Cornucopia Institute http://www.cornucopia.org Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming Wed, 17 Dec 2014 22:00:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In Remembrance: Theo Colborn, 1927-2014http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/remembrance-theo-colborn-1927-2014/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/remembrance-theo-colborn-1927-2014/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:19:30 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=14765 Beyond Pesticides Source: JR Rochester Beyond Pesticides is sad to say goodbye to a dear friend and colleague, Theo Colborn, who at the age of 87, passed away on Sunday, December 14 at home surrounded by her family. Dr. Colborn is author of the groundbreaking book Our Stolen Future, president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) and Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida, Gainesville. She is the author of numerous scientific publications about compounds

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Beyond Pesticides

Source: JR Rochester

Beyond Pesticides is sad to say goodbye to a dear friend and colleague, Theo Colborn, who at the age of 87, passed away on Sunday, December 14 at home surrounded by her family. Dr. Colborn is author of the groundbreaking book Our Stolen Future, president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) and Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida, Gainesville. She is the author of numerous scientific publications about compounds that interfere with hormones and other chemical messengers that control development in wildlife and humans. Her incisive research has demonstrated that endocrine disrupting chemicals alter development of the fetus in the womb by interfering with the natural hormonal signals directing fetal growth. Her work has prompted the enactment of new laws around the world.

Dr. Colborn was presented with Beyond Pesticides’ highest honor, its Dragonfly Award, at the organization’s 25th Anniversary Gala in 2006, “For tireless dedication advancing knowledge and action to protect health and the environment.” Upon accepting the award, she said to those who chose her as the recipient that she would do her best not to let them down, and she hasn’t. One year later, she was honored by Time magazine as a global Environmental Hero, and she worked tirelessly to educate the public about the dangers of endocrine disruption until the day she died.

In October, 2012, Theo Colborn gave a presentation at a TEDxMidAtlantic event in Washington DC in which she read a letter she sent to President Obama. In the letter, she reminds them of the current epidemics of endocrine-related disorders and describes how the laws that were supposed to protect us have let us down. She closes with two practical suggestions for the President to take action.

Dr. Colborn has served on numerous advisory panels, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science Advisory Board, the Ecosystem Health Committee of the International Joint Commission of the United States and Canada, the Science Management Committee of the Toxic Substances Research Initiative of Canada, the U.S. EPA Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee, and the EPA Endocrine Disruption Methods and Validation Subcommittee. She has published and lectured extensively on the transgenerational effects of toxic chemicals on the developing endocrine, immune, metabolic, and nervous systems in the womb and early childhood. She also spoke at Beyond Pesticides’ 29th National Pesticide Forum in Denver, CO in 2011. Her talk, Beyond Lists: Where did all those pesticides come from? discusses pesticide health impacts and the petrochemical industry.

Read a brief biography by Elizabeth Grossman

Read Theo’s CV

Theo’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to TEDX.

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange has a forum to share your Theo Colborn story.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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China Blocks US Imports Over GMO Contaminationhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/china-blocks-us-imports-gmo-contamination/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/china-blocks-us-imports-gmo-contamination/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:48:41 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=14760 Global Research by Christina Sarich Source: Glendon Rolston China has zero tolerance for many GMOs. They’ve made this clear by refusing US exports that contain genetically modified ingredients – not even in the parts per million range. Due to the recent contamination of hay from RoundUp ready GMO alfalfa, the Chinese government has now blacklisted hay from the US, and they are looking at Canada’s exports closely to determine if they will also need to be blacklisted. One exporter of

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Global Research
by Christina Sarich

Source: Glendon Rolston

China has zero tolerance for many GMOs. They’ve made this clear by refusing US exports that contain genetically modified ingredients – not even in the parts per million range. Due to the recent contamination of hay from RoundUp ready GMO alfalfa, the Chinese government has now blacklisted hay from the US, and they are looking at Canada’s exports closely to determine if they will also need to be blacklisted.

One exporter of hay to China and other places around the world, Ed Shaw, said three American hay exporters have been blacklisted from exporting to China, and hundreds of container loads of hay have been turned away after GMO alfalfa was found in the loads.

Hay exported to the country from the U.S. was in quarantine due to the detection of GMO traits, specifically of genetically modified alfalfa. And this isn’t a singular occurrence, either. Last year, a Washington State grower’s hay was rejected after it tested positive for GMO alfalfa. This doesn’t sit well with China, since all imported hay is supposed to be GMO-free.

Needless to say, the trend continued, leading China to boycott all US grown-hay completely.

Forage Seed Canada president Heather Kerschbaumer said her Golden Acre Seed Co. had nine non-Roundup Ready alfalfa samples tested last year for the presence of Roundup Ready alfalfa, and all tested negative; however, GMO alfalfa is increasingly planted between vegetable crops in California and other places in the US. The possibility of cross-contamination grows stronger every planting season.

Forage Seed lost $20,000 recently due to contaminated canola seed, and now Canadian officials are concerned about GMO alfalfa contamination since it could possibly bring the Canadian export market to its knees.

More than three years ago, Phil Bereano, a co-founder of AGRA watch, argued that by deregulating the planting of GE alfalfa, the USDA was in direct contravention to its obligations under law and court decisions.

Many believe that non-GMO alfalfa crops in the US have already widely been contaminated.

With recent reports finding that the GMO contamination issue is much more serious than previously thought, as well as numerous real-life cases of cross-contamination, it seems that organic crops will never truly be safe.

