Gender and GMO foods

So, that Political Science conference I went to last week that got me behind in blogging?  I actually presented some pretty cool (or so I thought) research that– for a change– was not about the politics of parenthood.  My usual partner-in-crime, Laurel Elder, and I wrote a paper on the gender gap in attitudes towards genetically-modified food.  You will not be surprised to know this was my idea, but Laurel is always game for matters of gender gap.  Anyway, what’s interesting is that women are consistently more skeptical of GM foods no matter how you look at it and/or ask the question.  That’s well established.  The goal of our research was to figure out why.  You can take a look at the paper if you are curious.  And if you want the pithy summary with tables, here’s my powerpoint slides from the conference.  Here’s the abstract:

Women and men have been shown to have systematically different attitudes across a variety of policy domains within American politics.  Although a number of surveys and studies have indicated a pervasive gender gap on attitudes towards GM foods—with women consistently more skeptical then men— there have not been any efforts to understand this robust gap within the context of what we know about gender and political attitudes.  Using a variety of measures of attitudes towards GM foods from both the 2006 General Social Survey and a 2013 CBS/Vanity Fair survey, we explore a number of theories for the gap and attempt to determine its underpinnings.  We consider demographic (including parenthood), political, science, and risk perception factors, but ultimately find that none of these things are able to explain what it is that causes women to be more negative towards GM foods than men.  In short, whatever features of women’s or men’s experiences are responsible for this gender gap remain uncovered.  We also find very little evidence for politicization of the issue and that, much like the gender gap, there is a persistent and robust gap in which minorities are also more skeptical of GM foods.

Got that?  Unable to explain the gap.  I actually think that’s kind of cool.  Met a really smart political scientist on the panel who is interested in similar issues, so the next step is to find some more data and try harder.  Regardless, I do think it is really interesting that there appears to be something in the socialization of women versus men that has a robust and pervasive effect on attitudes towards GMO’s.

Here’s one of our tables that uses unwillingness to eat  GM food as the dependent variable:

gmo

Anyway, I had a lot of fun talking to a variety of people and hearing out their ideas on what might be explaining this gap that we have not controlled for in the model.  Happy to hear your ideas, too.

Quick hits (part I)

Yeah, I know I just had these, but now back to the regular Saturday and Sunday morning schedule.

1) Reihan Salam makes a good case that raising the minimum wage to $15 is just too high and that we should raise it in a much more nuanced manner (e.g., taking the vastly different costs of living throughout the US into account).  I’m sold.

2) Here’s an idea– punish poor people by suspending their drivers licenses so that they cannot hold down a job requiring transportation thereby keeping them poor.  Genius!  Only in America.

3) Republicans are at it again trying to completely eliminate the estate tax.  A nice explainer on how it really works at Vox.  Safe to say, this is purely of benefit to multi-millionaires and above, i.e., the true constituency of Congressional Republicans.

4)  Great piece at the Monkey Cage about what we get wrong about lobbying and corruption:

The real story is not that lobbying or special interests are inherently bad. We have had them as long as we’ve had politics.

The problem is that one set of interests routinely overpowers the rest. In particular, corporate lobbying has metastasized over the last four decades, and this increasingly over-crowded and hyper-contested lobbying environment benefits the large corporations who have the most resources to participate in the day-to-day workings of Congress. [emphasis mine] This problem is compounded because Congress increasingly lacks its own capacity to keep up.

5) Speaking of which, this Salon article cites research by my friend Cherie Maestas in explaining how part-time legislatures (just like we have here in NC) are especially susceptible to the influence of money.

6) Nice piece in the Atlantic on how “patient satisfaction” is not a particularly good metric by which to assess health care quality.

7) The New Yorker’s Michael Specter is the ideal person to weigh in on the latest controversy of Dr. Oz and his peddling of psuedo-science.  I also like that he links to this study on the health effects of GMO food on animals (and you know they get a ton of it):

The aim of this systematic review was to collect data concerning the effects of diets containing GM maize, potato, soybean, rice, or triticale on animal health. We examined 12 long-term studies (of more than 90 days, up to 2 years in duration) and 12 multigenerational studies (from 2 to 5 generations)…

Results from all the 24 studies do not suggest any health hazards and, in general, there were no statistically significant differences within parameters observed. However, some small differences were observed, though these fell within the normal variation range of the considered parameter and thus had no biological or toxicological significance.

