The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute, through research and investigations on agricultural and food issues, provides needed information to family farmers, consumers and other stakeholders in the good food movement and to the media. We support economic justice for the family-scale farming community – partnered with consumers – backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.

Follow the National Organic Standards Board Meeting in Louisville, KY #NOSB

October 30th, 2014

CI_NOSBKentuckyTwitterOctLast Updated: 10-30-14, 11:29 a.m. ET

Join The Cornucopia Institute as we live tweet from the National Organic Standards Board meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. We will be sharing the play by play with our Twitter followers under #NOSB or simply follow our stream.

If you’re not already following us on Twitter, please do so here.

Read The Cornucopia Institute’s written comments to the NOSB here.

You can also stay updated throughout the meeting right here:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

11:29 a.m. ET:  The board votes 12-3 against the removal of tragacanth gum from the National List.

Then they move to take another brief break.

11:25 a.m. ET:  NOSB brings back the tabled motion to consider relisting of tragacanth gum.

Joe Dixon (retailer, Whole Foods) indicates that the fact that a certifier has one client using this material is sufficient to him to indicate tragacanth gum is essential.

Jay Feldman (enviro, Beyond Pesticides) asks if the the new letter from the user of the material that was given to the board yesterday was untimely.

Cornucopia contacted the original petitioner for the allowed use of this material three times.  They never responded, nor did they submit any information in support of keeping this material on the National List.

11:13 a.m. ET:  The full board votes 9 to 6 against removing aqueous potassium silicate from the list.

Prior to the sunset changes imposed by the USDA in Sept. 2013, this material would have no longer been allowed for use in organics. This cuts to the core of the argument that the new process means the sun will never set on nearly every non-organic and synthetic material on or added to the National List.

11:06 a.m. ET:  NOSB considers relisting of aqueous potassium silicate.  When is was initially approved for use, the Crops Subcommittee determined that it was not essential and it was not compatible with organic agriculture – yet it was still approved by the full board.

11:00 a.m. ET:  After a brief break, the NOSB turns to sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate.

No discussion. Board votes 10-5 to reject removal from the National List.

See Cornucopia’s comments on why we opposed the relisting of sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate: http://www.cornucopia.org/nosb/

10:31 a.m. ET:  Jay Feldman (enviro rep and Beyond Pesticides):  No motion is required by the full board level for this material; no criteria provided for review as required.  I will vote against this.

Zea Sonnebend (scientist rep and CCOF employee):  Couldn’t disagree more with Jay

NOSB board votes 11-3, with one abstention, against removal of sulfurous acid from the National List.

10:22 a.m. ET:  Nick Maravell (farmer): We have process colliding with substance.

Harold Austin (handler rep): This is about soil health; this does it for farmers in the drier arid areas.

Francis Thicke (envir rep and farmer): We can argue whether or not we should farm in the desert; this product will help in those areas.

10:12 a.m. ET:  Question of how sunset works again rises as board considers voting on sulfurous acid.

Colehour Bondera (farmer rep):  Are we looking at the material or at the process?  We cannot isolate them.

10:03 a.m. ET:  Crops Subcommittee begins discussion of sulfurous acid and its relisting on the National List.

9:53 a.m. ET:  Inert ingredients, added to chemicals used in organic pest control, should be thoroughly reviewed and approved.  Inerts can have their own damaging impacts.  This has been a long simmering item before the NOSB.  An udpate of its status was provided by program staff concerning the working group working on this.

Jay Feldman (enviro rep from Beyond Pesticides):  I appeal to the program to bump this up to a higher priority and move this along.  He wryly observes, “Hurry up and do this before I die.”

Feldman has extensive knowledge on this topic from his years of work on this issue with BP.  It’s most unfortunate that more progress was not made during his 5 year term on the board, which ends this meeting.

9:32 a.m. ET:  Jennifer Taylor (consumer rep) asks the NOSB to tell the NOP to stop work on the drafting of aquaculture rules.

Miles McEvoy:  That would not be a good process  It would be appropriate for the program to finish the draft rules, then open for public and board feedback.