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Protect Seed Librarieshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/protect-seed-libraries/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/protect-seed-libraries/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 21:43:57 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=14755 Legalize Seeds Source: Polly Alida After Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture adopted a policy restricting the Simpson Seed Library in Mechanicsburg, PA from sharing locally saved seed, several states have followed suit, threatening the continued existence of seed libraries. Seed laws exist to regulate entities that sell or commercially exchange seeds. A seed library is a noncommercial nonprofit, cooperative, or governmental organization that donates seed and receives donations of seed, especially by encouraging members to learn

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Legalize Seeds

Source: Polly Alida

After Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture adopted a policy restricting the Simpson Seed Library in Mechanicsburg, PA from sharing locally saved seed, several states have followed suit, threatening the continued existence of seed libraries. Seed laws exist to regulate entities that sell or commercially exchange seeds.

A seed library is a noncommercial nonprofit, cooperative, or governmental organization that donates seed and receives donations of seed, especially by encouraging members to learn about seed saving and donate seeds to the library. Donation of seed is not required in a seed library, so the sharing of seeds does not even rise to the level of barter or exchange, let alone sell. Seed libraries are far different in nature and scale than commercial seed companies and need to be appropriately recognized under the law to protect their ability to continue freely sharing seeds in communities across the country.

You can sign the following petition at this website: http://legalizeseeds.org/

To: Directors of all 50 U.S. State Departments of Agriculture

Over 300 nonprofit seed libraries in the U.S. might be regulated out of existence due to misapplication of seed laws by several state departments of agriculture.

I believe seed libraries are key to a more secure and resilient food system. Seed libraries provide free access to seedsprotect the diversity of our food sources, and educate community members about growing food and saving seed.

I support citizens’ freedom to share locally saved seed with their neighbors. Laws designed to regulate commercial sales of seed should not be applied to noncommercial donations of seed or to seed libraries.

Therefore, I ask that you (1) issue a public statement declaring that your state’s Department of Agriculture’s seed enforcement policy does not include seed libraries, and (2) begin implementing regulations formalizing this policy.
Sincerely,
[Your name]

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Controversial French Scientist Defends GMO Researchhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/controversial-french-scientist-defends-gmo-research/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/controversial-french-scientist-defends-gmo-research/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 23:50:12 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=14752 The Western Producer by Karen Briere French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini says attempts to discredit him and his research into GMOs and pesticides are negated by the fact his work continues. Speaking to about 150 people in Regina Nov. 6, Seralini said he and fellow scientists have published new work on pesticide toxicity and are ready to publish more. “We have republished our study, which was retracted because of dishonesty of the system,” he said. “We

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The Western Producer
by Karen Briere

Copyright  123RF Stock Photos

Copyright 123RF Stock Photos

French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini says attempts to discredit him and his research into GMOs and pesticides are negated by the fact his work continues.

Speaking to about 150 people in Regina Nov. 6, Seralini said he and fellow scientists have published new work on pesticide toxicity and are ready to publish more.

“We have republished our study, which was retracted because of dishonesty of the system,” he said.

“We have explained everything in books, in scientific papers, so I think they cannot do too much in front of reality, of truth.”

Seralini’s paper claimed that rats developed tumours from eating genetically modified corn and drinking water contaminated with Roundup.

Originally published by the Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal in 2012, it was retracted late last year after critics claimed the sample size was too small, the wrong rats were used, and definitive conclusions could not be reached.

Earlier this year, the journal Environmental Sciences Europe republished the study, claiming it wanted to enable rational discussion.

Seralini maintains that long-term feeding trials to evaluate the safety of pesticides and GM food is critical to human health. Right now, the trials are conducted on animals.

One person in the crowd expressed concern about the approval of a 2,4-D and glyphosate tank mix and what effects that might have.

Seralini said people must continue to push for transparency.

“Please, do you imagine that we are in the 21st century in one of the most modern continents and no one has seen the blood analysis of these animals that have been used to authorize these products?” he said.

“How is that possible? Concentrate on the blood analysis of the animals that were tested first in order to get the market release of any product and you will see the dishonesty.”

He said those who criticize him have not done research to disprove what he has found.

“Even if they criticize anybody, they cannot put anything in front of the experiment we have done,” he said.

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The Wheels of Local Government Get Very Slippery, Especially with Manure Spillshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/wheels-local-government-get-slippery-especially-manure-spills/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/wheels-local-government-get-slippery-especially-manure-spills/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 17:13:11 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=14745 [Editor’s Note:  Massive manure spills and their impact, such as described below, are happening all over the country.  This particular account comes from Wisconsin.] By John Bobbe Cave Point in Door County Source: Elvis Kennedy My wife and I have lived on the Door Peninsula in the same neighborhood for 36 years. It is the thumb on Wisconsin that sticks out into Lake Michigan. Door County is billed as the “Cape Cod” of the Midwest

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[Editor’s Note:  Massive manure spills and their impact, such as described below, are happening all over the country.  This particular account comes from Wisconsin.]

By John Bobbe

Cave Point in Door County
Source: Elvis Kennedy

My wife and I have lived on the Door Peninsula in the same neighborhood for 36 years. It is the thumb on Wisconsin that sticks out into Lake Michigan. Door County is billed as the “Cape Cod” of the Midwest with over 300 miles of shoreline along the Bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan.  The county prides itself as a destination for millions of tourists.

On September 16, our home in Wisconsin’s southern Door County was in the path of a 640,000 gallon liquid manure spill from a neighbor’s 250 + cow dairy herd when a Slurrystore valve failed to close.  It was the second mishap within a week in the county.

