Emily Cassidy Interview: Food Supply Failure

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We’re gonna run out of food. When, why (not what you think), can we put it off, and if so, how? And GMOs, what about them?

I interviewed food supply expert Emily Cassidy on Atheist Talk Radio, Mike Huabrich hosting. You can CLICK HERE and listen to the interview. Additional background and some more links, including Emily’s Ted Talk, here.

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13 thoughts on “Emily Cassidy Interview: Food Supply Failure

  1. Great stuff!

    Emily didn’t grow up on an organic farm, rising at 5 AM to hoe, cultivate and pick crops. She nows everything about feeding people, never having done it herself.

  2. Mark, I’ve been in and around academia for a long time, and Emily is one of the smartest young scholars I’ve come across. Don’t be dismissive of her if you want to try to look smart.

    She’s also a friend, do don’t diss her if you want to hang around. Feel free to argue the points of the argument, of course.

    Meanwhile, how do you know she did not grow up on an organic (or other) farm, and what is the point you are making anyway?

  3. Sorry to see you cavorting with the doomer quacks at the EWG:

    “Two of the organic industry’s biggest activist support groups – Environmental Working Group and the Center for Food Safety – are based in Washington, DC. According to financial statements filed with the IRS, the two organizations raised more than $42 million from undisclosed donors between 2009 and 2013 (the latest year for which reports are available). While they like to portray themselves as only public interest groups, they are – in essence – lobbying organizations. EWG and CFS work to sway consumer opinion and advance public policies favorable to a very pro-organic, anti-conventional farming agenda.”

    http://www.science20.com/genetic_literacy_project/environmental_working_group_gary_hirshberg_and_organic_activists_all_the_influence_money_can_buy-15697_

    I’m an apple grower, and the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list is a shameful farrago of pseudoscience and misinformation.

    http://appliedmythology.blogspot.com/2013/05/how-wrong-is-latest-dirty-dozen-list.html

  4. MikeB: First, you didn’t know that a lobying organization and a public interest group are essentially the same thing. The only material difference, which simply applies only to some of them, is whether or not they are listed as lobbyiests. Most PIG’s are lobbyists or linked to an official lobbying group. This is how things are done, like it or not. I promise you that every single aspect of the food industry, as well as related consumer advocacy, is doing the same thing, and I doubt that 54 million dollars is much money by those standards. So, contextualized, your comments is essentially junk mail.

    I have no problem whatsoever with a spirited discussion of the science behind these issues. But I won’t allow name smearing, or advocacy based yammering (as is your comment, Mr. Apple Grower) based on pure self interest.

    Thanks for the link. Let’s see if you have any comments about what was said during the podcase (do you? did you even listen to it)? And yes, please to chime in on any of the policies of EGW, no problem with that. But cite them, and keep the insulting language out of the conversation.

    I’m pretty sure I agree with some of the policies of EGW and not with others. I was not interviewing EGW. I was interviewing a respected scientist who’s work I’m very familiar with and who has earned a great deal of respect generally and from me.

  5. Greg, you have an opportunity to honestly disprove my contention. Since Emily is a friend of yours, you can simply ask her, “Did you grow up on an organic farm?”

    If you replied to me saying, “I know her, and she tells me she grew up an organic farm, so you’re FOS,” that would have refuted my statement. You didn’t, and so my statement stands as correct.

    Emily’s TEDx talk discloses she likes bacon. She talks about raising less beef and more chicken and pork. I agree with that.

    I’m not sure about her calorie data. I’ve grown lots of crops, and been a farmworker on others. Some crops have human-edible leaves. Most crops that we can extract caloric energy from, are from their fruits (e.g. corn, rice and wheat), which comprise less than 15% of the plants vegetative-parts caloric value. Ruminants can convert vegetative mass, so they create more food value than

    So, if you want to have decent caloric, sufficient protein animal meat, you can get it from beef, bison and sheep raised on grass. You can’t get it from pigs or chickens. So Emily has missed this essential fact.

    Secondly, she infuses biofuels to show how inefficient US farming is. I am totally against wasting food-cropland to generate ethanol for motor vehicles. The theory was, “It’s sustainable energy.” It’s not, and it raises food prices worldwide, to unaffordable levels in Africa.

  6. The biofuels solution is NOT ethanol; its EROEI (energy return on energy invested) ratio is poor, possibly even less than 1.

    The solution is butanol. The technology for producing butanol as an alternative to gasoline was developed in the early part of the 20th Century as a fuel substitute; it’s not a new idea. Currently, research is underway to develop cost-effective means of synthesizing it from non-petroleum sources.

    Butanol has a number of advantages over ethanol: It can be blended in almost any ratio. Existing gasoline engines can run unmodified on 85% butanol blends, whereas ethanol blends are limited to 15%.

    Butanol has a much higher EROEI than ethanol, a similar vapor pressure to gasoline, has 85% the energy density of gasoline (compared to 66% for ethanol), and its combustion products are less corrosive than those of burning ethanol.

    Butanol can also replace other petroleum products used to make common useful materials: rubbers, solvents, plastics and jet fuels.

    So-called “bio-butanol” can be produced from switchgrass, which can be grown in places that are not conducive to food crops (including margin areas). It can also be produced from straw and stover.

