Cornucopia Institute http://www.cornucopia.org Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:18:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Monsanto Visits Local School for 47 Minute Propaganda Presentationhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/monsanto-visits-local-school-47-minute-propaganda-presentation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=monsanto-visits-local-school-47-minute-propaganda-presentation http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/monsanto-visits-local-school-47-minute-propaganda-presentation/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 15:53:09 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12840 Natural Society by Christina Sarich Credit: Lexie Flickinger As if the mis-education of our youth wasn’t already a huge issue, guess what your tax dollars are now paying for? Monsanto is visiting local schools to tell twelve year olds all about the ‘good’ they are doing in the world as an ‘agricultural leader.’ As NaturalBlaze puts it, we’re not mentioning this to ‘attack’ schools for allowing Monsanto to ‘infiltrate’, but rather to let you know that

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Natural Society
by Christina Sarich

Credit: Lexie Flickinger

As if the mis-education of our youth wasn’t already a huge issue, guess what your tax dollars are now paying for? Monsanto is visiting local schools to tell twelve year olds all about the ‘good’ they are doing in the world as an ‘agricultural leader.’ As NaturalBlaze puts it, we’re not mentioning this to ‘attack’ schools for allowing Monsanto to ‘infiltrate’, but rather to let you know that Monsanto could very well be coming to a school near you.

One parent filmed his son when he returned from school recently to report that Monsanto had taken over his gym class, showed a power point presentation and passed out a deck of playing cards to students with the Monsanto logo emblazoned on it. Each card had a contrived fact on it, one stated, “the US produces 30% of the world’s soybeans.” Obviously there were no cards that told the truth about what Monsanto does – namely illegally profiting by taking over seed production all over the world and sewing genetically altered crops that require ever-increasing amounts of cancer-causing glyphosate to grow.

The father asked his son if the Monsanto representative had said anything about the chemicals that they were spraying on our food. The son said, “nope.” The father then asked if the representative told them about how Monsanto does business throughout the world. Again the child responded with, “nope.” Monsanto told children at his school that they created jobs for people and that they helped to feed the world.<

Monsanto also told a fable to children about how one farmer tried to get rid of Monsanto seed and the stuff they spray on their crops and that it caused him great trouble. Additionally, the company warned against saving heirloom, organic seed, though this particular term wasn’t used.

When this child’s parent tried to contact the school about the uncanny way in which the Monsanto Corporation was trying to brainwash his child, he was referred to his child’s handbook. It turns out that the school’s principal was actually the one who set up permission for Monsanto to speak to the children:

 “The intro to my seventh grade school handbook/homework planner alerted us expressly that we were Human Resources for that state and that during school hours we belonged to the state and school.”

While the principal was apologetic about allowing Monsanto to speak to the children since the company is a ‘vilified entity’ he could not assure the parent that more propagandizing would not continue.

Similarly, the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI)  has launched the “Biotechnology Basics Activity Book” for kids. With the intent to be used by ‘agriculture and science teachers’, the activity book spreads absurd lies about GMO crops — even going as far as to say that they ‘improve our health’ and ‘help the environment’.

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Don’t Repeat Mistakes That Led to Superweedshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/dont-repeat-mistakes-led-superweeds/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dont-repeat-mistakes-led-superweeds http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/dont-repeat-mistakes-led-superweeds/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 22:56:58 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12824 The Des Moines Register by Neil D. Hamilton Palmer Amaranth Credit: USDA The Des Moines Register deserves a hearty thank you for Donnelle Eller’s eye-opening Sunday article on glysophate-resistant Superweeds. It details a real threat to Iowa agriculture and raises important questions about responsibility and the way forward. Some may believe it too soon or even unhelpful to consider how this happened and who bears responsibility for getting us into this mess. But if we fail

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The Des Moines Register
by Neil D. Hamilton

Palmer Amaranth
Credit: USDA

The Des Moines Register deserves a hearty thank you for Donnelle Eller’s eye-opening Sunday article on glysophate-resistant Superweeds. It details a real threat to Iowa agriculture and raises important questions about responsibility and the way forward.