An earlier spill in Jacksonport, north of Sturgeon Bay occurred when liquid manure was being applied to a field and ran down a sinkhole.  Several wells were and continue to be contaminated as of this writing.  People and pets have gotten sick and it has turned into a battle of insurance companies.

“You understand how slow the process works?” said Supervisor Ken Fisher, who chairs the Land Conservation Committee in an opening statement of the meeting I attended on November 19th.  It took the Door County Land Conservation Committee over 60 days after the manure spill occurred before it even bothered to meet.  And then the committee chair jokingly referenced how long it takes to get a change in a bad highway intersection through a committee as though his committee is helpless to do much.

The committee meets at the call of the chair and apparently he saw no need to meet while people were getting sick, properties devalued and wells contaminated for over 60 days!

The Wisconsin DNR, in a letter to the Door County Soil and Water Department, could find no cause for the failure of the Degrave Slurrystore next to my home.  According to the Peninsula Pulse newspaper, “No one has found a smoking gun, other than the speculation, professional opinion, that there must have been something jammed in that wouldn’t allow the valve to close,” Schuster said.

Schuster also added at the committee meeting that his department will lead the charge in getting engineers to re-examine the manure storage and flow systems. “We’re the ones to push this statewide,” he said. “It will cause a certain amount of angst among other counties.”

Fortunately, citizens are demanding action and had a chance to see firsthand hot-potato tossing and how the “blame the victim syndrome” works when county and state agencies are involved.

At a standing room only meeting of concerned citizens from Door and Kewaunee counties in Jacksonport, December 2nd, many of the same themes were repeated from the November 19th Land Conservation Committee meeting.  The citizens of the community are a lot more educated and informed than the government agency people give them credit for.

Also in attendance to see that county personnel didn’t get out of line was their minder, the county corporation counsel.  Five of the recurring themes and prevalent excuses were again dragged out:

  1. Bill Schuster, Soil and Water department head stated that “We all contribute to water contamination issues” and each of us needs to do our part.  Citizens have been doing their part and ended up with their wells contaminated, lost business revenues and sick people with medical bills.   It was “let’s blame the victim syndrome.”
  2. “The county’s hands are tied by not having enough regulations” was another scenario thrown out by Schuster.  Never mind the lax oversight and enforcement of nutrient management plans or the waiver of installation of a $1200 check valve that could have prevented the spill where I live by his department.
  3. When asked by a citizen if the Wisconsin DNR tested for estrogens and other hormones as well as antibiotics and milk house waste chemicals there was a lot of fumbling and passing the question back and forth before the answer was “not generally.”
  4. Another proposal being pushed by the Soil and Water Department is for landlords who rent their land to farmers to help police nutrient management plans by putting a clause in the rental agreement.  While a wonderful idea, it would appear to shift responsibility from the department to the landowner.  In fact the NPM is between the farmer and the department.
  5. Lastly, it was suggested we should all get on a bus in spring and travel to Madison to lobby for more and better legislation when there is a Door County lobby day.  This is a pipedream in an era of a legislature and governor who want deregulation, not regulation.
  6. When asked about application of manure by irrigation, which is becoming a major problem, Schuster said that would be a low priority for him.  Fortunately there are several towns in Door County that have already banned the practice.

Meanwhile, citizens are still left holding the bag on one fine mess, and a County Soil and Water Department and Land Conservation Committee chairman have cast themselves as helpless to do much of anything.

Paul Leline, Door County Environmental Council board member recently wrote in the November 21, 2014 Peninsula Pulse newspaper, “I believe this situation in Kewaunee and Door Counties is silently rising to a critical level. Authorities are giving the green light to increasing herd sizes, but the regulation and enforcement of a waste management program is weak and needs compliance right now.”

Throwing more taxpayer money at a department that has squandered the millions of taxpayer dollars it has spent on manure systems it has designed and is supposed to monitor is like manure down a sinkhole.  Accountability is what is needed.  The department so-called “leading the charge” on protecting Door County’s water quality, with two manure spills within a week, threw that all out the window.

And if you are a tourist planning to come to Door County, do two things.  Heed Paul Leline’s admonishment “Don’t drink the water.” Secondly, throw a case of bottled water and several boxes of Pepto Bismal in your trunk.  Your vacation could end like a Carnival Cruise with everyone sick.

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A Message from the Oregon Yes on 92 Campaignhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/message-oregon-yes-92-campaign/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/message-oregon-yes-92-campaign/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 18:57:34 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=14727 Oregon Right to Know The Yes on Measure 92 campaign is ending its efforts today. While Measure 92 will not emerge victorious in this election, our growing movement to label genetically engineered foods is neither defeated nor discouraged. On Tuesday we went to court in a final attempt to have 4,600 uncounted ballots opened and counted in this race. Judge Kantor agreed that leaving 4,600 ballots uncounted in this election will cause irreparable harm to

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Oregon Right to Know

OR-Right-to-KnowThe Yes on Measure 92 campaign is ending its efforts today. While Measure 92 will not emerge victorious in this election, our growing movement to label genetically engineered foods is neither defeated nor discouraged.

On Tuesday we went to court in a final attempt to have 4,600 uncounted ballots opened and counted in this race. Judge Kantor agreed that leaving 4,600 ballots uncounted in this election will cause irreparable harm to those voters and to the Measure 92 campaign. But he ultimately ruled that Oregon law didn’t allow him to issue the order to stop count.

