Feb 15Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

This was really interesting. I grew up on a farm in Iowa. Borlaug is from Iowa and he’s essentially our Mother Theresa. He is saintly and exalted and we name things after him like the World Food Prize. But at the same time we have a HUGE nitrates problem in our water supply (not entirely from crops, but from commercial ag in general) and we also have the systemic dismantling of the family farm that has been playing out for about three generations. I can’t wait to send this to my dad.

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I'd give Borlaug and the green revolution a lot more credit. There actually was a rapidly growing population and a need to improve agricultural yields world wide. There actually was a successful model for improving agricultural yields. There actually is a reason for concentrating on grain production since grains provide most of the calories in most humans' diets. There actually is a successful development model involving consolidated, capital intensive agriculture and urbanization. The world population doubled between 1960 and 2000, and contrary to the predictions and thanks to the green revolution, there were no widespread, deadly famines.

Unlike trickle down economics, the green revolution worked. That's why I think it's a bad analogy. The caloric challenge driven by rising population was met, and, now, falling fertility rates mean we have time and resources to further improve and tune agriculture. Current agricultural research places a lot more emphasis on cutting the use of fertilizer and, especially, insecticides. There is a lot more work on improving local crops and developing local variants, and we now have much better tools for doing so. There are a lot more local institutions around the world dedicated to improving local agriculture.

I've seen enough farms around the world not to romanticize farming life. Some friends of mine quit "suit jobs" to run a local farm, and, even with a side job and modern farming practice, it is a lot of hard work. At a subsistence level, it is much worse and the consequences of failure more dire. I agree that we need a second green revolution and that it should have a different focus from the first one, but, like the industrial revolution, the green revolution deserves some respect.

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Feb 16Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

This was a great interview. Imagine if every PhD program had a “and society” in its title...

As an aside, I just received a wheat grinder for Christmas and my local co-op can order a variety of wheat berries upon request - I’m so excited to experiment with different varietals.

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This was so interesting! The opening anecdote reminds me a lot of my own struggles, as a southern USAmerican who has not always lived in the American south, to make biscuits, something I can do in my sleep. It took me a while to figure out that I wasn't messing up the recipe--it was all about the flour. In the south, we have a couple of brands of flour (White Lily and Martha White) that are made from winter wheat, and they are perfect for biscuits. Unfortunately, they are local brands, so I couldn't get them when I was living in Washington state or Wales. All the biscuits I tried to make there were just...underwhelming.

Now that I'm back in the south, I can make them again. But it was so sad to be homesick for southern food and not able to make it when I lived in other places! It gave me a lot of sympathy for immigrants who want the tastes of home but can't replicate them without the foods from home.

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Super interesting!

I'm curious if Marci has any insight behind globalization of wheat and the rise of celiac disease. I've read many theories, including that it's on the rise because today's wheat varieties have a different percentage of gluten, protein, and other nutrients in them today than in the past.

The Green Revolution was and is important but I wonder if it had unintended consequences for those of us who genetically are canaries-in-the-coal-mine. My uncle was diagnosed with Celiac Disease all the way back in 1986! (Later, several family members also became diagnosed, including my dad in 2000 and me in 2015.)

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As a gopher alumna myself, I did not know this connection! Iowa State University seems to have a similar worldview in regards to agronomy instruction.

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