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.

Organic Activists Charge USDA Regulators Capitulating to Corporate Interests

April 24th, 2014

“Undermining Congressional Protections” Results in Threats of Lawsuits and Protests

usda logoSAN ANTONIO, TEXAS:  When the organic industry gathers in this central Texas city next week sparks are predicted to fly when farmers and consumer activists face off with government regulators who they have accused of a “power grab,” significantly eroding a unique public and private partnership that Congress created in the governance of organic food and agriculture.

At issue is the unilateral reversal of 20 years of precedent in the congressionally-mandated National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) effectively deciding the working definition of “organic” as a food production system and what, if any, synthetics are safe to include in organic food.  The NOSB, a 15-member panel of organic stakeholders, representing farmer, consumer, environmental, retail, scientific, and food processors, will begin its Spring 2014 meeting on April 29. Read Full Article »

Cornucopia’s Formal Comments for the National Organic Standards Board Spring Meeting Now Available

April 23rd, 2014

The Cornucopia Institute has submitted its formal comments to the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) for consideration at the Spring meeting of the NOSB.  This diverse 15-member body was established by Congress to review policy and materials used in organic agriculture and food.  They meet twice a year, and the next meeting begins April 29 in San Antonio, TX.


Ever since Cornucopia’s investigation culminated in the publication of The Organic Watergate (outlining corruption between the corporate organic sector and the USDA) The Cornucopia Institute has committed to thoroughly review all materials and policies presented for approval to the NOSB.

In the past many in the organic community trusted that the technical reviewers the USDA was hiring were independent and unbiased. The Organic Watergate report illustrated that many of these reviews were performed by corporate agribusiness executives or consultants (in some cases facilitating inappropriate synthetic ingredients for use in organic food processing).

To make matters worse, today, after Cornucopia’s criticism, the USDA now refuses to even share with the public the qualifications or identity of the consultants they are hiring to perform technical research. The NOSB is not a scientific panel. It includes farmers, retailers, certifiers, public interest/consumer representatives and conservationists. They need good objective help in making their important decisions.

Since the USDA seems unwilling to follow the law The Cornucopia Institute has stepped up, adding to our team of agricultural policy and scientific experts, in providing objective analysis to NOSB members and the public.

Our comments for the upcoming meeting concerning materials considered for use in organics and organic policy can be viewed here.

Corporate Definitions of ‘Natural’: How Consumers are Being Deceived

April 22nd, 2014


Corporate “natural” definitions vary widely. Generally, “natural” means the absence of artificial ingredients, commonly referencing preservatives.  However “natural” does not signify that the ingredients are grown and processed in ways that avoid such “unnatural” inputs as synthetic pesticides and genetically engineered organisms. Various companies’ definitions of “natural” highlight its inferiority to the organic label.

Companies also can blur the line between “natural” and organic with promotional materials for their “natural” labels. They fail to mention that ingredients excluded from the “natural” foods—such as high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavors—are prohibited in organic foods. Consumers may believe, therefore, that “natural” foods offer something special, when in truth organic foods offer all those benefits and much more.

One thing is clear, however: Consumers are extremely confused about organic and “natural” labels on foods, too often believing that “natural” claims imply the absence of pesticides and genetically engineered organisms. Recent public opinion poll results, conducted by various research firms, confirm this growing problem. Read Full Article »

New Prague Farmers to Face Off with Power Line Builders in Court

April 22nd, 2014

This trial will determine the fate of the organic dairy operation.

Star Tribune
by David Peterson

For decades, County Road 2 has represented a tranquil rural existence on the edge of the metro area to Dave and Florence Minar.

Not anymore.

Today, a row of steel towers 15 stories tall marches down that road and across the land near New Prague that has been in Dave’s family since 1926, casting a shadow the Minars contend clouds the future of one of the state’s leading organic dairy farms.

The 450-acre Cedar Summit Farm has been organic since 1974, and in addition to the herd of about 130 cows, includes a retail store and a commercial dairy that ships nostalgic cream-on-top milk bottles all across the Midwest.

In Scott County District Court this week, the Minars, who are both in their 70s, will describe their fears that the high-voltage power lines could cause health problems for their cows and scare customers away from visiting the bucolic and pastoral patch of the county. Read Full Article »

How New Legislation in Boston Gave Fresh Life to Urban Farms

April 21st, 2014

Modern Farmer
by Heather Hansman

Locally grown will soon take on new meaning in Boston, especially in predominantly low-income neighborhoods like Roxbury and Dorchester. As in, grown on your very block. This spring, the city is starting the most comprehensive transactional urban agriculture system in the country.

Boston_skyline_at_earlymorningby Y.Sawa
In December, as one of his last tasks in office, former mayor Thomas M. Menino signed Article 89 into law. The new ordinance means farmers will be able to grow – and, importantly, sell for profit — within the city limits. Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827
Ph: 608-625-2000