    No one should be talking about using ethanol for motor fuels.

  7. Greg,

    I forgot to mention calarie-rich root/tuber crops such as potatoes, yams, taro..

    Interestingly, the nutrient-rich foliage of potatoes is completely toxic to humans and other mammals. The leaves of tomato plants are very toxic, but tomato hornworms thrive on them

    I forgot to mention a couple things: animal flesh has higher protein content than the common “staple” seeds/roots and tubers, so you have to eat or legumes and nuts, although nuts are not land-space or water efficient.

    Then too, when we speak of calorie output, we also have to consider calorie-production per watt / m^2 solar energy conversion.

    BTW, my father was a USFWS biologist, and in my early childhood we lived on a US National Wildlife Refuge. My father helped to start bringing back the whooping cranes from almost-extinction. Still endangered, but the population is 15x what it was when my dad started working.

  8. Greg, I like you calling me by my first name.

    We can have a conversation.

    Somebody on your site called me an a**hole. I think that is intemperate, but I accept the blogosphere.

    I let my African Grey baby escape in New Hampshire. After several hours she came back. Then in a Naional Paark I was fined, She almost came back, but required capture. I’d really like to release her to her native tribe, but an ocean away. Maybe I could take her to SoCal or Florida. In SF there are mating re-faced conures. How amazing is that? The Board of Supervisors outlawed feeding them. How stupid is that? “Humans and birds connect.” Outlawed. People are getting on boats to watch humpback whales. Not in Alaska or Maui, but along the Cali coast. How gun i that? And the blues, spermis fins are joining them.Is th global warming causing this? Maybe. It’s just “outasight” great.

  9. First, I’m sorry for suggesting your friend is a quack because she’s associated with a quack organization. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. But I chose my designation carefully based on this (scroll to Voluntary Organizations):

    http://www.quackwatch.com/04ConsumerEducation/nonrecorg.html

    Next, why call my defense of apple growing mere “advocacy based yammering”? What is one supposed to do when confronted with a group that defames one’s livelihood as poison? I teach college composition during the school year and grow apples in the summer for farmers markets. I don’t make a lot of money at it. I’ve had to deal with people who say they “won’t feed those to my children,” all because of EWG’s egregious “Dirty Dozen” list, which is, top-to-bottom, pseudoscience and quackery. They pretend dose is not a factor in the issue of pesticide “residues” on food. Sounds like the global warming cranks who claim that CO2 is good for plants–ignoring the fact that the concentration, like dose, matters.

    As for the interview, there’s nothing new in it, really. I’ve paid attention to the Malthusian arguments a long time, but have pretty much learned to dismiss their predictions, as they always seem destined to fail. Societies evolve as surely as organisms. If it turns out meat eating can’t be sustained at 9 billion, then by goodness it won’t be sustained and the price mechanism will kick in and bring consumption down.

    I will say one thing about the interview: Her take on GMOs is typical environmentalist crankery. She claims GMOs are a “red herring” in the issue of food security because “they don’t increase yields.” She sounds a little preoccupied with Roundup Ready and Bt versions of commodities. I urge you to read this farmer’s page to learn a lot about why farmers use GMOs:

    http://thefarmerslife.com/about/

    I’ll listen to a real farmer over an environmental activist any time.

    As for yields: Tell me, what would the yield of the papaya be now if a GE version wasn’t invented to resist ringspot virus?

    How about Golden Rice and its promise to delivery vitamin A precursors to deprived children?

    What about the development drought-and/or-salt-resistant varieties of crops? They’re coming.

    The GMOs on the market now are just the beginning. Pay attention to the citrus situation in Florida: They’re losing their orange groves to citrus greening disease (an infection spread by thrips), and GMO oranges hold out a promise similar to that of the Rainbow papaya.

    I hope your friend Emily finds a new, better job.

  10. “What is one supposed to do when confronted with a group that defames one’s livelihood as poison? I ”

    So, you can advocate for what you want, but only you. OK got it!

    “As for the interview, there’s nothing new in it, really. I’ve paid attention to the Malthusian arguments a long time, but have pretty much learned to dismiss ”

    You didn’t listen. This was not a classic Malthusian argument, both with respect to the population side and the supply side. There really is no way you could both understand the Malthusian argument and have listened to this interview and come away with that. Sorry.

    OK, so you did hear the GMO part near the end. We hardly touched on the topic. But, ” Her take on GMOs is typical environmentalist crankery. She claims GMOs are a “red herring” in the issue of food security because “they don’t increase yields.”” not it is not crankery. It is simply true. GMOs are great, I’m sure Emily agrees, and I certainly think so as well, as a technology that we need. Unfortunately the argument usually degrades even before it starts with GMOs are going to kill you or GMOs have already saved us. In the case of your argument … you might have some valid points about GMOs but so far it sounds like advocacy based yammering! 🙂 Seriously. You could do better with your message.

    I would have thought the Big Apple (the industry, not the city) would have gotten better at this since the Alar fiasco!

    I agree that GMOs are just getting started.

  11. “So, you can advocate for what you want, but only you. OK got it!”

    So when did I say only I could advocate for something?

    You’ve misrepresented what I said. And, yes, I did listen to the interview.

    Have a good day.

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