Tracy Favre (enviro/cons rep):  Many of us have concerns, but let the process move forward.

No further action taken by board.  McEvoy indicated on Tuesday that drafting of the rules was underway.

Given the pace of this process, Cornucopia believes it will take many more months for these to be released (if not longer).

9:23 a.m. ET:  The NOSB unanimously votes to send this matter to the USDA’s National Organic Program for resolution.

9:19 a.m. ET:  NOP Director McEvoy:  This will take resources; board could help us prioritize this type of work.  GMO vaccines not authorized by regulation and will take us some time for analysis.

Jean Richardson:  We can’t get the information we need to develop an approved list of vaccines.  Companies won’t provide confidential information.  This has to go back to the government/NOP to get that type of information.

Nick Maravell:  To keep this issue within the NOSB would be the definition of insanity.  We would need a lot of resources to pursue.

8:58 a.m. ET:  Jean Richardson (consumer rep): This isn’t an easy issue; we should remind poultry producers that they can petition for an exception (such as for salmonella).

Nick Maravell (farmer): It is possible to make vaccines without GMOs.  It has been done for 100+ years.  If we aren’t firm on this, there will be no incentive (for development).

8:42 a.m. ET:  The Livestock Subcommittee is up and discussing the thorny issue of GMO vaccines used in livestock production.

For more on Cornucopia’s position on GMO vaccines, go to http://www.cornucopia.org/nosb/ and read the fall meeting comments.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

4:59 p.m. ET:  Handling Subcommittee is nearly done, than the Compliance, Accreditation and Certification Subcommittee will be up, focusing on an assessment of soil conservation practices.

4:27 p.m. ET:  NOSB moves on to discussion of non-organic and synthetic materials that are scheduled for sunset in 2016.  No votes on these materials will occur at this meeting, only a preliminary discussion.  See Cornucopia’s comments for a full roster of these materials at http://www.cornucopia.org/nosb/.

4:14 p.m. ET:  Nick Maravell: If the industry is moving away from carrageenan to gellan gum, this shows cooperation.

Joe Dixon: There was no checklist used as part of the review.

NOSB votes to keep gellan gum on the National List by 12-3 vote.

4:06 p.m. ET:  Joe Dixon (retailer, Whole Foods): New information from one user leads us to believe tragacanth gum is needed.

Zea: This material is probably worth keeping and giving it the benefit of the doubt.

Harold: Lack of any public comments for continued use of this material lent us to think that we should remove.  Then we got this new information from one user of the material yesterday that changed our mind.

Joe Dixon: Handling Subcommittee did not use the checklist (that other committees use) on health, environmental impact and essentiality.

Board tables vote until tomorrow.

3:57 p.m. ET:  Procedural motion on point of order fails, 9-6.  Voting fault line closely resembles Cornucopia analysis of  NOSB member votes over the past 5 years.

3:52 p.m. ET: The Cornucopia Institute summarizes the debate:

Jay: “Protect the process”
Zea: “Get the job done, leave the politics behind”
Jay: “The process protects the outcome”

3:51 p.m. ET: Subcommittees absolutely followed the procedures, says McEvoy.

3:49 p.m. ET:  Zea (scientist): You are saying the only way the full board can be on the record is by the subcommitee making a motion to remove (Q to Miles McEvoy).

Not a problem for this meeting, McEvoy says, because all materials have that motion at this meeting.

3:46 p.m. ET:  Tracy Favre:  These are interim solutions … we are on a moving train.  Failure to move on these materials leaves further uncertainty in the industry.  This is an opportunity for us to move forward while recognizing that there are things we can do to make the process better.

3:44 p.m. ET:  Responding to a question from Nick Maravell (farmer), Miles says the plan is to work with the Policy and Procedures Subcommittee to further clarify this process.  The memo that was sent to the board a few weeks ago only pertains to this meeting on how things work.

3:42 p.m. ET:  Miles McEvoy: Subcommittees have a role to play; it is only the full board that makes those final recommendations.  He says that procedures were clarified in a memo to the board a few weeks ago.  NOSB is responsible for reviewing all materials under sunset process.