More than 4,600 valid ballots rejected by elections officials remain uncounted. Those voters did everything right, completing, signing and returning their ballots on time. If their voices could be heard we believe it would result in victory for Measure 92.

We have examined all other legal options and have found there are none that could succeed in getting the remaining votes counted before the election is certified. Challenging election results is permitted in Oregon but a successful challenge doesn’t change the outcome of that election. It simply sets aside the results and orders a new election be held.

Given the razor-thin margin in this race, and the failure to count every valid ballot, we believe that Oregonians will never know for sure what the true outcome of this race was. That said, we intend to abide by the judge’s decision and will not pursue any further legal action. We do hope that going forward the state of Oregon will correct this flaw in our vote-by-mail system so that in future elections thousands of Oregonians will not continue to be stripped of their right to vote.

We want to thank our thousands of grassroots campaign supporters and volunteers across the state – they powered this campaign and we could not have come anywhere near this far without their incredible enthusiasm, energy and tireless effort. And we want to thank all of the respected organizations that actively supported Measure 92.

The labeling movement will continue to grow. We draw strength from the fact that we came so achingly close to winning this vote, despite being outspent by more than $12 million by the pesticide companies and food conglomerates that want to block Oregonians from knowing whether or not the food they eat has been genetically engineered to withstand heavy pesticide spraying.

We will continue working until Oregonians and all Americans – like the residents of 64 other countries around the globe — have the information they need to make informed choices about the food that they feed their families.

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Investigation: “Factory Farms” Producing Massive Quantities of Organic Milk and Eggshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/investigation-factory-farms-producing-massive-quantities-organic-milk-eggs/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/investigation-factory-farms-producing-massive-quantities-organic-milk-eggs/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 14:24:28 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=14709 Regulations Not Being Enforced—Watchdog Asks for USDA to Remove Program Management In what has been called one of the largest fraud investigations in the history of the organic industry, The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, announced filing formal legal complaints against 14 industrial livestock operations producing milk, meat and eggs being marketed, allegedly illegally, as organic. Aurora Dairy, Stratford, Texas 18,000-head, gaming the system. After years of inaction by the USDA, Cornucopia contracted

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Regulations Not Being Enforced—Watchdog Asks for USDA to Remove Program Management

In what has been called one of the largest fraud investigations in the history of the organic industry, The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, announced filing formal legal complaints against 14 industrial livestock operations producing milk, meat and eggs being marketed, allegedly illegally, as organic.

Aurora Dairy, Stratford, Texas
18,000-head, gaming the system.

After years of inaction by the USDA, Cornucopia contracted for aerial photography in nine states, from West Texas to New York and Maryland, over the past eight months. What they found confirmed earlier site visits: a systemic pattern of corporate agribusiness interests operating industrial-scale confinement livestock facilities providing no legitimate grazing, or even access to the outdoors, as required by federal organic regulations.

A photo gallery of the apparent abuses by the giant certified organic operations in question can be found at http://www.cornucopia.org/organic-factory-farm-investigation.

“The federal organic regulations make it very clear that all organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and that ruminants, like dairy cows, must have access to pasture,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. “The vast majority of these massive, industrial-scale facilities, some managing 10,000-20,000 head of cattle, and upwards of 1 million laying hens, had 100% of their animals confined in giant buildings or feedlots.”

The family-scale farmers who helped commercialize the organic food movement starting in the 1980s did so, in part, because agribusiness consolidation and control of the food supply was squeezing profit margins and forcing farmers off the land. Consumers enthusiastically made organics a rapidly growing market sector by supporting farmers and processors that were willing to produce food to a different standard in terms of environmental stewardship, humane animal husbandry, and economic fairness for farmers.

“Shoppers, who passionately support the ideals and values represented by the organic label, understandably feel betrayed when they see photos of these massive CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) masquerading as organic,” Kastel added.

The organization recommends consumers consult Cornucopia’s organic brand scorecards so they can choose from the many organic brands that partner with farmers and that truly deliver on the promise of better environmental stewardship, humane animal husbandry, and economic justice for the families who produce organic food.

“Many of our dairy farmer-members have animals, they truly care for, that have names, not numbers,” Kastel added.

Delta Egg in Chase, Kansas,
100,000-hens per building, none outdoors.

Cornucopia filed their first legal complaints against these industrial operations, with varying degrees of success, beginning in 2004. As a result, the largest dairy supplying the Horizon label (now controlled by WhiteWave Foods) was decertified, and the USDA placed sanctions against Aurora Dairy (producing private-label organic milk for Walmart, Costco, Target and various supermarket chains). Both WhiteWave and Aurora are still being investigated by the USDA for improprieties.

But the wheels of justice, according to Cornucopia, are now turning slowly or not at all. One example is Arizona-based Shamrock, which operates a vertically-integrated dairy in the desert outside of Phoenix that jointly manages over 16,000 organic and conventional cows. The USDA eventually confirmed the basis of a complaint filed in 2008 by the nonprofit public interest group, finding the dairy operating illegally — but not until 2011, three years after the complaint was filed. Now, more than six years later, Shamrock still has a pending appeal and is still selling milk in the Southwest undercutting ethical farmers and competitors that comply with federal organic law.

“The inaction by the USDA places thousands of ethical family-scale farmers, who are competing with a couple of dozen giant dairies, at a competitive disadvantage,” said Kevin Engelbert, a New York-based dairyman, milking 140 cows who, along with his family, was the first certified organic dairy producer in the U.S.

