Monday, March 18, 2013

AgBioForum 12(1): Persistent Narratives: Why is the "Failure of Bt Cotton in India" Story Still with Us?

A nice combination of empirical evidence and social network analysis explains a leading misconception and conspiracy theories about Bt cotton in India:


"Science can say nothing conclusive about many important dimensions of the global cognitive and political rift on transgenic agricultural crops. Empirical studies will not answer questions in the realms of food preference, risk aversion, cultural constructions of rural society, or theology. But there are critical empirical questions and much empirical work on transgenic crops. This essay analyzes a puzzle: reports of "the failure of Bt cotton in India"—on agronomic, economic, and environmental grounds—continue to spread globally but are inconsistent with both farmer behavior and scientific studies. This narrative of agro-economic failure has arguably crowded out the more empirically robust story of farm-level success of one trait (insect resistance) in one crop. Why? Understanding this outcome requires conceptualizing the social conditions—interests, relations, cognitive frames—in which production of knowledge claims is embedded. This article argues that there is a critical role for "epistemic brokers," or hinges, between local, national, and international advocacy groups within larger transnational advocacy networks. Reports of failure of the Bt technology in India are not sustainable scientifically but do serve interests in the contentious politics around GMOs globally."

From: AgBioforum

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Internalizing Externalities Related to Herbicide Resistance

An example of a cooperative market based solution to internalizing negative externalities associated with herbicide resistance. (Note: Roundup Ready technology itself is an example of the price system and technological change working to internalize negative externalities associated with soil erosion, pollution, and climate change).

"The two companies, in conjunction with retailers in Eastern Canada, are offering farmers a $1-per-acre rebate when RoundupWeatherMax is purchased with matching acres of Integrity, Eragon, Marksman or Armezon herbicides. These tank-mix partners, when applied together on the same fields, deliver multiple modes of weed-killing action while providing herbicide-resistance management."

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Big Ag Meets Big Data (Part 1)

Over at my econometrics blog, I'm discussing the ramifications of social media and big data on the ag industry.

Social media has allowed farmers to organize and communicate about their industry.  The #agchat conversations on twitter are a good example. Not to mention Facebook (see Agriculture Proud for example) and YouTube ( like this look behind the scenes of a family farm). We've seen powerful examples of how social media can be used to mobilize voices and impact perceptions on a national level ( for example issues related to Yellow Tail wine and Pilot Travel Centers).

Social media also provides a rich data source for measuring sentiment or perceptions about the industry....Of course, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to read tweets, Facebook posts, or blog comments to know when people are upset about a product. But there is also a wealth of knowledge to be gained from this type of information that is so voluminous, it would take an army of social media experts to glean and analyze. This is the essence of what has been termed in the industry as 'big data.' It requires new tools for capturing, storing, processing and analyzing this data, and a new type of analyst referred to as a data scientist.  These powerful analytics could be very beneficial to those in the ag industry or agvocacy groups. But this goes beyond social media, and I will discuss how big data is revolutionizing agriculture at the farm level in the second part of this two part series on big data.

Continue reading....

*Note: I’m not using the term ‘big ag’ in the derogatory sense used by anti-agricultural activists, but in a complimentary sense referring to the complex network of modern family farms, biotechnology companies, food processors, other agribusinesses and retailers that cooperate to bring healthy and sustainable food to your table.


Social Media Analytics. Matt Bogard, Applied Econometric and Analytical Consulting.

With Hadoop, Big Data Analytics Challenges Old-School Business Intelligence. Doug Henschen, Information Week
Big Bets On Big Data. Eric Savitz, Forbes.

Creative Commons Image Attributions:
Handheld GPS
By Paul Downey from Berkhamsted, UK (Earthcache De Slufter  Uploaded by Partyzan_XXI) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Satellite: NAVSTAR-2 (GPS-2) satellite Source: Status: PD-USGov-Military-Air Force {{PD-USGov-Military-Air Force}} Category:Satellites
Tractor: bdk [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons