At a time of significant technological change and digitization in the biological sciences, the COVID19 pandemic has highlighted again the inequities in the research and innovation ecosystem. Based on a consultation with an internationally diverse group of stakeholders from multiple fields and professions, and on a broadly representative set of case studies, this report offers a new approach to the global governance of genetic diversity and genomic research and innovation.
Robert Paarlberg’s RESETTING THE TABLE: Straight Talk about the Food We Grow and Eat (Knopf, February 2, 2021) is a bold, science-based corrective to the groundswell of misinformation about food and how it’s produced.
A descendant of Midwestern family farmers, Paarlberg examines in detail local and organic food, food companies, nutrition labeling, ethical treatment of animals, environmental impact, and every other aspect of the American food system from farm to table—and finds abundant reasons to disagree with the prevailing messaging to consumers to buy organic, unprocessed foods, sourced from small local farms. Global food markets have in fact improved the American diet. “Industrial” farming has greatly reduced environmental impact thanks to GPS-guided precision methods that cut energy use and chemical pollution, in addition to reducing land use while producing more crops. America’s very serious obesity crisis does not come from farms, or from food deserts, but from “food swamps” created by food companies, retailers, and restaurant chains. And, though animal welfare is lagging behind, progress can be made through continued advocacy, more progressive regulations, and perhaps plant-based imitation meat.
Paarlberg, an adjunct professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and the author of Starved for Science, Food Politics, and The United States of Excess, offers evidence-based solutions to the challenges of our food system today, ones that make sense for farmers and consumers alike. With RESETTING THE TABLE, he gives us a road map through the rapidly changing worlds of food and farming, laying out a practical path to bring the two together.
The aim of the book is to make the authors’ scholarly research in the area of consumers’ willingness-to-pay for new foods that have controversial attributes easily assessable to other researchers, students, and food policy makers. It addresses issues that arise in a market with conflicting information from interested parties, scientific sources, and the media. It begins with a discussion of research methods and information issues. These results include how consumers respond to food products that are produced with new technology that lowers farmers’ costs of production, enhance nutrition and food safety for consumers, or adds variety to consumers’ food choices. These results arise from data collected in a series of laboratory experiments on adult subjects at various sites in the US and consumer surveys worldwide. The data include socio-demographic attributes of subjects, and their revealed willingness-to-pay in auctions of experimental foods and food products under randomly assigned food labels and information treatments and contingent-valuation survey data.
For more sustainability on a global level, EU legislation should be changed to allow the use of gene editing in organic farming. Otherwise, the planned increase of organic production in Europe’s Farm-to-Fork-Strategy may result in less sustainable, not more sustainable, food systems.
Open access paper: Purnhagen, K.P., S. Clemens, D. Eriksson, L.O. Fresco, J. Tosun, M. Qaim, R.G.F. Visser, A.P.M. Weber, J.H.H. Wesseler, D. Zilberman (2021). Europe’s Farm-to-Fork Strategy and Its Commitment to Biotechnology and Organic Farming: Conflicting or Complementary Goals? Trends in Plant Science, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1360138521000716.
GM Crops: the West versus the Rest
GM crops have been on sale in the USA since 1996 and in many other countries for a considerable number of years. Since then, there hasn’t been a single proven case of ill health due to their consumption, either by humans or animals. Why, therefore, is it that so many countries in the West, particularly those in the European Union, but also in the Nordic countries and some parts of the USA are so anti GM crops? https://www.saynotogmos.org/
Adding to this seeming conundrum is the fact
that almost every major scientific association
world-wide has come to the conclusion that GM
crops are as safe for human and animal
consumption as conventional ones – and this includes organic crops. Examples of these associations include the Royal Society of London, the French Academy of Medicine, and the Academy of Science of the United States.
This makes scientists like me, living in South Africa where GM crops have been growing commercially since 1997/8, wonder why this evidence did not put a stop to the GMO controversy long ago?
Study Biomass for the circular economy: Everything you wanted to know about biomass but were afraid to ask published by Wageningen University and Research now also available in Spanish.