8) Love this Wonkette post on Rubio’s climate change denialism.  The title capture it well, “Marco Rubio Is Not A Scientist, Is A Idiot.”

9) Can the type of car you drive make you an unethical driver?  Maybe.

10) NC legislators doing their best to protect abusive practices in meat-producing operations.

11) Please let this Google plan actually be the future of cell phone service.  We so need this.

12) If you haven’t seen this brilliant Amy Schumer sketch on how Hollywood treats older (i.e., above 35) actresses, please do.  Just don’t watch with your kids around.

13) Apparently picky eaters like me are what’s wrong with America.  At least according to the French.

14) Really nice piece from Megan McArdle about what “free range parenting” means about the nature of community in modern America.

Quick hits (part II)

I’ve been a horrible blogger lately.  Good stuff coming soon– I promise.  Until then, lots more good links.

1) The Supreme Court thinks it is just fine for cops to pull you over because they don’t actually know the law.

2) The Northern Lights are awesome and it is hard work to film them.

3) Tax day last week brought lots of talk about the IRS.  It really is just unconscionable how the Republican slash their budget and then complain that they can’t get anything right.  Of course, Ted Cruz says we shouldn’t even have an IRS because every one would surely pay their taxes then.

4) It’s not easy out there for cable channels that are not part of big media conglomerates.

5) So, just one more totally, obviously innocent prisoner who is languishing away in Virginia.  I would have liked a little more focus in this article on why the Democratic governor still has not pardoned him, as that is the obvious solution at this point.

6) Enjoyed this comparison of cities that have professional sports teams in all four of football, basketball, baseball, and hockey.

7) Bloomberg View with a nice editorial on how we need to defeat the NRA and actually do research on gun violence.

8) Apparently Washington state is also suffering horrible drought— especially in apple-growing regions.  I take this quite personally (I eat 2-3 apples every day).  That said, at this point in the year, the Washington Apples preserved from the Fall our pretty horrible.  I’m desperately awaiting the Southern hemisphere apples to arrive from Chile and New Zealand.

9) Yet more on the increasing evidence that, for most people, salt is pretty harmless.

10) I always enjoy pieces knocking down libertarian utopias– in this case the idea that the interrnet will somehow make government regulation obsolete.

11) Sure, professors need to reach out more to a general audience, but I’d argue that political science is doing a pretty good job at this.  The Monkey Cage, for example, has proved hugely influential (at least indirectly) among young, smart journalists.

12) I so cannot wait for the new Star Wars movie.   I’m so excited about actually seeing a Star Wars movie in the theater with my kids.  And watching this trailer, I have to say that John Williams Star Wars score probably has more emotional impact on me than about any music.

13) Regardless of what’s going on with the law, the death penalty in America is definitely on the wane (which, given its huge flaws, I would argue is a good thing).

14) In Republican North Carolina, we need more prayer and less debt:

— ​Sen. Norman Sanderson, R-Pamlico, and 10 other legislative colleagues are rounding up signatures for a “call to prayer for America” from fellow lawmakers, hoping to start a national movement…

“The consensus among those in attendance was that people of faith can no longer sit idly by and watch as our nation’s history and Judeo-Christian heritage are being re-written with a false narrative,” according to a handout that Sanderson passed out to his colleagues. The formal resolution says that those in Charlotte “realized the need for America to turn back to God and prayer.”

Asked what issue he thought should be the focus of the prayer, Sanderson said there were several.

“One of the greatest threats facing our nation right now is our level of debt,” he said. “I don’t know you could list all the things our nation is facing right now. There’s just many.”

15) Contrary to what you may have been told, marijuana is not a “gateway drug.”  Nicotine, however, is.

16) To their credit, the Koch brothers support much-needed criminal justice reform.  To their discredit, they don’t let this play any role at all in the Republican candidates they support.

17) The self-fulfilling power of Moore’s law.

18) How a Union general stopped Raleigh from being destroyed after Lincoln was assassinated.

