Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Times and GMO Crops--Something Screwy

NYTimes has a front page article on the usage of GMO crops: comparing the yields and herbicide usage between US/Canada and Europe.  Not sure how I got this referral, but this commentary post 
seems quite on the point, pointing out some of the problems in the article.

One thing I haven't seen discussed; perhaps it's too elementary for these writers to explain, but it's straight line graph of yields. Turns out the Times sticks its graphics in a separate url--I've stolen it here:

The arrow points to the place where GMO's come into play and the graph covers early 80's to 2015 I think.  What I don't understand is what the lines represent.   If they show the average increase/decrease in national yield each year, each would be a jagged line, with an upward slope.  So it must be some average over the time period.  But obviously an average over the whole time period won't show any change for GMO adoption in the middle of the period.  It might be an average over the whole period for Western Europe and two averages for US/Canada--one up to the adoption of GMO's and one after, but it's certainly not labeled that way nor explained.

The unit of measure is "hectograms per hectare", which is a metric yield measure, like kilograms per square meter.  I read the graph as implying the corn yields for the US and Western Europe are the same, which can't be right. I know damn well corn yields in the US vary greatly, so there's got to be a big difference between countries.  I did a search and found this: "These analyses indicate that Western Europe started with a lower yield than the USA (29,802.17 vs 39,895.57 hectograms/ha) and managed to increase yield much more quickly (1,454.48 vs 1,094.82 hectograms/ha per year) before any use of GM corn by the USA." (The source is some Kiwi's blog working on the same issue back in 2013.  See this post.)

On a football Sunday I've now exhausted my energy on this issue--perhaps more later.

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