Cornucopia News Archive

Farm Aid’s Strange Agribusiness Bedfellows: Concert Sponsor Investigated for Organic Labeling Improprieties

Friday, September 16th, 2016

Another Farm Aid Misstep: Partnering with Corporate Agribusiness While Purporting to Support Family Farmers

Top Sponsor “Indicted” for Misrepresenting Itself as Organic

CORNUCOPIA, WI: On the eve of the annual Farm Aid concert, Saturday in Bristow, Virginia, The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog, has filed a formal legal complaint against Farm Aid’s marquee sponsor, Bonterra Organic Vineyards, alleging it misrepresents its products as “organic.”

This is not the first time Cornucopia has attempted to bring serious ethical concerns to the attention of Farm Aid’s Board of Directors and management.

At past concerts Farm Aid has showcased their sponsor Silk, the leading brand of plant-based beverages, then owned by the giant dairy conglomerate Dean Foods (a.k.a. WhiteWave). Cornucopia supplied Farm Aid officials with information concerning Silk abandoning U.S. farmers to purchase organic soybeans from China at cheaper prices. Another past marquee Farm Aid sponsor, also owned by Dean/WhiteWave, was the Horizon Organic dairy brand, with a considerable amount of their milk production coming from giant “factory farms” with a history of violating the organic federal standards.

“Quite frankly,” said the Cornucopia Institute’s Codirector Mark Kastel, “we don’t really mind if Farm Aid raises money from corporate agribusinesses, and then launders it by making small grants to nonprofits that help family farmers. But we do mind them greenwashing some of the brands owned by ‘bad actors’ in the organic industry.”

bonterra-screen-shot-3a-rev-a The current dustup alleges Bonterra, a brand owned by the giant Chilean conglomerate Concha y Toro, and operated under its Fetzer subsidiary in California, as misrepresenting its wine as organic.  Their website clearly states that, “all of our award-winning wines are certified organic by CCOF.” The company also touts its “organic collection” on their e-commerce portal. Based on Cornucopia’s initial investigation, none of the company’s wine is actually certified organic.

It appears that only the grapes are organic.  Wine producers that add sulfur dioxide, a synthetic preservative, cannot legally qualify to represent their products as organic. Preservatives, including sulfur dioxide (or sulfites) are explicitly banned in U.S. organic food and wine production.

“There is nothing improper about labeling your wine ‘made with organic grapes’ and then adding sulfites,” said Kastel. “However, look at the preponderance of the Bonterra marketing campaign: the patently illegal and misleading verbiage on their website, the logo of the largest organic certifier in the country on their primary label, and their subterfuge in terms of corporate ownership. It’s a shame that Farm Aid didn’t choose one of the high-integrity, certified organic vintners that they could proudly stand with.” Read Full Article »

Toothless GMO Food Labeling Bill Becomes Law

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Corporate Elites Betray Organics

[This article was previously published in the fall issue of The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

by Will Fantle,
Codirector at The Cornucopia Institute

Source: Adobe Stock

The looming July 1 implementation date for Vermont’s first-of-a-kind, historic GMO food ingredients labeling law pushed Monsanto and other corporate giants in retailing, biotechnology, and agribusiness into overdrive as they ramped up pressure on Congress to negate the state law.

Labeling opponents wisely identified Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, as the key to crafting what they described as a “compromise” bill.  Stabenow’s bill was able to move enough Senate Democrats to join with an already solid block of Republicans to muscle through its swift passage. Read Full Article »

A New Day for New Morning

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

[This article was previously published in the summer issue of The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

by Rachel Zegerius,
Communications and Development Associate at The Cornucopia Institute

New Morning Farm

A warm spring morning finds Pennsylvania organic farmer Jim Crawford where any farmer might be this time of year….on a bicycle trek in Germany? Over 4,000 miles from his fields, Jim is touring the historic streets of Berlin, while apprentices zealously plant and prepare soil for what hopes to be another productive year at Crawford’s 95-acre New Morning Farm.

It begs the question: How can a successful, life-long farmer evade the impulse to farm during the outset of the growing season? Not by accident. Intentional and strategic, Crawford is striving to implement a well-thought-out legacy plan.

He explains, “We’re always thinking about the future of what we do.” With this trip he is leaning into retirement, reaping the harvest of many years practicing patience and communication, cultivating a foundation of trust in his successors. Read Full Article »

You Asked for It! Cornucopia Clarifies What Organics Is and What It Isn’t

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

[This article was previously published in the summer issue of The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

by Melody Morrell, Data Analyst & Research Specialist at The Cornucopia Institute

Source: Adobe Stock

The Cornucopia Institute is proud to represent thousands of members within the good food movement. Our research and educational efforts support the integrity of the organic label. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions posed on our social media:

Can we trust the USDA organic seal; what about local? What’s more important?

The organic label is the most stringently regulated label on foods in the marketplace. If you have access to local organic food, you can meet your farmer, learn how your food is grown, and enjoy the ultimate in freshness, nutrition, and community building!

Although Cornucopia takes issue with less-than-satisfactory oversight by the USDA, allowing “organic” factory farms to operate illegally and imports through without thorough scrutiny, we strongly recommend all certified organics over conventionally produced food. Read Full Article »

Report Finds Toxins/Carcinogens in Popular Brands of Toothpaste

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Scorecard Identifies the “Dirtiest” and Safest, Even Organic, Alternatives

Toothpaste_Report_coverThe latest report by The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog, uncovers serious problems in cosmetics industry regulations. Regulatory weaknesses and loopholes allow for the use of questionable, even harmful ingredients in personal care products, such as toothpastes, that could negatively impact the health of the users.

Behind the Dazzling Smile:  Toxic Ingredients in Your Toothpaste, describes how the quality of “natural” toothpastes varies significantly between brands and how these personal oral care products commonly include nonessential ingredients that may be harmful.

“The cosmetics industry is no different, and may be worse, than leading food companies when it comes to gimmicky ingredients and misleading health claims,” asserts the report’s lead author Jerome Rigot, PhD, a policy analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. “However, we have created a useful web-based tool to help discriminating consumers see through marketing hype and make the best decision for their family when buying toothpaste.” Read Full Article »