Cornucopia News Archive

NOSB Voting Scorecard Released – Lobbyists/Influence Peddlers Eroding Organic Standards

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Analysis Illustrates USDA/Agribusiness Collusion

CORNUCOPIA, WIS: A comprehensive voting analysis of members of the National Organic Standards Board, an expert body formed by Congress to insulate the governance of the industry from undue corporate influence, clearly illustrates how illegal appointments to the board by current and past USDA Secretaries have subverted congressional intent.

GoToScorecardbutton The study, produced by The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, analyzed the voting record of each individual board member over the past five years, including corporate representatives who were placed on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) filling seats that were specifically set aside for farmers and other independent organic industry stakeholders.

CI_NOSB_Scorecard_1“In recent years, just as with the polarized U.S. Supreme Court, many critical issues were decided by one-vote margins,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector and Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia. “Almost universally, the NOSB is split along ideological lines (corporate agribusiness versus farmers and consumers) on whether to allow controversial synthetic and non-organic additives in organic food or weak animal husbandry standards utilizing the ‘factory farm’ production model of organic meat, eggs and dairy products.”

Cornucopia’s analysis comes two years after the policy group released a white paper entitled The Organic Watergate. That report documented how a number of risky and/or gimmicky synthetic or non-organic materials were approved for use in organics. It highlighted a couple of board members, appointed as “farmers,” who did not meet the intent and legal qualifications that Congress had set out for composition of the board.

“We have two members of the current board, both sitting in seats that Congress had designated for someone who must ‘own or operate an organic farming operation’ but who were actually agribusiness employees when appointed to the five-year term on the NOSB,” said Kastel.

Of the four seats reserved for farmers on the current board, one is held by an employee of the giant California berry marketing firm, Driscoll’s (which does not grow organic strawberries but rather relies on contract farmers), and one by an individual who, when appointed, worked for the country’s largest organic marketing cooperative, CROPP ($928 million in annual revenue).  The voting records of these two agribusiness employees are significantly lower than those of the actual farmer members of the NOSB.

Voting records for the current 15-member NOSB board members include three independent members with a history of voting over 90% of the time to block practices eroding organic integrity.  These board members are Jennifer Taylor, public interest/consumer representative and academic; Jay Feldman, environmentalist and executive director of Beyond Pesticides; and Colehour Bondera, a certified organic farmer from Hawaii.

Voting scores of NOSB agribusiness representatives include those of Harold Austin (10% — handler with Zirkle Fruit), John Foster (16% — handler with WhiteWave/Earthbound Farms), Carmela Beck (17% — “farmer” with Driscoll’s) and Wendy Fulwider (34% — “farmer” with Organic Valley/Whole Foods-GAP).

The study’s analysis was based on Cornucopia’s policy positions over the past five years, prepared by experienced organic farmers, policy experts, former certification officials, and staff scientists with doctorates in related agricultural disciplines.

“The policy positions Cornucopia has publicly taken (and used for the scoring criteria) are clearly in the mainstream of thought within the organic community and are consistent with those taken by the vast majority of other consumer, environmental and farmer-supported organizations,” Kastel affirmed. Read Full Article »

Stop Dow Chemical’s “Agent Orange” Crops

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Pesticide.NRCSOver a hundred million additional pounds of toxic pesticides associated with cancers and birth defects are coming to a field near you. UNLESS YOU STOP IT!

“Agent Orange” crops are genetically engineered by Dow Chemical to promote the use of 2,4-D, one of the herbicides in the toxic mixture Vietnam veteran’s know as Agent Orange. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is on the cusp of approval, even though they acknowledge the use of this toxic pesticide will skyrocket.  The USDA has opened one last comment period before its final approval of corn and soybeans genetically engineered with resistance to Dow Chemical’s Enlist Duo™herbicide combo of 2,4-D and glyphosate.

There is a 30-day public comment period and it MIGHT BE OUR LAST CHANCE to stop this chemical assault – Sign the petition today!  We’ve posted a link to the USDA’s comment page from the Center for Food Safety.

The comment period closes Sept. 8, 2014.

And here’s a link to the formal comments filed with the USDA earlier by Cornucopia.

USDA Clips Wings of Misleading Organic Marketers

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

CORNUCOPIA, WIS: The USDA, today, announced to industry stakeholders that it would rein-in misleading language on organic packaging that all too often has been suspected of confusing consumers.

usda logoSpecifically, the agency addressed companies marketing food products that have the word “organic” or “organics” in their brand-name.

“Unless a food product is certified organic it cannot display, overtly, the word ‘organic’ on the front panel of the product,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector at The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog.

Some companies, such as Newman’s Own Organics, have been selling products that do not qualify for the use of the word organic on the front panel and are getting away with misleading messaging to consumers because they have used the word organic in their trade name.

In 2010 Cornucopia filed a formal legal complaint against Newman’s for selling such products as ginger cookies, using a lesser labeling category regulated by the USDA: Made with Organic Ingredients. The USDA dismissed this complaint without explanation.

At that time staff from Cornucopia also briefed USDA Deputy Administrator, Miles McEvoy, who heads the National Organic Program (NOP) on the organization’s concerns, in this matter, and also briefed members of the National Organic Standards Board. Read Full Article »

In the Whole World There’s Only Two Kinds of Power….

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

In the whole world there’s only two kinds of power … Money and People.

And we have the People!

CI_100kFacebookLikes_1aPlease help Cornucopia crack the coveted 100,000 milestone by becoming a friend on Facebook and sharing our Facebook page with your friends, family and colleagues.

Together, farmers and consumers are the only antidote to corporate greed when it comes to protecting the organic label, organic food and organic agriculture.

Although the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and other prominent news outlets have all carried the work of The Cornucopia Institute, people power (social media) is so important.

Of our almost 100,000 Facebook friends, our collaborators are consistently sharing information from Cornucopia’s Facebook page with 50,000 to 150,000 of their friends each week.

And they, in turn, share our information with other friends. Last week we had a “reach” of 1.4 million Facebook users. Meaning, 1.4 million citizens had something from the Cornucopia Institute on their Facebook pages that week!

As important as it is appearing in the pages of the more liberal New York Times, or the more conservative Wall Street Journal, farmers and consumers are deciding on their own what information is of value — and we are all connected!

The Cornucopia Institute, like the organic farming movement itself, has supporters from all sides of the political spectrum. What we all agree upon is that organic food pays tremendous dividends to society and that authentic, nutrient-dense food protects and nurtures our families — and that’s worth protecting!

Would you please join with thousands of others in amplifying the voice of The Cornucopia Institute by connecting with us and promoting our Facebook page? Together, we can keep the organic label from being hijacked by giant corporations, and a complacent USDA, that seek to exploit its true meaning in pursuit of greater profit.

Sincerely yours,

Will Fantle, Codirector

Cornucopia Elects New Policy Officers and Advisor

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Helen Kees, Board President

Helen Kees, Board President

Wisconsin organic beef and produce farmer Helen Kees was elected board president at Cornucopia’s March 22 annual meeting in St. Paul, Minnesota. Kees, a third generation farmer, with her husband Bob and daughter Chris, holds the distinction of being one of Wisconsin’s first certified organic beef producers. The family direct markets vegetables and beef as well as wholesales to Organic Valley Cooperative.

New York organic dairy farmer Kevin Engelbert was elected board vice president. Engelbert, along with his wife Lisa and family, was the nation’s first certified organic dairy farmer. Their family farm 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).

In addition, Barry Flamm, PhD, previously on Cornucopia’s policy advisory panel, was elected to the board. Read Full Article »