19) You know what’s crazy?  How much we rely on Alcoholics Anonymous despite the fact that it is not based on medical science whatsoever and has incredibly little evidence to support its efficacy.  There’s way better approaches that are, you know… evidence-based, that they are smart enough to use in other countries.  Heck, I’d never even bothered to read the 12 steps before reading this article.  I’m sure it really does help some people, but just reading these steps, you’d have to think there’s surely many a better approach out there.  And there is.

Mega quick hits (part II)

1) I find this case of the Indiana woman charged with feticide to pretty fascinating.

2) The inefficiency of smaller government through tax breaks.

3) Headlines says it well, “Republicans have new plan to cut taxes for top 0.2%”  Priorities!

4) The Blackpoll Warbler weighs only 4 ounces.  Scientists have now confirmed it nonetheless flies 1700 miles nonstop over ocean.  Amazing!

5) Alabama’s former top judge pens a scathing indictment of our system of judicial elections.  Of all the wrongness in American democracy, judicial elections are certainly near the top.

6) I love the THX audio logo.  Therefore I loved this history of it.

7) I was quite interested to learn that alcohol taxes have gone way down because they are not indexed to inflation.  That’s bad, as it means more people will die from alcohol:

From a public health perspective, alcohol taxes are important. “Quite simply, alcohol taxation and other measures that increase the price of ethanol are effective in promoting the public health and safety, ” writes Duke University’s Philip J. Cook in his 2007 book Paying the Tab. “Higher prices are conducive to lower rates of underage drinking, traffic fatalities, and sexually transmitted disease.”

The logic here is simple. Higher taxes make alcohol more expensive. More expensive alcohol makes people drink less of it. And when people are drinking less, they’re less likely to suffer costly health problems or do stupid things like drive drunk.

8) For all those predicting the utter failure and doom of Obamacare, it’s not easy to be so wrong.  Chait on their dilemma.

9) Never thought I’d be linking the American Conservative, but good for them for a nice summary on why police brutality is systemic, not anecdotal.

10) California is taking a more sane approach to sex offenders.  Alas, given how politically toxic this issue is, we should not expect much of a spread in the sanity.

11) How to hire like Google does.

12) Fred Kaplan on why the Iran nuclear deal is a very good deal.

13) Big New York magazine feature on Hillary’s 2016 run that totally brings the political science.  Going into my course readings next semester.

14) The North Carolina legislature’s efforts to take over local politics finds its way into the NYT.

15) Why paid sick leave is good policy and how it is actually making some progress in Washington.

16) Denmark’s policy reserves antibiotics for sick pigs, rather than giving them to whole herds.  Would be nice if we could do the same.  And, if you think this would make our pork cost too much, nope:

Researchers at Iowa State University ran numbers to determine what it would cost American pork producers to put a Danish-style control system in place. The total was only $4.50 per animal, less than three cents more for a pound of pork — a pittance if it means keeping antibiotics that save human lives effective.

17) Apparently my ears are somewhere between 40 and 50 years old.  Good, because so is the rest of me.

18) Why does college cost so much anyway?  Sorry, no simple answers.

19) Connor Friedersdorf on how Rolling Stone’s UVA rape article violated the most simple, basic standards of journalism in pursuit of a good story.

Said Rosen, “None of those schools felt quite right. What kind of ‘feel’ is this? It’s feeling for a fit between discovered story and a prior—given—narrative.” What if, he argued, “a single, emblematic college rape case” does not exist? “Maybe the hunt for such was ill-conceived from the start,” he wrote. “Maybe that’s the wrong way for Rolling Stone to have begun.” And I think he is correct that searching for confirmation of a preexisting narrative is a common problem in narrative journalism generally and a factor that led Rolling Stone astray here.

Still, there is one sense in which Erdely’s account of her process seems dubious to me. The story of a fraternity that used gang rape as an initiation ritual for pledges would obviously be worth exposing if it were true. But no one familiar with the reality of rape on college campuses should’ve construed such a story as emblematic of the problem. Gang rapes absolutely happen. As Robby Soavenotes, Rolling Stone could’ve easily written a story about one that happened at Vanderbilt.

19) Chait also draws some interesting conclusions on the matter:

One of the peculiar, unexamined assumptions is that fraternity members are capable not only of loutishness or even rape, which is undeniable, but the sort of routine, systematized torture we would normally associate with serial killers or especially brutal regimes. The story describes a gang rape as a fraternity initiation ritual, complete with members referring to their victim as “it,” the way Buffalo Bill dehumanized his captive in Silence of the Lambs.

