Cornucopia News Archive

Action Alert — Food Safety Modernization Act: New Draft Rules Comments Due on December 15

Friday, December 5th, 2014

FDA3In response to recent widespread, and sometimes deadly, outbreaks of foodborne illness, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) charging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with improving their oversight of the food industry.

But the intense blowback the FDA received last year from family-scale farmers and consumers over their proposed food safety rules for produce led the agency to withdraw and rewrite their proposed rules. Your comments last year had an impact!

The FDA has now released their new draft, which addresses many of the objections. However, a number of problems and pitfalls for farmers remain in the new draft. The proposal will also be of interest to the customers of local, organic food purchased through farmers markets, CSAs and co-op grocers.

Public comments are due by December 15 on the draft rules.

The Cornucopia Institute, working with other groups, has requested a 90-day extension to allow for fuller and careful analysis of the latest proposal.

You can comment online, but be sure to do so at both of these locations as the regulations impacting family scale farmers are intertwined in both of these FDA dockets:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0921-0973
http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0920-1553

Or you can comment by mail to Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. Make sure you note that you are commenting on dockets FDA-2011-N-0921-0973 and FDA-2011-N-0920-1553. Your letter needs to be postmarked no later than December 15.

According to the analysis performed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, growers with sales up to $500,000 would likely spend 4% to 6% of their gross revenue to comply with the new food safety rules.  For small farms, FSMA could consume more than half of their modest profits. It is important that family-scale farmers producing our nation’s fda2best and safest produce be protected from unnecessary and onerous regulations — this could put some farmers out of business and/or reduce the availability of organic and local food and/or increase pricing.

Key Points to Mention in Your Comments:

  • Tell the FDA that the cost to farmers for implementing the proposed rules will endanger the livelihoods of organic farmers and their customers’ access to safe and nutritionally superior local and organic food.

Read Full Article »

New Report Criticizes Yogurt Industry

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Major Brands Accused of Turning Health Food into Junk Food

yogurt-report-cover final with borderA new report, Culture Wars: How the Food Giants Turned Yogurt, a Health Food, into Junk Food,issued by The Cornucopia Institute, accuses Dannon, Yoplait, Chobani and other major marketers of misleading parents, who are looking for healthier foods for their families, into purchasing yogurts loaded with sugar and containing a myriad of questionably safe artificial sweeteners, colors and emulsifiers.

The group alleges that agribusiness, in their marketing approach, has capitalized on yogurt’s historic, well-deserved healthful reputation while simultaneously adulterating the product, sometimes illegally, to gain competitive advantage and popular appeal.

In addition to The Cornucopia Institute’s comprehensive report on the yogurt industry, they also released a related buyer’s guide rating 114 brands and separating the truly healthy options from those that would be found on any dietitian’s shortlist of foods to avoid.

“What is most egregious about our findings,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute, “is the marketing employed by many of the largest agribusinesses selling junk food masquerading as health food, mostly aimed at moms, who are hoping to provide their children an alternative, a more nutritious snack. In some cases, they might as well be serving their children soda pop or a candy bar with a glass of milk on the side.”

Cornucopia, a Wisconsin-based food and farm policy research group, found that the flavored varieties (strawberry, for example) of certain brands contain no actual fruit, and include total sugars that rival those in candy bars.

Alternatively, rather than with sugar, some yogurt is sweetened artificially with such substances as aspartame (also marketed as NutraSweet®).

According to Dr. Qing Yang, a professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale University, “A rise in the percent of the population who are obese coincides with the increase in the widespread use of non-caloric artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose.” The use of aspartame is controversial and has been linked to brain tumors and neurological diseases in laboratory animals. Read Full Article »

Update: Oregon’s Measure 92

Friday, November 14th, 2014

GM foods demonstrationImage Source: Martin Deutsch

While the No side has been declared the winner, the Yes side is closing the gap as the final ballots trickle in.

Here’s the situation:

  • According to officials in Multnomah County, 5,900 ballots have yet to be counted because they arrived as unreadable to their machines.
  • In addition to these 5,900 ballots, there are 2,800 “challenge” ballots, which are ballots that weren’t signed or where there’s some other voter identification issue.  Oregon is a mail-in-ballot only state, so there are a number of voter identification measures in place that are not found in states where in-person voting takes place. Typically, only a small percentage of challenge ballots are resolved.  Voters get a letter from the state after the election inviting them to come in and resolve them.  This year for the first time, lists of voters submitting ballots that end up in the challenge stack have been made public, which means campaigns and other interested parties can encourage these voters to resolve their ballots.  This could lead to an unusually large number of challenge ballots being resolved.

Read Full Article »

Follow the National Organic Standards Board Meeting in Louisville, KY #NOSB

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

CI_NOSBKentuckyTwitterOctLast Updated: 10-30-14, 3:38 p.m. ET

Join The Cornucopia Institute as we live tweet from the National Organic Standards Board meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. We will be sharing the play by play with our Twitter followers under #NOSB or simply follow our stream.

If you’re not already following us on Twitter, please do so here.

Read The Cornucopia Institute’s written comments to the NOSB here.

You can also stay updated throughout the meeting right here:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

3:38 p.m. ET:  Following lunch, the NOSB returns to its business and elects its officers for next year.  Jean Richardson (consumer rep) is elected chair, Tracy Favre (conservation rep) is elected vice-chair, and Harold Austin (handler, Zirkle Fruit) is elected secretary.

The NOSB turns its attention to work items for 2015.  More than 100 synthetic and non-organic materials are coming up for sunset review – a daunting task to ensure a full and proper assessment of each substances essentiality and the human health/environment impacts.