Some may believe it too soon or even unhelpful to consider how this happened and who bears responsibility for getting us into this mess. But if we fail to consider these questions, don’t we risk the likelihood our “solutions” will simply repeat our mistakes?

For over 20 years the farm chemical industry, led by Monsanto, has proclaimed the unquestioned benefits of genetically modifying seeds, and farmers gladly got on the GMO bandwagon as we raced to a golden era of high-tech agriculture. Claims of enhanced yields and one-pass weed control were hard to resist — especially as the seed industry bred resistance to Roundup, or glysophate, into every crop and variety possible.

Truthfully, though, herbicide resistance is not inherently yield enhancing — not like the hybridizing work of Henry Wallace or any seed breeder who helps plants put more beans in the pod. What we created is simply a weed control system the main effects of which are to sell more Roundup and expensive modified seeds and allow farmers to cover more acres.

Of course there are — or were — benefits like cleaner fields and less weed pressure to suppress yields. But as “Superweeds” illustrate so well — even for non-believers in evolution — nature works around the clock and is eroding the benefits of GMOs. This is not a surprise.

Anyone who thought about it predicted what widespread and unrestrained planting of herbicide-resistant seeds and the increased use of glysophate would yield — selecting for tougher, more resistant weeds, difficult if not impossible to control. Exactly what we have today and what every scientist quoted knew and said would happen.

So the GMO chickens are coming home to roost, and we must decide how to address the “crisis.” You will note one thing not in her article — any apology or expression of regret from the companies that helped create the mess or the public officials and cheerleaders who promoted GMOs as the answer to our needs.

The sad truth is, in less than 20 years we took a powerful and elegant scientific advance — plant biotechnology — and through hubris and greed frittered away some of its potential. In the process, we created a more threatening weed problem farmers must confront or risk economic disaster.

But not to fear, industry has a new solution — if you call it that: Take an older, harsher weed killer, 2,4-D, and breed resistance to it into seeds so more can be applied, enough to kill those pesky Superweeds. Meaning we are going to start over with the same approach, asking farmers to pay more for the privilege.

How long do you think it will be before today’s Superweeds evolve to resist this “technology”? Adding to the risks, this “solution” threatens other important parts of agriculture — the grapes and horticultural crops expanding across Iowa. Of course the chemical makers have an answer for this — a newer version of 2,4-D that is less likely to drift.

Some farmers may act to prevent problems miles away, but if you invested $10,000 an acre in grapes, is this an acceptable risk?

Before we race to the next silver bullet solution, perhaps those most responsible for getting us into this mess could show some humility and admit things didn’t work out quite like they planned. Unless you are cynical enough to believe this was the plan all along, given the predictability of Superweeds. Having a new product to sell and crisis-motivated buyers could yield big profits.

But there will be plenty of time and opportunity to sort out questions of legal liability and responsibility if class action lawsuits are filed, seeking to compensate farmers for their losses.

As we search for solutions to the “Superweed” dilemma, old-fashioned farming know-how like crop rotations and diversification should play a role. Here is another suggestion: If we claim to be interested in “sound science,” perhaps we might try actually listening to scientists like those from Iowa State University who warned about these risks, rather than just believing people who have some shiny new product to sell.

THE AUTHOR: NEIL D. HAMILTON is the Dwight Opperman Distinguished Professor of Law and director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University for over 30 years. Contact: neil.hamilton@drake.edu.

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Monsanto Wants Youhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/monsanto-wants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=monsanto-wants http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/monsanto-wants/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:48:44 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12829 Female bloggers that is.  The GMO and pesticide giant is seeking to (mis)inform you about their impact on food and the environment.  In addition to brunch, you get to ask questions!  Monsanto will reward your Sunday morning participation with $150.  Express yourself here.

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CI_CallingAllBloggers

Female bloggers that is.  The GMO and pesticide giant is seeking to (mis)inform you about their impact on food and the environment.  In addition to brunch, you get to ask questions!  Monsanto will reward your Sunday morning participation with $150.  Express yourself here.