You don’t need to feel much affinity for Greek culture — I certainly don’t — to question whether depravity on this scale is plausible. It’s the sort of error that could only be produced in an atmosphere of unquestioned loathing. Caitlin Flanagan, who has reported extensively on the pathology of fraternity culture, told Hanna Rosin that Rolling Stone’s gang rape scene beggared belief. But Flanagan and Rosin have both offended the left in different ways, so their skepticism merely served to convince Rolling Stone’s defenders that the story’s skeptics were motivated by anti-feminism:

Yep.  I remember finding this story somewhat incredible when first reading it, but didn’t actually want to say so for this very reason.

20) Needle exchange programs are great policy.  Too bad too many politicians are convinced that they are encouraging drug use, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Mega quick hits (part I)

Your long overdue quick hits.  My apologies.

1) Given the role of wealthy donors in politics, it should be no surprise that across the political spectrum, all politicians are largely in step with the desires of the wealthy.

2) An 1000 year old Anglo-Saxon recipe for eye infection treatment actually works.

3) If you want to learn what you take notes on, do it by hand, not a laptop.

4) Among the many subtle ways we abuse our prisoners, is gouging them and their families for the costs of keeping in touch via phone call.  It’s just wrong.  Maybe there’s change afoot.

5) Interesting Wired piece on the war over the health risks of vaping.  It’s clearly better to vape than to smoke and clearly better to do neither.  Can’t we leave it at that?

6) It’s died down for the moment, but Chris Kromm on why North Carolina’s proposed RFRA is even worse than Indiana’s.  Will be interesting to see if this comes back here.

7) The simple rule to prevent the next Gerrmanwings disaster– two personnel in the cockpit at all  times.  Period.

8) Men in Quebec who took advantage of a “daddy only” quota for parental leave were doing 23% more housework and child care years after actually taking the leave.  Clearly, we need more of these policies.

9) Multiple servings of red meat per day seems to be not good for you.  But if it’s less than that, it’s probably not harming you at all, so don’t sweat it.

10) Ian Millhiser argues that the Supreme Court is (and continues to be) a “malign force in American history.”

11) Adam Davidson sums up the economic evidence on “job-stealing immigrants.”  Short version: there’s a near-consensus among economists that immigrants are not taking jobs Americans would otherwise be doing.

12) I enjoyed this “personality habit” quiz at the NYT.  Apparently I’m a “questioner.”

Questioners question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified, so in effect, they meet only inner expectations. Once Questioners believe that a particular habit is worthwhile, they’ll stick to it—but only if they’re satisfied about the habit’s soundness and usefulness. They resist anything arbitrary or ineffective; they accept direction only from people they respect. Questioners may exhaust themselves (and other people) with their relentless questioning, and they sometimes find it hard to act without perfect information. If you’re thinking, “Well, right now I question the validity of the Four Tendencies framework,” yep, you’re probably a Questioner!

13) Is there anything that’s fair to poor parents and families?  Not truancy laws, writes Dana Goldstein.

14) Jon Cohn makes not a bad case that Rand Paul’s medical specialty helps to explain his politics:

The split [specialists as Republicans; generalists as Democrats] makes sense if you understand the very different work these doctors perform — and the money they get paid for it. Specialists’ clinical interactions tend to be episodic: A surgeon called in to remove a gall bladder, repair a ligament or install a stent is probably meeting his or her patient for the first time — and may have little contact, or even none at all, with that patient once the procedure and rehabilitation are over. Such encounters may reinforce a

14) What not to worry about in teaching pre-school children how to read?  You mean other than the fact that you are an obsessive parent if you are worried about this?  Just read to your kids.

15) I first learned about Pantones in a Duke magazine article about “Duke blue” years ago and found the concept fascinating.  Loved this NYT story on the subtle difference in pantone between Duke blue and Kentucky blue.

16) The victim of a false rape accusation at UVA tells his story.  Yes, of course the vast majority of rape accusations are truthful; but that doesn’t mean we universities should be denying due process to the accused.

17) Chait on why conservatives hate the Iran deal.  Because they hate all deals.

18) No, tax cuts still don’t pay for themselves.  And, yes, laughably, Arthur Laffer is still an economic guru in the Republican party despite his ideas being completely discredited among serious economists.

