Here you will find the pieces I’ve written and resources I’ve collected on agriculture, food, and genetically engineered organisms (biotech crops). While learning about biotechnology and its main adversary, the organic movement, I have looked at agricultural methods in general, at what sustainability really means, and how it could best be attained.
My articles on agriculture
- GMOs and the Environment – What do the most comprehensive scientific reviews say about the effect of biotech crops on the environment?
- If You Care About Bees, Look Past Neonicotinoids – A look at bee health and pesticides
- Monocultures – the Great Evil of Modern Ag? – Many debates fail right at the start when the concepts we use are ill defined. What is monoculture, really?
- Three Ways Science Could Improve the World Through Rice – New biotech rice could make a giant cut in world’s methane emissions, other varities reduce arsenic, and A-vitamin enhanced rice could reduce the suffering of millions of children
- 17 Questions About Glyphosate – Eight posts delving into glyphosate and human health, its impacts on the environment, and the integrity of glyphosate research.
- Q1 Does Glyphosate Cause Cancer?
- Q2-3 Glyphosate and Health Effects A-Z
- Q4 Does Glyphosate Harm Gut Bacteria?
- Q5-6 Glyphosate, Other Pesticides, and The Precautionary Principle
- Q7-12 Glyphosate in Wind, Rain; Down the Drain?
- Q13 Glyphosate and The Environment
- Q14-16 Glyphosate and Field Ecosystems
- Q17 Can Glyphosate Research Be Trusted?
On Organic vs Conventional
- Natural Assumptions – My failed attempt to defend organic food
- Environmental Impacts of Farming – A European view into organic vs conventional
- MYTH: UN Calls for Small-Scale Organic Farming – What UN in fact calls for is the inclusion of biotechnology, but advocacy groups are misleading the public falsely in the name of the UN
- On Farming, Animals, and the Environment – Animal welfare, nature of pesticides, avoiding environmental impacts from farming – organic vs conventional
- Delving Deeper into the Roots of Organic – On the yield gap and development history
- Organic vs Conventional Food – No nutritional or health benefits from eating organic food after several comprehensive scientific reviews of the topic
- Am I Biased? Are You? is where I look at the research on the nutritional content of organic and conventional food as a case study and reflect on how bias might affect our views of a topic
Scientific consensus on GMOs
For a great write up on what consensus means, and what it looks like for GMOs can be found here at Skepti-Forum by Richard Green. Shortly put,
Genetically engineered crops currently available to the public pose no greater health risks or environmental concerns than their non-engineered counterparts.
Another source for science organisations’ position statements on GMOs at a glance:
“The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are no more risky than conventional plant breeding technologies.”
“GM crops are as safe–and in the case of nutritionally enhanced varieties, such as Golden Rice, healthier–than conventional and organic crops. The consensus over the health and safety is as strong as the consensus that we are undergoing human induced climate change, vaccines are beneficial and not harmful and evolution is a fact.”
Taken together, the published evidence indicates that, if used properly, adoption of these crops can be associated with the following:
• reduced environmental impact of herbicides and insecticides;
• no/reduced tillage production systems with concomitant reduction in soil erosion;
• economic and health benefit at the farm level, particularly to smallholder farmers in developing countries;
• reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices.
If you would like to take a closer look at the studies yourself:
“a collection of 126 studies with independent funding. Not all of the studies are supportive of the position that GMOs are no riskier than their conventionally bred counterparts, but the vast majority support that proposition.”
“There are more than a 1000 peer-reviewed reports in the scientific literature which document the general safety and nutritional wholesomeness of GM foods and feeds. Many of these tests are done as part of a comparative assessment between a GM variety and its non-GM counterpart. About 30% of the safety studies are funded through independent sources.”
“Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: A literature review”
You can read more in each of the corresponding pieces: GMOs and the environment, Three ways science could improve the world through rice, Myth: UN calls for small-scale organic farming, and Monocultures – the great evil of modern Ag?
In the latest one I take a look at what makes a monoculture, and how most farming falls under the definition in one way or another. If one would feel the urge to criticise monoculture, the criticism is largely meaningless as long as we don’t know which kind of monoculture and situation the criticism refers to.
A word about the hype around diets and superfoods
Our food choices have a tremendous impact on our health. But sometimes the claims of foods or ‘superfoods’ can go too far. There are many things we can’t change through our diet. Miracle diets as well as chemical and agricultural scare stories are commonplace in our contemporary culture, and everybody should learn something about navigating these topics. To start off, a look at the science of diets here, Science compared every diet and the winner is real food:
“Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?” In it, they compare the major diets of the day: Low carb, low fat, low glycemic, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced (DASH), Paleolithic, vegan, and elements of other diets. […] They conclude that no diet is clearly best, but there are common elements across eating patterns that are proven to be beneficial to health. “A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”