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The Future of Farming Is A Gift From Our Past: Celebrating 90 Years of Biodynamic® Agriculturehttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/future-farming-gift-past-celebrating-90-years-biodynamic-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=future-farming-gift-past-celebrating-90-years-biodynamic-agriculture http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/future-farming-gift-past-celebrating-90-years-biodynamic-agriculture/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 16:47:46 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12820 Demeter Association, Inc. by Erin Sojourner Agostinelli Ninety years ago this year, Rudolf Steiner addressed a group of farmers at a European farmhouse located in today’s Poland.  A well-known scientist and social advocate, Steiner is now best known as the founder of Waldorf education.  The farmers asked Steiner for help because they were very concerned about what they were witnessing on their farms.  Their farms’ soil was depleted, their seeds weren’t germinating, and their animals

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Demeter Association, Inc.
by Erin Sojourner Agostinelli

Demeter Certified BiodynamicNinety years ago this year, Rudolf Steiner addressed a group of farmers at a European farmhouse located in today’s Poland.  A well-known scientist and social advocate, Steiner is now best known as the founder of Waldorf education.  The farmers asked Steiner for help because they were very concerned about what they were witnessing on their farms.  Their farms’ soil was depleted, their seeds weren’t germinating, and their animals were suffering: the overall life and vitality of their farms was markedly declining.

It’s helpful to place this in the context of the times.  Prior to the advent of industrialization, our communities were agrarian and people lived on their farms.  They grew food for themselves and their farm animals.  Lots of different crops grew and the farm itself existed in a larger ecological context of forests, plains, and watersheds.  People lived in tune with the seasons and the celestial rhythms.  But by the turn of the last century, people moved from their farms to the cities.  Factories were built focused on increased production based on the increased utilization of our natural resources. 

It’s not surprising that farms began to resemble factories.  Following WW I, chemical companies transitioned materials used in making bombs and nerve gas to fertilizers and pesticides.  Antibiotics, recently discovered, were given to farm animals allowing farmers to keep them indoors under conditions of extremely restricted mobility.

Is any of this sounding familiar?  Today we call this industrial agriculture, factory farming, all done with the shared goal of the highest output at the lowest cost.  The problem with this thinking, ninety years ago and today, is that the true costs of this type of farming- soil degradation, water and air pollution, animal suffering- are not accounted for.

Steiner’s answer to these farmers was both simple and revolutionary.  He counseled them to stop thinking of their farms as factories and start thinking of them as living organisms: self-contained, self-sustaining, following the cycles of nature.  He suggested that the farms themselves should be responsible for creating and maintaining their own health and vitality, without dependence on outside inputs like fertilizers and pesticides.  Steiner proposed that people’s own health was intimately connected to the health of their farming communities, and he was one of the first public figures to warn that the manufacturing view of agriculture would result in environmental destruction.

Remarkably, in the following years, that same group of farmers reconvened to codify what Steiner had discussed in a farm standard and began to ensure its uniform adherence via certification.  Imagine that- an eco label in 1928!  Demeter remains the oldest ecological certification organization in the world, and today operates in over fifty countries around the world.  Here in the USA, Demeter was formed as a non-profit in 1985, a full seventeen years before the launch of the National Organic Program.

It’s interesting to note that in 1938, many years after Steiner’s lectures, an English gentleman named Lord Northborne, a professor of agricultural science at Oxford, coined the term “organic” from Steiner’s view of the farm as organism.  History could view Biodynamic as the inspiration for organic.  But while today’s organic standard is very narrow in its focus on allowed and prohibited inputs, the Demeter Farm Standard is quite broad in its requirements and is historically significant because it dates back to the beginning of the modern sustainable farming movement and captures key agricultural principles not comprehensively addressed in any other certification system.  Demeter’s vision is to heal the planet through agriculture.

So how do farmers translate this principle of the farm as a living organism into daily practices on their farms?  Biodynamic farming includes organic certification prohibitions against the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. But, maintaining that idea of the farm as an integrated whole, the entire farm must be certified (versus a particular crop or field allowed in organic certification).   Farmers must devote at least 10% of total acreage to wild area, for example oak groves, riparian areas, and wetlands.