3:35 p.m. ET:  Jay Feldman (envir. rep and Beyond Pesticides): The process is almost as important as the outcome.  It hurt me to find out that members were meeting privately to develop the new procedures, and not as the full board.

We constantly hear how we must honor prior boards and procedures.  That is not being done.

3:30 p.m. ET:  Zea Sonnebend (scientist rep and CCOF employee): I do not trust motives of my colleagues on the board … they might want to remove all materials from the list.  Leave the politics to the politicians and allow us to do our job — NOP should tell us how to do this. Zea gets applause.

3:25 p.m. ET:  Mac Stone (certifier rep) says he thinks it should be harder to get materials on the national list and harder to take them off (which is the newly instituted process).

John Foster (handler rep from EarthBound) wants to vote on every material.

Tracy Favre (envir. rep), tends to agree with John and Mac.  Risk that people may misunderstand subcommittee votes is a risk on every material.

Harold Stone, (handler rep from Zirkle): Let’s give this new process a try and see what we can make of it.

Colehour (farmer): We all need to be following the same process …. (and) we don’t.

3:15 p.m. ET:  We need to start this (process) out right and do it well:  Colehour Bondera (farmer).  If the NOP wants to issue a new federal register notice with some corrections, then they should get right on it …. We aren’t able to speak (now) in a coherent manner on this process.

3:11 p.m. ET:  Francis Thicke (farmer) adds that in his subcommittee (Crops) similar problems arose when members voted to remove a substance without really intending to vote that way when the full board weighs in.  Misleading or confusing the public has consequences.

3:07 p.m. ET:  Nick Maravell (farmer) argues that the maker and seconder of the motion should truly believe in their motion, otherwise confusing to the public when they vote against their own motion.

3:02 p.m. ET:  Handling Subcommittee turns to tragacanth gum.  Jay Feldman (Beyond Pesticides) raises a point of order challenging the way the motion was brought to the board.  Board discussing how this fits into the new sunset process.

2:59 p.m. ET:  Handling Subcommittee votes to withdraw algal flour recommendation and reconsider. The petitioner finally provided some more information on the manufacturing of this substance in their written and oral testimony.

2:56 p.m. ET:  NOSB Handling cCommittee moves to center stage.  Handling Subcommittee withdraws current glycerin recommendation so they can reword it.

Very difficult material, lot of moving parts, want to make sure when they come back with a proposal it would be a good proposal.

2:33 p.m. ET: Marty Mesh for Florida Organic Growers, long time certifier, has the last word from the public in the morning. Read Full Article »

Biotech and Agribusinesses Spending Heavily to Defeat State GMO Food Labeling Votes

October 29th, 2014

The Cornucopia Institute releases shopper’s guide red-flagging pro/con food brands involved with Colorado and Oregon Initiatives    [Contribution data will be updated on a weekly or bi-weekly basis until election day, and a final poster will be published in early December.]

INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED 10-29-14: DuPont adds another $4.4 million to the NO side coffers, with Coca Cola pushing another $468K towards a NO vote and Kellogg pumping an additional $250K towards a vote opposing GMO food labeling.  The Big Food and Biotech forces have now spent nearly $33 million opposing the consumers’ right to know that is in their food.  The YES side has raised about $9 million, with significant new donations from the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety and Lemelson Vineyards.  Full details on corporate spending in the updated infographic below. 

INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED 10-23-14: New money for the NO side comes from Big Food and Biotech interests as DuPont/Pioneer throws in $3 million, Monsanto adds another $2.5 million and Coca Cola spends another $+1 million fighting the consumers right to know what is in their food.  New money supporting the YES vote comes from Clif Bar ($35K) and Hain Celestial ($35K).  The NO forces have raked in nearly $26 million while supporters of GMO food labeling have raised a little more than $8 million. Full details on corporate spending in the updated infographic below.

INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED 10-16-14: More new money from Big Food and Biotech interests flows into fight against GMO food labeling votes in Oregon and Colorado. Coca Cola drops $1.168 million, Pepsi puts up another $1 million, Kraft adds another $870K, with Land O’Lakes putting in an additional $900K. Supporting the consumer’s right to know, the Center for Food Safety adds $1 million, Dr. Bronner’s puts in another $285K, Presence Marketing adds $175K and the Organic Consumers Association spends another $100K. The NO vote forces are outspending supporters by more than 3 to 1. Full details on the updated infographic below.  

UPDATED AGAIN  10-8-14:  Kellogg drops $250K against GMO food labeling + other contribution updates to the YES and NO positions.

UPDATE 10-2-14:  Cornucopia’s GMO food labeling infographic has been updated and now includes the contributions made to the Oregon Right to Know committee, which was organized to help get Measure 92 on the ballot. (Information on contributions for petition gathering are listed separately by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office and were not previously included.)  This update also includes significant additional contributions reported over the last couple days to both the Vote Yes on Measure 92 committee in Oregon, and the Right to Know Colorado committee.  Stay tuned for additional revisions of this infographic based on campaign finance reporting deadlines in Oregon and Colorado!

For a larger, easier to view version of the infographic please click on the image. Once downloaded (please be patient) you can click a second time to enlarge that further. A high-resolution file, suitable for enlargement and printing, can be found at the linked pdf below the graphic image.

Cornucopia, WI: Citizen initiatives on the November 4 ballots in both Colorado and Oregon would mandate clear labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients on food packages. The pending votes have sparked a high-priced battleground pitting consumer and farmer advocates against multi-billion-dollar agribusiness corporations.

Opposition to the state food labeling measures is coming from giant biotech companies (DuPont, Dow and Monsanto), that sell genetically engineered crops, and the well-heeled Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a national business lobbying organization. Millions of dollars are being spent on the two campaigns with advertising blitzes underway.

Now The Cornucopia Institute has released a detailed infographic that reveals which food companies are supporting or opposing the food labeling initiatives (with many of the major manufacturers opposing passage owning leading brands in the natural/organic marketplace).

Measure 92 Prop 105

(click on the image above to view a quick loading larger version,
and then click on it again for an even larger version
)

Download High Resolution PDF for printing purposes by clicking here

“Many consumers will likely be surprised to learn that owners and management of some of their favorite organic and natural brands are fighting against the right of consumers to know what is in their food,” says Mark Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group. “We want to spotlight this issue so that consumers can vote in the marketplace for manufacturers and brands that reflect their personal values.” Read Full Article »

Organic the Real Natural: Jackie Keller

October 27th, 2014

Organic The Real Natural
Sponsored by OFARM (Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing)

What’s the best way to prevent water pollution from farm chemicals? Jackie Keller, an organic farmer in Kansas, says the answer is simple: “Don’t use them in the first place!” Her water quality award shows organic farming is the way to go. Read Full Article »

2,4-D Crops Rubberstamped

October 27th, 2014

Pesticide Action Network, North America
by Linda Wells

cornfield TomSource: Tom

It’s official. EPA and USDA have both evaluated Dow Chemical’s new line of 2,4-D-resistant seeds, Enlist, and have approved both the seeds and the accompanying pesticide formulation for market.

This is a turning point, not just for grain production, but for food production in the U.S. and internationally. The introduction of Enlist corn and soybeans, and the widespread adoption of this new seed line, will have pervasive impacts on farmer livelihoods, public health and control of our food system.

This is a decision that our regulators should not have taken lightly. And yet, it seems they did. Both USDA and EPA set up an intentionally narrow scope for evaluating the potential harms posed by 2,4-D resistant crops — one that ignored the biggest problems and held up irrelevant factors as evidence of safety.

As small farmers brace for the impact of pesticide drift that will hit with the introduction of Enlist crops, it is time for us to look forward. It’s time to demand a regulatory system that takes a rigorous approach to pesticides and genetically engineered crops, one that values small farmers as much as industrial agriculture — and public health as much as corporate profit.

It’s a set up

Dow Chemical’s Enlist seeds and pesticides passed this approval process with relative ease, despite extended public outcry from farmers, health professionals and communities across the country.