19) If you consider our micribiome, you can forget about humans and chimps being 98% similar.

20) Enjoyed this Marketplace story on how German universities control costs.  (No climbing walls, among other things; and no beloved sports teams).

This blog post has not been genetically modified

Nice editorial in the Post on why requiring genetically-modified food labeling is a bad idea:

E IGHTY-EIGHT percent of scientists polled by the Pew Research Center in January said genetically modified food is generally safe to eat. Only 37 percent of the public shared that view. The movement to require genetically modified food products to be labeled both reflects and exploits this divergence between informed opinion and popular anxiety. [all emphases mine]

Mandated labeling would deter the purchase of genetically modified (GM) food when the evidence calls for no such caution…

The GM-food debate is a classic example of activists overstating risk based on fear of what might be unknown and on a distrust of corporations. People have been inducing genetic mutations in crops all sorts of other ways for a long time — by, for example, bathing plants in chemicals or exposing them to radiation. There is also all sorts of genetic turbulence in traditional selective plant breeding and constant natural genetic variation.

Yet products that result from selective gene splicing — which get scrutinized before coming to market — are being singled out as high threats. If they were threatening, one would expect experts to have identified unique harms to human health in the past two decades of GM-crop consumption. They haven’t. Unsurprisingly, institutions such as the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization have concluded that GM food is no riskier than other food.

Promoters of compulsory GM food labeling claim that consumers nevertheless deserve transparency about what they’re eating. But given the facts, mandatory labeling would be extremely misleading to consumers — who, the Pew polling shows, exaggerate the worries about “Frankenfood” — implying a strong government safety concern where one does not exist…

This isn’t just a matter of saving consumers from a little unnecessary expense or anxiety. If GM food becomes an economic nonstarter for growers and food companies, the world’s poorest will pay the highest price. GM crops that flourish in challenging environments without the aid of expensive pesticides or equipment can play an important role in alleviating hunger and food stress in the developing world — if researchers in developed countries are allowed to continue advancing the field.

Yeah, all that.  I just finished my Kashi Go Lean for breakfast.  It actually annoys me every time I see the big “GMO Free” label on the box.  It’s healthy because it’s high in fiber, protein, and whole grains; not because those grains were not genetically modified.  If Kashi wants to keep doing this, fine; companies put all sorts of information on the sides of their boxes that are not actually related to nutrition.  What we don’t need is the government implicitly telling consumers that GMO is somehow related to the health of our food.  It’s simply not.

The science of hangry

Loved this New Yorker post about the evolutionary benefits and costs of how hunger affects your brain:

Hunger makes Belgians less charitable, Israeli judges more draconian, and Ohioans likelier to stick pins into voodoo dolls that represent their spouses…

Hunger seems like a simple phenomenon: the stomach rumbles until it’s fed, then it’s quiet until it rumbles again. Why, then, does it shape so much behavior that, at least on the surface, has so little to do with food? …

These side effects of hunger—intensified awareness, greater persistence, bolder risk assessments—also exist in humans. Like walleye pollock, people seem to behave with a profitable recklessness when hungry. In a 2014 paper titled “Always Gamble on an Empty Stomach,” researchers at Utrecht University, in the Netherlands, found that hungry subjects fared significantly better on a psychological challenge called the Iowa Gambling Task than did subjects who had eaten Greek yogurt beforehand…

Of course, all the exquisite sensitivity and restless energy that hunger induces have a downside: crankiness. In 1946, a study known as the Minnesota Starvation Experiment documented the powerful connection between hunger and anger—an early description of the mental state now popularly known as “hangry.” …

Most of the time, we can be glad that allaying our hunger no longer means prowling for wildebeests or foraging for berries. But the system that served our ancestors so well—that gave them the drive to hunt and the good sense to gather—turns out to be something of a liability in the modern world. An adaptation that’s useful on the savannah doesn’t necessarily help in the office cubicle or the dorm room. In places where food abounds, the hungry now prowl the department store and forage for binder clips, ready to snap until they get their cake.

Interesting stuff.  From what I can tell, I really don’t get too hangry (I wonder if that also means I have less of an alertness benefit), but I learned early in my marriage, do not let my wife get too hungry.

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