The Cornucopia Institute website maintains research-based scorecards rating all organic eggs, dairy products, soy foods, and several other food categories for their adherence to organic ideals, with the stated goal of “empowering consumers and wholesale buyers in the marketplace — accessing authentic food and rewarding the true heroes in the industry.”

Engelbert, who also previously served on the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), stated, “When serving on the NOSB, I was always reminded that the recommendations we made to the National Organic Program (NOP) had to be scale-neutral. I would like to see the Organic Food Production Act enforced on a scale-neutral basis as well.”

With enforcement of neither the letter of the law nor the intent, many traditional organic dairy farmers are in financial stress right now, with some selling their cows and exiting the industry. “Allowing these illegal dairies to continue to operate is a travesty and significantly undercuts the supply-demand dynamic that should be rewarding farmers in the marketplace and providing a decent living for our families,” Engelbert added.

Although Cornucopia was critical of the USDA’s operation of the National Organic Program (NOP) during the Bush administration, it says it finds the current conduct of the Obama administration even more “insidious.” Engelbert, Cornucopia’s board vice president, continued, “The so-called ‘Age of Enforcement’ the organic community was promised, when the new administration took over in 2009, has been anything but with regard to large-scale ‘organic’ operations breaking the law.”

During the Bush years the USDA was charged as being hostile to organic interests delaying the implementation of the law and then being recalcitrant in carrying out the will of Congress by enforcing the standards.

“Since President Obama was elected they’ve greatly expanded the budget of the NOP, added competent staff, and said all the right things,” lamented Kastel. “These people know better, but they have sided with the powerful industry lobby, the Organic Trade Association, and institutionalized corruption that started before their administration took office.”

In the chicken industry the USDA has allowed corporate agribusiness to confine as many as 100,000 laying hens in a building, sometimes exceeding 1 million birds on a “farm,” and substituting a tiny screened porch for true access to the outdoors.

Herbruck’s in Saranac, Michigan,
85,000-hens per building and none outdoors.

The loophole, “porched-poultry,” was first allowed in 2002 when the NOP director overruled organic certifiers and allowed The Country Hen, a Massachusetts egg producer, to confine tens of thousands of birds in a barn with an attached porch that might, at best, hold 5% of the birds in the main building.

The USDA staff person running the organic program at the time later waltzed through what is commonly referred to as “the revolving door,” between regulators and the industry, and went to work as a consultant for The Country Hen lobbying against outdoor access standards for poultry.

“Quite frankly, even if Miles McEvoy, who currently directs the NOP, believes that a porch, with a floor, ceiling and screened walls, constitutes ‘the outdoors,’ if only 5% of the birds have access or can fit in that space, then 95% of the others are being illegally confined,” Cornucopia’s Kastel stated.

McEvoy and the USDA’s National Organic Program have been a lightning rod for criticism, not just on their alleged inaction against illegal livestock operators but for recently changing the oversight responsibilities of the NOSB, a citizen advisory panel, and undermining powers bestowed upon it by Congress that severely restrict the use of synthetic and non-organic inputs and ingredients in the production of organic food.

In late 2013, McEvoy broke with 20 years of precedent and, unilaterally, stripped the NOSB of the ability to create their own work plans and set their agenda for addressing concerns in the organic industry. The USDA also fundamentally weakened the “sunset” procedures that require the review of synthetic and other non-organic ingredients in organic foods every five years.

“The current situation, applauded by the industry’s most financially powerful interests, and almost universally condemned by nonprofits representing farmers and consumers, is untenable,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides and a current Obama administration appointee to the 15-member NOSB. “Someone needs to take responsibility for the divide in this industry which has begun seriously undercutting the credibility of the organic label and the livelihoods of ethical organic farmers.”

Some industry observers contend that even more important than organic farms and marketers adhering to the letter of the law, is meeting the expectations of consumers who are willing to pay a premium for food produced to a higher standard. Significantly, Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, recently downgraded the value of the organic seal from its highest rating due to their concerns about recent attempts by the USDA to undermine the power and independence of the NOSB.

“It is hard for us to discern whether the current policy failures start or end with Mr. McEvoy,” said Kastel. “But it’s time for someone to take responsibility and, sadly, we think an individual who is widely respected, and viewed as neutral at this point, needs to be brought in to clean up this mess.”

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MORE:

The factory farms that Cornucopia has filed complaints and a link to the actual complaints include:

A photo gallery of the apparent abuses by the giant certified organic operations in question can be found at http://www.cornucopia.org/organic-factory-farm-investigation.

There is nothing in the federal organic standards pertaining to the size of any given operation.

“The organic standards are scale-neutral,” said Kastel. “However, if properly enforced the standards are scale-limiting. At some point the magnitude of these operations becomes preposterous — because their practical ability to meet minimum organic and humane livestock standards becomes impossible.”

Just like the debate over the farm bill, where limiting payments to large-scale operations has never gained traction with either political party, the problems in the organic industry appear to be bipartisan in nature.

“Follow the money,” said Kastel. “Although the food industry pretty much ignored organics when Congress passed the enabling legislation, as part of the 1990 farm bill, now that giant corporations like General Mills, Smucker’s, Kellogg, and WhiteWave have massive investments in organic pioneering brands, their lobbyists are all over the USDA making sure that the decisions that come out of the agency favor their preferred industrial model of food production.”

The prominent infographic, Who Owns Organics, can be accessed on the Cornucopia website: http://www.cornucopia.org/who-owns-organic/.

