Tag Archives: GMOs

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.

Genetics and Food Security: Talking GMOs with Anastasia Bodnar

The population growth of humans on planet earth is accelerating. Very few people are taking the idea of Zero Population Growth as an imperative. Food insecurity is a serious problem for fifteen per cent of the global population. This means that 850 million people or more are chronically undernourished. Achieving a sustainable level of food security is a matter of increasing food production, attacking the economic conditions that are barriers, and will require improvements in food distribution. This second episode will review the role of production in working towards global food security. Our guest for this episode is Dr. Anastasia Bodnar.

Are GMOs good or bad?

When it comes to a complex issue like GMOs, we are not likely to have a simple answer to such a simple question.

Anastasia Bodnar at the White House
Dr. Anastasia Bodnar presenting, at the Whtie House in Washington, DC

The role of genetic engineering, GMOs, is hotly debated as a social and ethical issue. There are many people who are dubious as to both the need for and the safety of genetically modified organisms as they are developed for various reasons to enhance agricultural production. There are researchers working on tailoring crops towards drought resistance, adding carotene to poor children’s diets in the form of Golden Rice, resistance of plants to pests, enabling the specific use of herbicides, and for many other purposes. Dr. Bodnar has been working with genetically modified plants, mostly with corn, but she has also been studying the social debate over the use and potential dangers, if any, of GMO’s.

As a science advocacy podcast, Ikonokast will be talking to Anastasia about these issues and others related to food production. She is Policy Director of Biofortified, Inc; which is an 501(c)3 that fosters conversations about issues in food and agriculture. Anastasia refers to herself as just a crazy scientist who likes to talk about science.

Which, come to think of it, is perfect for the purpose of the Ikonokast Podcast.



For additional enlightenment, we encourage you to check out the following links:


Biofortified is an organization for outreach on the issues of agricultural technology.

Genetic Maize.  This is Anastasia Bodnar, PhD’s site, mentioned in the podcast.

Norman Borlaug; A billion lives saved.

Everything you need to know about CRISPR, the new tool that edits DNA; in Gizmodo.