Cornucopia News Archive

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

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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 »

Cornucopia Institute Elects New Leadership

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

The Cornucopia Institute has elected new leadership following the annual meeting of the organization’s board of directors.  The Cornucopia Institute, a tax-exempt nonprofit, is a national organization focused on agricultural research and education.  The organization acts as a governmental and corporate watchdog on organic food and farming issues.

Cornucopia board members Dave Minar, Kevin
Engelbert, Helen Kees and Roger Featherstone
weigh issues at the 2014 annual meeting.

Wisconsin organic beef and fresh-market produce farmer Helen Kees was elected board president at Cornucopia’s March 22 meeting in St. Paul, MN.  Kees, a third generation farmer, with her husband Bob and daughter Chris, holds the distinction of being Wisconsin’s first certified organic beef producer.  She and her family direct market vegetables and beef (to retailers and at local farmers markets) as well as wholesale to the Organic Valley Cooperative.

New York organic dairy farmer Kevin Engelbert was elected Cornucopia board vice president.  Engelbert, along with his wife Lisa and family, was the nation’s first certified organic dairy farmer.  Their family farm additionally produces a wide variety of organic cheeses, veal, beef, pork, pasture, hay, corn, soybeans, and vegetables.  Engelbert, a fifth generation farmer, is a former member of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the 15-member panel that determines what materials are allowed for use in organic food and farming and advises the USDA Secretary of Agriculture on organic policy matters.

In addition, Dr. Barry Flamm was elected to Cornucopia’s board of directors.  Flamm, who had been a member of Cornucopia’s policy advisory panel, is the immediate past chair of the NOSB with his term concluding in 2012.  He operates a certified organic sweet cherry orchard in Montana.  Flamm previously served on the Montana Governor’s Council helping develop the Montana Department of Agriculture Organic Certification Program, and he was a founder and vice chair of the Montana Organic Association.

Roger Featherstone was re-elected as treasurer of the Cornucopia board.  The long-time environmental activist grew up on a small family dairy farm in Wisconsin that has been continuously operated by his family since 1847.  He currently lives in Tucson, Arizona, and is the director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition.

Replacing Dr. Flamm, The Cornucopia Institute has added a new member to its policy advisory panel, Mitch Blumenthal, the President and Founder of Global Organic/Specialty Source, Inc.  A resident of Sarasota, Florida, Blumenthal purchased ten acres of organic farmland in 1995 and continues to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, and specialty items at Blumenberry Farms.  In 1999, he launched Global Organic/Specialty Source, now one of the most significant organic distributorships in the Southeast United States.

The board formally recognized long-time board member and past president Steven Sprinkel, recently retired from the board.  The Ojai, California, resident continues to operate an organic vegetable farm and runs an organic grocery and restaurant with his wife Olivia.

With approximately 10,000 members, The Cornucopia Institute is believed to have more organic farmer members than any other similar organization in the U.S.  In 2014, Cornucopia is commemorating its 10th anniversary.


Leaving a Sour Taste: Conventional “Yogurt” Masquerades as Health Food While Organic Keeps It Real

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

This article is based on Cornucopia’s forthcoming yogurt report and scorecard. Find both later this spring on our website.

yogurt-spoon-iStock_000013610937smYogurt, made the traditional way, is one of nature’s many health foods. Milk from organic grass-fed cows, rich in calcium, protein, beneficial fats and other healthy nutrients, is fermented using live cultures, resulting in a wholesome, live food teeming with beneficial microorganisms.

Yet giant food corporations, led by General Mills (Yoplait) and Groupe Danone (Dannon), and now joined by others including Walmart and PepsiCo, have managed to turn this health food into junk food.

Many yogurt products on store shelves today are marketed as healthy, but a close inspection of the ingredients list and a look behind the scenes at how the ingredients are produced—the food’s “fine print”—paint a very different picture.   Read Full Article »

Cornucopia’s Comments on FDA Proposed “Phase Out” of Antibiotics

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Please read Cornucopia’s comments on Draft Guidance for Industry #213 (Docket No. FDA-2011-D-0889-0155) below. More information on this draft guidance is available here.

The FDA needs to hear from you about what you think of the draft guidance. Please click here to comment.


To Whom It May Concern:

The “judicious use” principles outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in GFI #209 and their planned implementation, as described in GFI #213, are inadequate responses to this threat.Thank you for the opportunity to comment on draft Guidance for Industry (GFI) #213.  As a stakeholder in the fight to improve the safety of our food supply, The Cornucopia Institute believes it is imperative that antimicrobials be used responsibly in food animal production to help slow the development of antimicrobial resistance that has emerged as a major threat to human and animal health. Read Full Article »