Better Farming, Better Food, Better Fuel, with Emily Cassidy

Food. It is important, and it is connected to everything from farming to fuel production to climate change to the economy and everything else.

Emily Cassidy is one of our favorite people to talk to, because her expertise is deep and her thought process is nuanced and detailed. Each of us have either together or separately been fortunate to work with Emily on several different public science information projects including interviews like the one we have here, panels, etc.

Food Production and Biofuels Compete for Agricultural Resources

Emily is from Minnesota, and earned her BA and Masters degrees in Natural Resource Science from the University of Minnesota.

Emily’s Masters research involved developing a now widely recognized metric linking agricultural effort on the ground and population that can be supported by that effort.

Emily is co-author of the widely cited Nature paper “Solutions for a Cultivated Planet,” which looked at this problem:


Increasing population and consumption are placing unprecedented demands on agriculture and natural resources. Today, approximately a billion people are chronically malnourished while our agricultural systems are concurrently degrading land, water, biodiversity and climate on a global scale. To meet the world’s future food security and sustainability cneeds, food production must grow substantially while, at the same time, agriculture’s environmental footprint must shrink dramatically. …

Emily_CassidyWe (our species) need to make decisions about what to grow (food vs. energy crops), what to eat (veggies vs. meat), and what methods and technologies to deploy (organic vs. industrial farming, GMOs, etc.). And, many people have strong opinions about these things. But, as usual, everyone is wrong to at least some degree for the simple reason that most people’s opinions are under-informed, lacking detail, wanting of data. Whenever we need to fill in some of those spaces in our knowledge, we call Emily.

Here we speak with Emily about the science of agriculture, the impacts of agriculture on the environment, the virtues of the vegetarian and vegan diets, biofuel vs food, how that whole GMO thing is doing, and more.

Emily is a Research Analyst at Environmental Working Group in Washington DC.