Peer-reviewed published research indicates clear nutritional advantages in consuming milk and meat from cattle that are grazed on fresh grass, including elevated levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs and chickens from birds that are allowed, as the law requires, to engage in their instinctive behaviors as omnivores in foraging on grass and insects, produce eggs that are coveted as being more nutritious and more flavorful.

“We keep expanding our flock but still can’t keep up with demand,” said Cameron Molberg, a certified organic egg producer who rotates 19,000 birds on pasture near Austin, Texas. “We are proving that this model can be highly successful in the marketplace.” Just as the Bush administration was accused of dragging out enforcement against mega-dairies, many of which were later found to be scofflaws in terms of not grazing their animals, and instead pushing them for high production in confinement, the Obama administration has allowed factory farms producing organic eggs to flourish during its tenure.

“The department’s claim that it needs more detailed regulations, specifying minimum amount of space outdoors, before they can enforce the law, is a specious argument,” Cornucopia’s Kastel affirmed. “If it was a question of whether or not these outfits were affording enough outdoor space to their birds, that would be one thing, but these are confinement operations with no, I mean zero, animals outside. They are flagrantly breaking the law!”

In addition to the published regulations, USDA Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy issued a Policy Memorandum, on January 31, 2011, clearly stating, in terms of access to “outdoors,” that producers must provide livestock with “an opportunity to exit any barn or other enclosed structure.” Cornucopia contends that this memo clearly suggests that enclosed porches (“structures”) do not meet the legal requirements for access to the outdoors but the USDA has been unwilling to enforce their clear interpretive statement.

Cornucopia contends that consumers, who rightly assume that the animals producing their food are being treated respectfully, and consequently resulting in higher quality food, are being taken advantage of in the marketplace.

The widely respected and nationally prominent organic dairyman, Kevin Engelbert, chimed in when addressing the controversy regarding chicken production with, “If you think a porch represents true access to the outdoors, when your children or grandchildren ask to play outside allow them to do so, but note their response when you say they have to stay on the porch.”

In the case of the Horizon dairy in Paul, Idaho (WhiteWave), instead of the USDA sending its own agents to investigate complaints against the operation, the USDA sent in the same certifier that initially approved the operation to investigate alleged improprieties.

“This is just unconscionable,” said Kastel. “In this instance, the certifier, Quality Assurance International, has been implicated in a number of other improprieties. Our thorough investigation and legal complaint indicated this dairy, with no pasture, never should have been certified in the first place. The job of the USDA is to oversee the certifiers and ensure that they are doing their job. It is quite possible that, in this case, there could have been a conspiracy and/or negligence that the certifier was responsible for.”

“Although the organic oversight system can, to say the least, be improved, there are few alternatives in the commercial food stream if consumers, especially parents, want to avoid agrochemical and drug residues in their food and provide superior nutrition for their families,” said Kastel. “That’s where it becomes imperative that farmers and their customers work together to maintain the integrity of the organic label. In the meantime, Cornucopia’s scorecards provide guidance enabling shoppers to reward the true heroes in this industry.”

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Why Farmed Salmon Is Losing Its Omega-3 Edgehttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/farmed-salmon-losing-omega-3-edge/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/farmed-salmon-losing-omega-3-edge/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 23:31:40 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=14697 Civil Eats by Clare Leschin-Hoar Source: Kris Krüg Closing the fish oil gap When Amanda West Reade was pregnant with her now two-year-old son, she started eating farmed salmon. As a vegetarian, she knew that getting enough protein, omega-3s, and folic acid to boost her growing baby’s development might be tricky. “My doctor listed a few meal ideas and I thought I could handle the salmon,” says Reade. “She said to lean more towards farmed

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Civil Eats
by Clare Leschin-Hoar

Source: Kris Krüg

Closing the fish oil gap

When Amanda West Reade was pregnant with her now two-year-old son, she started eating farmed salmon. As a vegetarian, she knew that getting enough protein, omega-3s, and folic acid to boost her growing baby’s development might be tricky.

“My doctor listed a few meal ideas and I thought I could handle the salmon,” says Reade. “She said to lean more towards farmed salmon because it was higher in omega-3s.”

Reade followed her doctor’s advice and added farmed salmon to her diet three times a week. “It became something I really craved,” she says.

Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are good for the brain and eye development of growing babies and salmon has been a go-to meal for those looking for a reliable a low-mercury fish source. When it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, the message is the clear: All salmon is a good choice.

But that might soon change. A piece of farmed salmon today may contain as little as half the amount of omega-3s than it did a decade ago.

 

This is according to the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organization (IFFO), a trade group that represents stakeholders in the marine ingredient industry. The group is sounding the alarm over declining levels of omega-3s in farmed salmon.

 

A 2008 paper showed that for every 3.5 ounces of farmed salmon you ate, you would get about 2-2.5 grams of EPA [eicosapentaenoic acid] and DHA [docosahexaenoic acid], and that was down from 3 grams three years earlier. Since 2008, it has come down further,” says Andrew Jackson, technical director at IFFO. “You’re probably only going to get 1.5 grams per serving now.”

Click here to read the full article.