Dow, and the other “Big 6″ global pesticide corporations, would have us believe that this was a drawn-out, rigorous process that once again proves the safety and necessity of GE crops. The reality is that the whole process was a tricky sleight-of-hand: Enlist passed the test because the test itself was set up to be a cake-walk.

From the beginning, opponents of 2,4-D-resistant crops have focused on three main objections:

  1. Enlist crops will mean a massive increase in the use of the toxic and volatile chemical 2,4-D. Neighboring farms, especially those that grow fruits and vegetables, will be put at risk for increased crop damage. Their livelihoods will be threatened, and fruit and vegetable production will become an even riskier venture for U.S. farmers.
  2. Rural exposure to 2,4-D will also increase to unprecedented levels. 2,4-D is linked to cancer and reproductive harm, among other negative impacts. USDA itself predicts 2,4-D use in corn and soybean production to increase between 500% and 1,400% over the course of nine years.
  3. Dow is presenting Enlist as the answer to farmer’s prayers about “superweeds,” an economic must-have that outweighs any side effects. But the truth is that superweeds were caused by Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready seed line, the current king of pesticide-resistant crops — and there’s nothing to stop weeds from developing resistance to 2,4-D just as they have to glyphosate, RoundUp’s active ingredient. USDA needs to invest in real solutions for weed management, not allow this false solution to exacerbate the problem.

And of these major points, how many were accounted for in the approval process run by USDA and EPA? Not a single one.

Agency hot potato

What happened? Well, to Administrators Tom Vilsack (USDA) and Gina McCarthy (EPA), when it comes to evaluating the safety of new GE crops, apparently the buck stops — somewhere else. Each agency accepted the narrowest possible interpretation of its responsibilities to safeguard our fields and families.

USDA essentially decided to only look at the damage that GE seeds themselves would cause, ignoring the threat of pesticide drift entirely — and passing the onus of evaluating pesticide-related issues to EPA.

Meanwhile, EPA did a rather shoddy job of addressing the health impacts of this dramatic increase in 2,4-D use. McCarthy didn’t consider the cumulative damage that will result from repeated 2,4-D exposures, and instead insisted that 2,4-D health impacts in general had already been evaluated by a previous process. As for crop damage from pesticides, well, crop damage is USDA’s domain. So EPA didn’t consider that issue at all.

And neither Vilsack nor McCarthy tackled the one of the biggest questions: Why would we put a product on the market that’s going to make superweeds even more out of control? As stated in a recent LA Times editorial:

No agency looks at the bigger policy question of whether the nation is embarking on a potentially dangerous path toward creating ever-more resistant weeds and spraying them and crops with larger and larger doses of stronger herbicides. That question should be answered before the country escalates the war out in the fields.

Hear, hear.

Do better.

It’s time to intercept this game of agency hot-potato with clearly defined directives for protecting farmers and rural families. PAN is joining allies in demanding that USDA and EPA produce a new, more robust process for the approval of GE crops — one that considers the full implications of new GE products before they hit the market, from pesticide drift to cumulative impacts.

No distractions, no loopholes. Let’s take our food and farming system seriously, and make decisions based on all of the facts.

Take action » Join PAN and partners in calling on President Obama to step in and keep 2,4-D crops from hitting the market. He has the authority to direct USDA and EPA to take a closer look at on-the-ground impacts and better protect community health and farmer livelihoods.

EPA Approves Enlist Duo®, Opens Gate to New Wave of GE Woes

October 24th, 2014

Beyond Pesticides

enlist logoDespite a massive outpouring of public opposition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced yesterday that it has registered Enlist Duo®, officially putting the rubber stamp of approval on the sale and use of a new wave of genetically-engineered (GE) 2,4-D tolerant crops.

Developed by Dow AgroSciences, Enlist Duo® is an herbicide that incorporates a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, intended for use on GE Enlist-Duo®-tolerant corn and soybean crops. While registration of the herbicide was anticipated by most of the public since the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s approval of the Enlist Duo®-tolerant crops in mid-September, the announcement still comes as a disappointing shock, demonstrating the failings of the U.S. pesticide and agricultural regulatory system to put people and the environment before economic incentives and industry bottom lines. Read Full Article »

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