Cornucopia News Archive

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Performs Self-Evaluation of National Organic Program — Releases Self-Congratulatory Communiqué

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Commentary on the Section 610 Review of the NOP
by Jerome Rigot, Ph.D.

500px-USDA_organic_seal_svg - wikicommonsThe conclusion of a review of organic regulations by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS), which administers the organic program, states that “overall, the National Organic Program (NOP), which oversees regulations for the production, handling, and labeling of organically produced agricultural products, is ‘not overly complex’ and there is ‘no critical need’ to amend any regulations implemented under the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) since it became law in October 2002.”

This would seem to be a reasonable conclusion were it based on several hundred to several thousand reviews submitted through diverse public comments and if the USDA responded with this analysis in a timely manner. Read Full Article »

Pressure Growing on Whole Foods Market Over New Produce Labeling Scheme

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

PrintMore organic farmers and organizations sign on to a letter to John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, asking for a moratorium on the grocer’s new produce rating system that disadvantages organic growers.  The controversy publicly erupted last week with stories in the New York Times and on National Public Radio detailing organic farmer dissatisfaction with a rating system that can grade conventional produce grown with toxic agrichemicals as superior to organically grown fruits and vegetables.

Read the updated letter from farmers and their supporters here [Updated again 6-24].

No Definitive ‘No’ on Nano

Friday, June 19th, 2015

USDA Disregards NOSB’s Recommended Prohibition on Nanomaterials in Organics

by Linley Dixon, PhD


Despite the consensus in the organic community that nanotechnology should be prohibited in organics, the USDA’s National Organic Program issued a new guidance in March that allows companies to petition for use of human-engineered nanomaterials in organic production and processing. The new guidance dismisses the recommendation of the NOP’s advisory body, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

Nanomaterials are tiny particles measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter. Due to their incredibly small size, nanoparticles ingested in food are fundamentally different and can move throughout the body and through cell structures in unknown ways. Experts on nanotechnology are virtually unanimous that nanoscale materials have the potential for health effects that are uniquely different from the same substances comprised of larger-sized molecules. Read Full Article »

The Sweet Truth About Maple Syrup

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Certified Organic Production Surpasses Conventional on Several Scores

by Jérôme Rigot, PhD

Chuck Bolstad gathers sap from
a maple stand near Viroqua,
Wisconsin. Over 10 years ago,
Chuck and his wife, Karen, were
among the founding members of
a maple syrup co-op, the
predecessor of the certified
organic Maple Valley Cooperative.

Photo by Karen Bolstad

Many people may wonder why a seemingly natural product such as maple syrup would need to be certified organic.

However, the reality is that there are significant differences between conventional and certified organic maple syrup production.

One key difference is that the maple stand (or sugar bush) must be managed for long-term health and sustainability. Under the organic standards, good forestry practices are required to ensure a healthy and diverse stand composed of mixed young and mature maples species with at least 15% of different tree species.

Organic producers are expected to follow practices that will minimize impacts to the forest and the trees. Tubing and pipelines that carry the sap to the sugarhouse must be secured so as to not damage trees. Nails and other hardware inserted into trees to hold lines are prohibited, and paint (a synthetic substance) cannot be used to mark trees. The chemicals used to clean or disinfect the lines must follow organic regulations avoiding toxic products. Read Full Article »

Whole Foods Markets: Throwing Organic Farmers Under the Bus?

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Veteran Growers Shaken Down to Fund Grocer’s Marketing Program

PrintIncensed and insulted, five of the most respected and influential, veteran Certified Organic farmers in the nation have sent the CEO of Whole Foods Market a letter [Updated 6-23 with more signatures] calling the company’s new “Responsibly Grown” produce marketing scheme “onerous and expensive” and stating that it devalues the Certified Organic label.

The signatories come from California and Pennsylvania. They, along with many other growers around the country who felt unable to speak on the record for fear of risking their livelihoods as Whole Foods suppliers, express concern that the giant retailer is setting aside decades of partnership with farmers in building the organic movement to pursue an ill-advised, self-serving marketing program.

Their letter was addressed to the corporation’s Chief Executive Officer, John Mackey.

Whole Foods’ growth, with annual sales approaching $15 billion, has run into strong headwinds in the maturing marketplace for organic food. Same-store sales are flat and other retailers are gaining market share from a company that has long had a reputation for being top-quality, but expensive, earning the nickname “Whole Paycheck.” The iconic natural foods grocer has more than 400 stores.

One of the signatories, Tom Willey, of T&D Willey Farms, located in Madera, California, is a longtime Whole Foods supplier. “Intending to create a value-added image for the conventional produce on their shelves, Whole Foods is undermining the work my family and I have done, along with so many others in the organic farming movement, to create a Certified Organic ‘gold standard’ in terms of safe food production,” Willey said.

While devising a new labeling program that identifies fruits and vegetables as “Good,” “Better,” and “Best,” Whole Foods is asking the growers to pay for participating in the retailer’s verification program.

Another signatory to the letter, Jim Crawford, founder of New Morning Farm in Hustontown, Pennsylvania, said numerous growers reported that their cost to comply with Whole Foods’ new program ranges from $5,000 to $20,000. “That is not an inconsequential sum for medium-sized, established organic growers like myself. But this cost, and the added labor to administer the program, could be impossible for some smaller and new-entry farmers to absorb,” stated Crawford. Read Full Article »