Cornucopia News Archive

Good Eggs: Scorecard Update in the Works

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Rebecca Thistlethwaite

Credit: Maggie Yount

In 2010, The Cornucopia Institute published a report on organic egg production titled Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture. We also developed the web-based Organic Egg Scorecard to give consumers and wholesale buyers a more complete story behind the organic egg carton.

This year Cornucopia is completely updating the organic egg report and scorecard. We appreciate the hard work of organic egg farmers in producing one of the most nutritious foods, and we want to assist ethical farmers—the good eggs, if you will—in sharing their stories. Read Full Article »

The Art of Farming

Thursday, 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 »

Debunking the Latest Attempt to Defend Agrichemicals at the Cost of the Greater Good: Evidence Mounts that Neonicotinoid Insecticides Harm Bees and Beneficial Insects

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Dr. Henry Miller’s July 22 Wall Street Journal opinion piece entitled “Why the Buzz About a Bee-pocalypse is a Honey Trap” argues that bees are not in decline and that U.S. agriculture would be devastated without the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.

His article is likely in response to the National Resource Defense Council’s petition to the EPA to suspend the use of neonicotinoids, a class of non-selective, systemic insecticides. This would follow in the footsteps of the European Union’s restriction of three (out of seven) neonicotinoids in 2013 and earlier suspensions by several other countries.

Neonicotinoids, developed in the 1990s and used more heavily in the early 2000s, are the most widely used insecticides worldwide. The EPA estimates that 3.5 million pounds were applied on approximately 127 million acres worldwide in 2011. Read Full Article »

The Open Source Seed Initiative: Challenging the Corporate Control of Our Food System

Friday, July 25th, 2014

by Linley Dixon, PhD

Taking care of new developmentSeed diversity is undeniably essential to life. Scientists have only scratched the surface in identifying the millions of genetic traits stored in seed banks including variations in appearance, and nutrition, as well as resistance to disease, drought, and salinity.

Intellectual property rights allow research plant breeders to patent new plant varieties they breed and gene sequences they “discover.” There are some philosophical questions to grapple with here.

First, should we even be allowed to patent life? Read Full Article »

Lack of Transparency Fuels Corruption Allegations in Organic Governance

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

USDA Asked to Make Public All Nominations
to National Organic Standards Board

 Industry Watchdog Releases List of Known NOSB Applicants

usda logoThe Cornucopia Institute has called upon USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to make public all candidates for appointment to fill the four vacancies on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).  The NOSB, a 15-member board of organic stakeholders representing farmer, consumer, environmental, retail, scientific, certifying and organic food processing interests, was established by Congress to advise the USDA on organic food and agriculture policies and review materials allowed for use in organic food production and processing.

Past investigations by The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, found that prior appointments, during the Bush and Obama administrations, violated the letter of the law, and congressional intent, by appointing agribusiness executives to fill slots on the NOSB reserved for farmers and other independent stakeholders.  Public interest groups have suggested that these extra agribusiness representatives on the board have voted in favor of weakening the organic standards.

“Transparency has been a hallmark of organic food and agriculture.  We think that letting the organic community know who has applied for the vacant positions will allow for feedback and help the Secretary make the best possible appointments,” said Cornucopia’s Will Fantle, the organic industry watchdog organization’s Codirector.  Read Full Article »