Miles McEvoy estimates that $3 million would be required for technical reviews of each substance.  To see a discussion of how lacking this has been at times in the past, see http://www.cornucopia.org/USDA/OrganicWatergateWhitePaper.pdf.

Before adjourning the semiannual meeting, the board honors its four members whose terms expire at the end of this year.

11:29 a.m. ET:  The board votes 12-3 against the removal of tragacanth gum from the National List.

Then they move to take another brief break.

11:25 a.m. ET:  NOSB brings back the tabled motion to consider relisting of tragacanth gum.

Joe Dixon (retailer, Whole Foods) indicates that the fact that a certifier has one client using this material is sufficient to him to indicate tragacanth gum is essential.

Jay Feldman (enviro, Beyond Pesticides) asks if the the new letter from the user of the material that was given to the board yesterday was untimely.

Cornucopia contacted the original petitioner for the allowed use of this material three times.  They never responded, nor did they submit any information in support of keeping this material on the National List.

11:13 a.m. ET:  The full board votes 9 to 6 against removing aqueous potassium silicate from the list.

Prior to the sunset changes imposed by the USDA in Sept. 2013, this material would have no longer been allowed for use in organics. This cuts to the core of the argument that the new process means the sun will never set on nearly every non-organic and synthetic material on or added to the National List. Read Full Article »

Biotech and Agribusinesses Spending Heavily to Defeat State GMO Food Labeling Votes

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

The Cornucopia Institute releases shopper’s guide red-flagging pro/con food brands involved with Colorado and Oregon Initiatives    [Contribution data will be updated on a weekly or bi-weekly basis until election day, and a final poster will be published in early December.]

INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED 11-5-14: Monsanto tops $10 million in spending with a new $1.8 million – this total is more than all the money donated to the YES vote in both Colorado and Oregon combined. Pepsi donates another $950K with Dow Agrisciences adding $847K to the NO side. The YES side gathered another $500K from Dr. Bronners with Friends of the Earth donating $100K.

With yesterday’s vote, the GMO food labeling initiative failed in Colorado by a 2-1 margin, and is still too close to call in Oregon, with the NO side leading by a percentage point. Final dollar totals will be recorded in early December with one more update to this poster.

INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED 10-29-14: DuPont adds another $4.4 million to the NO side coffers, with Coca Cola pushing another $468K towards a NO vote and Kellogg pumping an additional $250K towards a vote opposing GMO food labeling.  The Big Food and Biotech forces have now spent nearly $33 million opposing the consumers’ right to know that is in their food.  The YES side has raised about $9 million, with significant new donations from the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety and Lemelson Vineyards.  Full details on corporate spending in the updated infographic below.

INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED 10-23-14: New money for the NO side comes from Big Food and Biotech interests as DuPont/Pioneer throws in $3 million, Monsanto adds another $2.5 million and Coca Cola spends another $+1 million fighting the consumers right to know what is in their food.  New money supporting the YES vote comes from Clif Bar ($35K) and Hain Celestial ($35K).  The NO forces have raked in nearly $26 million while supporters of GMO food labeling have raised a little more than $8 million. Full details on corporate spending in the updated infographic below.

INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED 10-16-14: More new money from Big Food and Biotech interests flows into fight against GMO food labeling votes in Oregon and Colorado. Coca Cola drops $1.168 million, Pepsi puts up another $1 million, Kraft adds another $870K, with Land O’Lakes putting in an additional $900K. Supporting the consumer’s right to know, the Center for Food Safety adds $1 million, Dr. Bronner’s puts in another $285K, Presence Marketing adds $175K and the Organic Consumers Association spends another $100K. The NO vote forces are outspending supporters by more than 3 to 1. Full details on the updated infographic below.  

UPDATED AGAIN  10-8-14:  Kellogg drops $250K against GMO food labeling + other contribution updates to the YES and NO positions.

UPDATE 10-2-14:  Cornucopia’s GMO food labeling infographic has been updated and now includes the contributions made to the Oregon Right to Know committee, which was organized to help get Measure 92 on the ballot. (Information on contributions for petition gathering are listed separately by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office and were not previously included.)  This update also includes significant additional contributions reported over the last couple days to both the Vote Yes on Measure 92 committee in Oregon, and the Right to Know Colorado committee.  Stay tuned for additional revisions of this infographic based on campaign finance reporting deadlines in Oregon and Colorado!

For a larger, easier to view version of the infographic please click on the image. Once downloaded (please be patient) you can click a second time to enlarge that further. A high-resolution file, suitable for enlargement and printing, can be found at the linked pdf below the graphic image.

Cornucopia, WI: Citizen initiatives on the November 4 ballots in both Colorado and Oregon would mandate clear labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients on food packages. The pending votes have sparked a high-priced battleground pitting consumer and farmer advocates against multi-billion-dollar agribusiness corporations.

Opposition to the state food labeling measures is coming from giant biotech companies (DuPont, Dow and Monsanto), that sell genetically engineered crops, and the well-heeled Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a national business lobbying organization. Millions of dollars are being spent on the two campaigns with advertising blitzes underway.

Now The Cornucopia Institute has released a detailed infographic that reveals which food companies are supporting or opposing the food labeling initiatives (with many of the major manufacturers opposing passage owning leading brands in the natural/organic marketplace).

Measure 92 Prop 105

(click on the image above to view a quick loading larger version,
and then click on it again for an even larger version
)

Download High Resolution PDF for printing purposes by clicking here

“Many consumers will likely be surprised to learn that owners and management of some of their favorite organic and natural brands are fighting against the right of consumers to know what is in their food,” says Mark Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group. “We want to spotlight this issue so that consumers can vote in the marketplace for manufacturers and brands that reflect their personal values.” Read Full Article »