be the number one enemy of bees. Unfortunately deciding that neonicotinoids would be the cause of bee problems is a strategy that does not give the bees much cause to celebrate. The evidence points to a whole host of different factors as the main cause for their troubles.

Meanwhile, removing neonicotinoids would likely add to the environmental burden of farming. Continue reading

Posted in agriculture, environment | Tagged , , | 8 Comments