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Twists and Turns Unfold in the Oregon GMO Food Labeling Ballot Initiative Recounthttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/twists-turns-unfold-oregon-gmo-food-labeling-ballot-initiative-recount/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/twists-turns-unfold-oregon-gmo-food-labeling-ballot-initiative-recount/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:16:42 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=14671 UPDATE:  Judge Henry Kantor has rejected the Yes on 92 Campaign’s appeal to put a restraining order on the Secretary of State to prevent certification of the November 4 election.  The Yes Campaign is currently discussing options following the judge’s decision. Source: Vox Efx With only an 812 vote difference (out of 1.5 million cast) favoring the NO side in the Oregon GMO food labeling initiative a recount has gotten underway. Monsanto and the Big

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UPDATE:  Judge Henry Kantor has rejected the Yes on 92 Campaign’s appeal to put a restraining order on the Secretary of State to prevent certification of the November 4 election.  The Yes Campaign is currently discussing options following the judge’s decision.

Source: Vox Efx

With only an 812 vote difference (out of 1.5 million cast) favoring the NO side in the Oregon GMO food labeling initiative a recount has gotten underway.

Monsanto and the Big Food opponents of Measure 92, the labeling initiative, are taking desperate measures to ensure the result doesn’t change.  In at least four Oregon counties, the NO campaign attempted to place out-of-state election observers in the recount rooms as their representatives, according the Statesman Journal in Salem Oregon.  The action is a violation of Oregon state law which allows only state electors, or Oregon residents, to have the role.

One of the out-of-state observers, from Virginia, is the director of state affairs for the powerful Grocery Manufacturer’s Association – a huge opponent of state GMO food labeling laws.

In one county, the representative of the NO campaign was found disrupting the attention of the counter and telling them how to do their job.

In the latest development, the YES campaign is joining with several Oregon voters in a lawsuit concerning the failure to count 4,600 ballots in Multnomah county.  The ballots are not being counted because election officials have said the signatures on the ballot envelope don’t match the signature on file for the voter.  Oregon state law does not require that the signatures match.

According to the YES campaign, there is no evidence of fraud for the 4,600 ballots – which coincidentally are from a county that heavily supported the YES vote.  Some of the signatures differ due to illness or disability.

Christine Seals of Multnomah County, one of the eight named plaintiffs on the lawsuit, is typical of these voters. Christine is a quadriplegic who used to sign with a pen/pencil in her mouth for years, but recently began using a stamp as her legal signature. She has used the stamp to vote in previous elections and to her knowledge did not have a problem. She recently received a letter from the county Election Board indicating her signature did not match but did not respond because she assumed the letter was sent by mistake given her longstanding disability which she thought was well documented in the county elections office.

“I take my right to vote very seriously, and I think it is very wrong that elections officials are disenfranchising me in this election because they’ve suddenly decided not to accept my stamp,” Christine says. “That is why I am joining this lawsuit. I cast a valid ballot, and it should be counted.”

Another plaintiff, George Harris of Multnomah County, says his signature was altered as a result of stroke he suffered on April 8, 2014. He received a letter from the county Election Board indicating his ballot was being rejected but did not respond because he was undergoing rehabilitation at the time. Now elections officials are throwing out his valid vote.

A third plaintiff is Cameron Alderman, who moved to Portland from Mississippi a year ago. His ballot was initially delivered to the wrong apartment number but after jumping through many hoops he was able to submit his ballot on time. He never received any notice from the County Election Board that his ballot had been rejected, perhaps because it was again sent to the wrong address.

“When I didn’t get my ballot initially, I tried really hard to make sure my vote got counted,” Alderman says. “I don’t know why my vote is being rejected and I’m mad about it. The judge needs to order them to count my vote.”

“We have said from the beginning of the recount that all valid votes should be counted, but unfortunately that is not happening currently,” said Paige Richardson, a spokesperson for the Yes on Measure 92 campaign. “That is why we are filing this emergency lawsuit today, asking for a temporary restraining order halting the certification of the Measure 92 mandatory statewide hand recount until the votes of thousands of Oregon voters currently being unlawfully disenfranchised by elections officials are counted.”

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Is Your Pet’s Food as Safe as You Think?http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/pets-food-safe-think/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/12/pets-food-safe-think/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 23:29:14 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=14662 5 Tips to Keeping Your Furry Friend Healthy and Well Fed By Linley Dixon, PhD In recent years, anecdotal reports by veterinarians suggest there has been a spike in serious intestinal maladies in pets. Americans spend about $22 billion on pet food each year. Source: DollarPhotoClub.com Pet food quality varies significantly and all too often includes dangerous chemical additives. In many cases consumers get what they pay for, but price doesn’t always indicate high quality. The good

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5 Tips to Keeping Your Furry Friend Healthy and Well Fed

By Linley Dixon, PhD

In recent years, anecdotal reports by veterinarians
suggest there has been a spike in serious
intestinal 
maladies in pets. Americans spend
about $22 billion 
on pet food each year.
Source: DollarPhotoClub.com

Pet food quality varies significantly and all too often includes dangerous chemical additives. In many cases consumers get what they pay for, but price doesn’t always indicate high quality. The good news is that discriminating shoppers will soon have a new tool helping them to weed through product labels and separate the good from the bad.

The Cornucopia Institute has completed a thorough analysis of the pet food industry and will release a detailed report this winter.

Our study reveals that many complete diet products significantly sway from the natural, wild diets of cats and dogs in terms of protein, fat and carbohydrate percentages. The majority of both dog and cat food product formulations contain too many grains and starches, including corn, wheat, rice, oats, peas, and potatoes. In addition, many products contain questionable and/or unnecessary ingredients.

Meanwhile, among the most common causes of death for both cats and dogs are diseases affiliated with poor diet including obesity, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal diseases and cancer.