Integrating livestock, building compost, and utilizing cover crops generate on-farm fertility.  Disease and insect control is created through botanical species diversity and predator habitat.  The use of eight preparations is required, acting as homeopathic remedies for the farm and used to build soil and compost quality.

Ensuring that the integrity of these agricultural ingredients is delivered from seed to shelf, standards for processed products require significant Biodynamic ingredients that are minimally manipulated. The goal is to ensure the vitality of the agricultural ingredients define the finished products.   No wonder Biodynamic juices, pastas, wines, and fruit spreads are not only delicious, but also maximally nutritious.

While Europe enjoys a more mature Biodynamic marketplace with thousands of Biodynamic products eagerly sought by consumers, awareness is growing amongst American shoppers who are beginning to seek them out while shopping.  It should come as no surprise that some of the best US organic food companies see Biodynamic as a natural next step in their commitment to the production of the highest quality products produced in the most ecological way.  Amy’s Kitchen, Republic of Tea, Lundberg, Lakewood, Suja Juice, and DeLallo are just a few of the companies that are bringing Biodynamic products to store shelves this year.  Whole Foods Market is a big supporter, and all of these products can be found on their store shelves.

Welcome to the new American marketplace.  Happy Birthday Demeter, and here’s to the next ninety years!

For more information: www.demeter-usa.org  | www.biodynamicfood.org

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GMO Food Labeling Law Pressure Mountshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/gmo-food-labeling-law-pressure-mounts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gmo-food-labeling-law-pressure-mounts http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/gmo-food-labeling-law-pressure-mounts/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 23:31:38 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12810 The Des Moines Register by Christopher Doering WASHINGTON – Congress could face pressure to establish a uniform, nationwide law on the labeling of foods made with genetically modified ingredients as early as next year, as more states regulate the controversial technology found in much of the U.S. food supply. The debate over whether to label salad dressings, soups, cereals and other grocery store staples made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, gained momentum in May after

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The Des Moines Register
by Christopher Doering

Congress could face pressure to establish a uniform, nationwide law on the labeling of foods made with genetically modified ingredients as early as next year, as more states regulate the controversial technology found in much of the U.S. food supply.

The debate over whether to label salad dressings, soups, cereals and other grocery store staples made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, gained momentum in May after Vermont became the first state to require labeling of foods made from those ingredients. The measure, which is being challenged in court by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other groups, is set to take effect July 1, 2016.

Labeling efforts failed last year in Iowa, but laws in other states could affect the agricultural industry here. DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto and other biotech seed producers have major operations in Iowa, where 91 percent of the corn and 93 percent of the soybean acres were genetically modified last year.

The argument has pitted consumer groups against major food and agribusiness companies that support labeling of genetically engineered foods, but the two sides have failed to reach a consensus on how to get there and whether it should be mandatory or voluntary. The food industry has said a state-by-state framework leads to higher costs that get passed on to shoppers, while opponents of the ingredients contend state laws are needed to address growing consumer demand about what is in their food until the federal government acts.

State efforts have had mixed results. Voters in California and Washington state narrowly failed to approve similar initiatives. Connecticut and Maine both passed laws to require labeling, but they go into effect only if nearby states act.

Oregon voters will decide on a labeling initiative in November, and more than two dozen other states — including Colorado, New York and Massachusetts — are considering mandatory labeling.

Vermont could play a pivotal role in determining the appetite for state labeling initiatives. If the court strikes down the law, it could chill other states from considering their own labeling laws and further delay action in Washington, D.C., GMO supporters say.

Congress has taken a largely hands-off approach about whether large food companies should be required to notify consumers about these ingredients.

Unless further pressure builds on the state level through the passage of new labeling laws, federal lawmakers will likely seek to distance themselves from the labeling debate. The earliest Congress could act is 2015, food groups and labeling proponents say.

