Sample #1

Edited by Marc Brazeau

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Everything in Agriculture is a Trade-Off

Just about every decision made on a farm will send ripple effects throughout the entire system; these decisions will influence the cost/benefit ratio of many future decisions. This complexity makes it difficult to make rapid changes, and is a major reason why many farmers tend to be pretty conservative in their farming decisions. Even if a farmer wants to try something new (a new technology, or a new crop, for example), that option may be precluded by decisions that were made last year, or even many years ago.

•  Stephan Guyenet offers an in depth review of Gary Taubes’ book The Case Against Sugar. It’s likely to be the best thing you read about this book that will be roiling nutrition debates this year. [3400 words]

•  NPR has a piece on efforts to breed perennial wheat, which has become a bit of a white whale among some sustainable ag advocates. In the FAFDL discussion, I wondered if perennial wheat wouldn’t suffer from the same pest issues as other perennial monocultures like orchards and vineyards with the crises of blights and bacteria that threaten chocolate, citrus, bananas, grapes, coffee, etc. Matthew Dillion promptly came back with answers from the breeding team. (FAFDL at its finest)

•  Jeremy Bernfeld of Harvest Public Media reports that net farm income is projected to fall a brutal 8.7 percent from last year’s levels, the fourth year in a row.

•  Ag economist Parke Wilde looks at the mutual benefits the US and Mexico have gained from increased agricultural trade between the two countries.

•  Marion Nestle on The National Academy of Science’s new report on the US Dietary Guidelines committee selection process:

You may recall that one result of the fuss over the highly controversial BMJ article attacking the Dietary Guidelines process was appointment of a committee to review that process.

It has just published the first of its reports, which deals only with the first of the four charges to the committee, which were to determine:

  1. How the selection process for the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) can be improved to provide more transparency, eliminate bias, and include committee members with a range of viewpoints;
    2. How the Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL) is compiled and used, including whether the NEL reviews and other systematic reviews and data analysis are conducted according to rigorous and objective scientific standards;
    3. How systematic reviews are conducted on long-standing DGAC recommendations, including whether scientific studies are included from scientists with a range of viewpoints; and
    4. How the DGA can better prevent chronic disease, ensure nutritional sufficiency for all Americans, and accommodate a range of individual factors, including age, gender, and metabolic health.

The committee identified values governing the committee selection process:

  • Enhance transparency
  • Promote diversity of expertise and experience
  • Support a deliberative process
  • Manage biases and conflicts of interest
  • Adopt state-of-the-art processes and methods

Its recommendations:

  • Employ an external third party to review the candidate pool for committee members.
  • Make the list of provisional appointees open for public comment.
  • Publicly disclose nominees’ biases and conflicts of interest; develop a plan for managing them; have them reviewed by a federal ethics officer; document all this in the advisory committee’s report.
  • Adopt a system for continuous process improvement in the selection process.


Finally ….


• 
It doesn’t get any more American than New York City bodegas. Grub Street reports on the Great NYC Bodega Rally.

• The discussion that followed from Jayson Lusk’s piece on how Haber Bosch produced Nitrogen ends up in organic production took a number of interesting turns.

•  A thread wondering about the animal welfare claims about a lamb slaughter and processing operation got off to the usual rocky start but turn out to be pretty informative. [ UPDATE: It turns out that the thread was repeated, so the quality wasn’t evenly distributed between the two posts, but both are worth checking out. ]

 


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Porklife: Building a Better Pig

How have the farm animals of today been shaped by centuries of domestication and selective breeding? Sujata Gupta investigates.

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Are Slower Growing Chickens Better?

What end is this big step backwards in terms of sustainability being undertaken? Theoretically for animal welfare. But what is absent in this discussion is – why slower growing = better welfare?

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Backwater Blues: How Populism Reveals Rural Resentment in the US and Europe

To explain the occurrence of rural resentment, we need to consider empirically how rural lives and places have been changing, and how rural people make sense of these changes. For this purpose, we look at Sweden as an example to provide empirical detail that is needed.


 

Everything in Agriculture is a Trade-Off

Just about every decision made on a farm will send ripple effects throughout the entire system; these decisions will influence the cost/benefit ratio of many future decisions. This complexity makes it difficult to make rapid changes, and is a major reason why many farmers tend to be pretty conservative in their farming decisions. Even if a farmer wants to try something new (a new technology, or a new crop, for example), that option may be precluded by decisions that were made last year, or even many years ago.

Quinoa genome accelerates solutions for food security

Thuwal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Quinoa could hold the key to feeding the world’s growing population because it can thrive in harsh environments and grows well on poor quality, marginal lands. KAUST researchers have now completed the first high-quality sequence of the Chenopodium quinoa genome, and they have begun pinpointing genes that could be manipulated to change the way the plant matures and produces food.

This project brought together 33 researchers from 4 continents, including 20 people from 7 research groups at KAUST, to produce an article that will be published this week in Nature (DOI: 10.1038/nature21370) and will feature on the cover of the February 16 issue.

 

Winning the war: How to persuade children to eat more veggies

Getting children to eat their vegetables might not be an endless battle if parents follow some research-based advice from a nutrition expert at Kansas State University.

Getting kids used to vegetables can start in the womb, said Richard Rosenkranz, associate professor of food, nutrition, dietetics and health.

Rosenkranz said research on pregnant rodents’ eating habits and their offspring’s taste preferences shows that children’s tastes start being shaped while they are still in the womb. Studies also show that pregnant women who eat more foods with bitter polyphenolics, such as kale and Brussel sprouts, have children who are more receptive to them when they try them for the first time.

Despite few taste genes, honey bees seek out essential nutrients based on floral resources

Despite having few taste genes, honey bees are fine-tuned to know what minerals the colony may lack and proactively seek out nutrients in conjunction with the season when their floral diet varies.

This key finding from a new study led by Tufts University scientists sheds light on limited research on the micronutrient requirements of honey bees, and provides potentially useful insight in support of increased health of the bee population, which has declined rapidly in recent years for a variety of complex reasons.

 
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