Cornucopia’s report examines specific ingredients to avoid and includes a web-based buyer’s guide that will help consumers find high quality and safe pet foods. In the meantime, the following tips will help you get started finding the best food for your cats and dogs.

1. Avoid carrageenan:

You may be unknowingly harming your pets by feeding them wet food, even from the most expensive “premium” brands—despite extra care taken to find formulations high in animal-based proteins, low in fat and carbohydrates, and even USDA certified organic. Our research found that greater than 70% of canned pet foods contain carrageenan, a non-nutritive food stabilizer extracted from red seaweed. Peer-reviewed and published research indicates that carrageenan is known to cause intestinal inflammation with the potential to lead to cancer, even in small doses.

Carrageenan is a non-nutritive thickener and emulsifier that can easily be replaced by safer alternatives in pet foods, including tomato paste, guar gum, potato starch, pea starch, tapioca, and garbanzo bean flour.

New independent research (published in 2014) at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, using both human and mouse epithelial cells, further demonstrates the mechanism by which inflammatory responses occur after carrageenan exposure using doses less than the anticipated average daily intake (50 mg/30 g mouse vs. 250 mg/60 kg person). This research demonstrates for the first time that carrageenan-induced inflammation occurs in both humans and mice, indicating that it is likely to cause a similar reaction in all mammals, including cats and dogs.

Pets that eat primarily wet food with carrageenan will consume daily doses of carrageenan in amounts known to cause inflammation. In fact, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in cats is the most common cause of vomiting and diarrhea.

Unfortunately, policy changes are often years behind the latest scientific research due to corporate lobbying and industry-funded studies that conflict with independent research.

Some pet food brands are now advertising that they do not include carrageenan, such as Zignature dog food and Weruva cat food. Meanwhile, Hill’s Science Diet contains carrageenan, despite the label stating the brand is “veterinary recommended.”

2. Buy organic (but without carrageenan):

Many high-end “natural” pet foods contain carrageenan—and even Newman’s Own Organics wet cat food (which is not actually certified organic but, rather, “made with” organic ingredients) contains the ingredient. Organic foods should be a safe haven from chemical residues, antibiotics and questionable synthetic ingredients. Sadly, in this case, pet owners need to pay extra attention.

There are two USDA Organic wet dog food brands that do not contain carrageenan: Organix and Cocolicious. However, there are no certified organic cat food brands that do not use carrageenan in at least one of their flavors. It is important to read each product label; Organix cat food shredded chicken flavors, for example, contain carrageenan although the majority of the brand’s flavors do not.

3. Don’t fall for non-GMO claims (unless you see the USDA Organic label):

Some pet food brands, such as Wellness, advertise that they are “made with naturally GMO-free ingredients.” This is likely an intentionally misleading claim. Without the USDA Organic label, you can assume that the feed given to the livestock used to produce these pet food products is almost certainly GMO.

Wellness brand products do not display the USDA Organic seal. Over 90% of the soybean and corn currently produced in the U.S. is GMO. Though pet foods can test to be GMO-free, this does not mean that the meat animals were fed GMO-free feed throughout their life.

The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service has only recently approved a non-GMO label for meat only if that producer can prove all the animal feed required to feed the number of animals owned is GMO-free. This label is currently missing from all pet food brands, despite non-GMO claims. Thus, only the presence of the USDA Organic label reliably ensures that meat animals were fed non-GMO grain.

4. Avoid these ingredients, too:

Pet food manufacturers don’t advertise the fact that pet food is composed primarily from food industry waste. Animal fat and animal meat and bone meal (MBM) are common pet food ingredients that are products of rendering (boiling waste products to sterilize them). Animal fat and MBM often come from a mix of different animal species, including expired grocery store meat, animals that died on the farm, and restaurant scraps, including used grease from deep-fat fryers.

Animal fat and MBM are the ingredients in pet food most likely to correlate with the presence of sodium pentobarbital, the drug used by veterinarians and shelters for euthanasia. Needless to say, these are not ingredients you want your dog and cat to be eating.

Corn gluten meal should also be avoided. It is used primarily as a cheap substitute for meat since cats and dogs are carnivorous and should have diets primarily based on meat.

In addition, synthetic preservatives should be avoided, including BHA, BHT, and propyl gallate, since research has linked them to several health concerns, including cancer. Natural preservatives, such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), and plant-based oils (such as rosemary oil), are better alternatives.

5. Home-cook your pet’s food:

One way to ensure a healthy diet for your companion animals is to cook for them yourself. Many chronic problems such as allergies, vomiting, diarrhea, and skin problems can be solved with homemade meals. Cornucopia’s report provides veterinarian-approved recipes and advice for cooking at home for both cats and dogs.

In conclusion, the pet food industry is no different than leading marketers of human food when it comes to cheap substitutes and false health claims. Take matters into your own hands by reading labels and choosing high quality ingredients. Cornucopia’s soon-to-be-released report can help you.

Moe in wicker basket

Moe, the longtime feline companion of Codirector Mark Kastel.
Sadly, just after Cornucopia completed its report on carrageenan in human food,
Moe died in 2013 of intestinal cancer likely linked to carrageenan in his diet.

Watch for the release of the Pet Food Guide this winter.

Also see Cornucopia’s report Carrageenan: The “Natural” Additive that’s Making Us Sick, the Carrageenan Shopping Guide, and a questionnaire on the effects of eliminating carrageenan from the diet. Also sign the petition telling the FDA to remove carrageenan from our food supply.

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