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.

Lobbying Expenditures Against GMO Labeling Soar This Year

July 31st, 2014

Los Angeles Times
By David Pierson

The food industry spent $9 million lobbying Congress to oppose laws requiring labeling for genetically modified products in the first quarter of this year, nearly matching its total spending for all of last year, a new report said.

Boss_Tweed,_Thomas_NastThe Washington D.C.-based Environmental Working Group said big spenders included the Grocery Manufacturers Assn., which spent $1.2 million, and the Coca-Cola Co., which spent $2.6 million, on anti-labeling lobbying in the first three months of the year.

The group said that the total from lobbying expenditure forms citing genetically engineered labeling for the first quarter nearly matched the $9.3 million tallied in all of 2013.

The increased spending underscores the pitched battle over labeling laws, which are being proposed in several states.

In May, Vermont became the first state to require labeling of genetically engineered products, a rule that is being challenged by the food industry in court. Oregon and Colorado will vote on labeling later this year. Read Full Article »

The Art of Farming

July 31st, 2014
John Van Voorhees and Joan Donaldson
Image Credit: Louis Schaekel

[NOTE:  A version of this article first appeared in Cornucopia's Summer newsletter, The Cultivator.]

If there’s a universally loved fruit, it just might be the blueberry. It’s as fun to eat as food gets—popping those purplish little orbs into your mouth by the handful is symbolic of summertime goodness. And where else in the organic world do we get to eat the color blue? Outside of the processed food aisles, it’s a rare and welcome sight—one that Pleasant Hill Farm has been focused on for 40 years.

Husband and wife team John Van Voorhees and Joan Donaldson began their foray into organic blueberry farming as a team in Fennville, a small Western Michigan town (also known for its wine). John is a third-generation farmer who cultivates bushes planted by his grandfather, and Joan is the granddaughter of a fruit farmer, so farming was naturally in the cards for the couple. They came to organic farming shortly after they were married, says Joan.

“An older friend gave us some copies of Organic Gardening and Farming and through Rodale’s magazine we were introduced to the writings of Louis Bromfield about his organic practices on Malabar Farm,” Joan recalls. “Wendell Berry also wrote articles for Rodale about his farm and philosophies about agriculture that inspired us to ponder what type of farm did we envision on our land?” Berry’s classic book, The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture, further shaped their agrarian worldview. Read Full Article »

Fungicides Linked to Resistance in Life-Threatening Fungus

July 30th, 2014

Canada.com
by Margaret Munro

cropdustingplaneAmid growing concern that fungicides are fuelling the rise of resistant and life-threatening fungus in Europe, China and India, a microbial sleuth says it is time to start filling in the gaps in Canada.

As a first step, biologist Jianping Xu says his group at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., hopes to start testing fungi circulating in southern Ontario’s farm belt this fall.

“We plan to take samples in the environment and compare them with what we see in patients in the hospital,” says Xu, who has collaborated on several international studies that point to resistant fungi as a growing and serious health threat. Read Full Article »

Bee Research Tainted By Corporate Funding, MPs Say

July 30th, 2014

Report warns against letting pesticide companies fund key research for government plan to boost pollinators

The Guardian
by Damian Carrington

Credit: Ken Thomas

Criticial future research on the plight of bees risks being tainted by corporate funding, according to a report from MPs published on Monday. Pollinators play a vital role in fertilising three-quarters of all food crops but have declined due to loss of habitat, disease and pesticide use. New scientific research forms a key part of the government’s plan to boost pollinators but will be funded by pesticide manufacturers.

UK environment ministers failed in their attempt in 2013 to block an EU-wide ban on some insecticides linked to serious harm in bees and theenvironmental audit select committee (EAC) report urges ministers to end their opposition, arguing there is now even more evidence of damage. Millions of member of the public have supported the ban.

“When it comes to research on pesticides, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is content to let the manufacturers fund the work,” said EAC chair Joan Walley. “This testifies to a loss of environmental protection capacity in the department responsible for it. If the research is to command public confidence, independent controls need to be maintained at every step. Unlike other research funded by pesticide companies, these studies also need to be peer-reviewed and published in full”. Read Full Article »

Another Score For Organically Grown Veggies

July 29th, 2014

The Washington Post
by Barbara Damrosch

Amy’s Organic Garden
Image Credit: USDA

Watching the studies come out about the merits or demerits of organics is a little like watching World Cup soccer. A large study done at Stanford in 2012 claimed organic food to be no more nutritious than chemically grown. Score one for that side. But a report newly published in the British Journal of Nutrition finds organically raised vegetables to have more antioxidants, less cadmium (a toxic metal in commercial fertilizer) and fewer pesticide residues. Score one for Team O.

Now what? Nobody’s exactly rooting for chemical residues, or for cadmium. Antioxidants are superstars — if they’re in a tomato or head of broccoli, not in a pill — but they don’t seem to be fully understood. Important to study, yes, but only as part of a vast web of interactions in which one part touches many others.

To me, the groundbreaking scientific revelations in recent years have been about how little we all know. The natural world does not bow before the mighty human brain. More accurately, our brain bows before the miraculous, newly discovered empire of good bacteria in our gut. Yet we must feed that gut every day and make dietary decisions based on simple observation and common sense. Read Full Article »

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