Food Fear Mongering

A colleague forwarded me this story from NBC news.  It's really hard to know where to start in on all the misleading claims and innuendos.  There first couple paragraphs will give you a sense of the tone:

American eaters, let’s talk about the birds and the bees: The U.S. food supply – from chickens injected with arsenic to dying bee colonies – is under unprecedented siege from a blitz of man-made hazards, meaning some of your favorite treats someday may vanish from your plate, experts say.
Warmer and moister air ringing much of the planet – punctuated by droughts in other locales – is threatening the prime ingredients in many daily meals, including the maple syrup on your morning pancakes and the salmon on your evening grill as well as the wine in your glass and the chocolate on your dessert tray, according to four recent studies.
At the same time, an unappetizing bacterial outbreak in Florida citrus droves, largely affecting orange trees, is causing fruit to turn bitter. Elsewhere, unappealing fungi strains are curtailing certain coffee yields and devastating some banana plantations, researchers report.

Strictly speaking, each of the above examples does indeed correspond to a real challenge faced in each of the above industries.  But, does it represent a "food supply under assault" as the title of the article suggests?  Are each of these the cause of global warming?  The author later blames problems on "mono-culture" agriculture but that doesn't fit well any of the commodities described above. 

Much of the paranoia seems to stem from an interview with one professor of public health at Johns Hopkins who is quoted as saying things like:

We need to regard all of these (examples) as a very powerful motivator to try to work on the carbon emissions, to start pushing that parts per million of carbon dioxide back down


“Maybe seeing this impact all this has on our ability to raise the food we depend on will get us to the tipping point of real policy change and real action,” Lawrence said. “I hope so.”

Another professor of environmental science is quoted as saying:

We’re in a situation where the food supply is more vulnerable than it has ever been

Providing a few anecdotal stories does not constitute scientific evidence.  If we are indeed so vulnerable, why is it that crop prices in the US have come down off their highs a year or so ago.  If late corn planting were really a sign of disaster (as this article suggests), it would be reflected in high corn prices but that's not what we're seeing.    

Moreover, why didn't the author actually go to the data and look at per-capita food availability (which can be found here), which doesn't reveal any general lack of scarcity. Or, why didn't they turn to the research on the projected impacts of climate change on agricultural production, which suggests it may be beneficial for agriculture (for some counter evidence, see here).  Either way, yes climate change will likely hurt some regions and some commodities, but it will also help other regions and commodities.  Growing corn and melons in Canada will become much easier (and less costly) if it gets warmer there.  

Its this sort of fear mongering based on anecdotal evidence, rejection of modern technology, followed up by ill-advised (and under-researched) policy recommendations that largely motivated me to write the Food Police.