“As states come out with their own different regulations, it makes (the marketplace) more and more complicated, and we may see more people from across the country asking for us to take some action. Maybe that’s what the standstill is right now,” said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., a member of the House Agriculture Committee. “There’s not a real desire for Congress to step in and deal with this issue until the people across the states tell us it’s necessary.”

In Washington, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., have proposed a nationwide label on genetically modified foods. Food and agribusiness companies, including Monsanto and DuPont, have thrown their weight behind a bill from Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., that would ban mandatory GMO food labeling by states and let food companies decide if they want to label their packages as genetically modified. Those bills have languished in Congress.

“It seems to me that a federal law ought to be passed if we’re going to have a continuing number of states voting” for labeling, said Sen. Chuck Grassley. The Iowa Republican does not support states requiring individual labels for GMOs unless science shows the technology is unsafe.

Pro-labeling advocates say most Americans support labeling, and they contend momentum is building for Congress to act. They say U.S. shoppers should be given the same opportunity that consumers in more than 60 countries have to know whether the foods they buy contain those ingredients.

In the United States, up to 80 percent of packaged foods contain ingredients that have been genetically modified, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents more than 300 food and beverage companies, including Kellogg, PepsiCo and H.J. Heinz.

The glacial pace toward a nationwide law, food advocacy groups say, is similar in many ways to the posting of calorie counts at chain restaurants. Cities and states stepped in before a national policy was established as part of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. The FDA has not issued regulations that would enforce menu labeling nationwide.

“We’re in the midst of an area of food democracy, the likes of which we’ve never seen. People want to know everything about their food, what’s in it, who made it, where it’s from, how it’s made,” said Scott Faber, a vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. “The politicians who are trying to deny people the right to know about their food are running headlong into this sort of a brick wall of opposition.”

Food manufacturers and producers of genetically modified corn, soybeans and other crops have spent millions of dollars to oppose mandatory labeling.

They say the crops have been proved to be safe, and mandatory labels would mislead consumers that the ingredients are less nutritious or unsafe.

Cathleen Enright, an executive vice president of food and agriculture with the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said a federal solution is needed to prevent an uneven patchwork of labeling requirements that vary from state to state, increasing costs for food manufacturers that are passed on to shoppers. She said the challenge is finding one that is fair and doesn’t malign a widely used technology or scare consumers.

Greg Jaffe, director of the Project on Biotechnology for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said there is a growing need to share more about genetically modified crops.

But he said the players involved are divided over whether food manufacturers and retailers, the states or the federal government should be responsible for getting that information to consumers, and how.

“I don’t see this issue going away anytime soon,” Jaffe said.

Food companies react

Some U.S. food companies are avoiding genetically modified ingredients in their products, and letting consumers know.

Whole Foods will require labeling of all products sold in its U.S. and Canadian stores by 2018 to indicate if they contain genetically modified ingredients.

General Mills said in January it would stop using bioengineered cornstarch and sugar cane for its original Cheerios and put on the boxes “Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients.”

Ben & Jerry’s is in the process of shifting to non-genetically modified ingredients in all of its 50 flavors of ice cream.

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My Road to Organics: Cycling to Health, Vitality and Purposehttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/road-organics-cycling-health-vitality-purpose/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=road-organics-cycling-health-vitality-purpose http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/road-organics-cycling-health-vitality-purpose/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:36:58 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12798 [This story originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of  The Cultivator, The Cornucopia Institute’s quarterly print publication available to members and online.] Many of us have had an aha! moment or moments that sparked our decision to farm, garden or eat organically. In this issue, Cornucopia board member Amanda Love tells how a cross-country journey awakened her to an organic lifestyle. Today she offers workshops, classes and retreats on how to prepare delicious, nourishing meals

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[This story originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of  The Cultivator, The Cornucopia Institute’s quarterly print publication available to members and online.]

Many of us have had an aha! moment or moments that sparked our decision to farm, garden or eat organically. In this issue, Cornucopia board member Amanda Love tells how a cross-country journey awakened her to an organic lifestyle. Today she offers workshops, classes and retreats on how to prepare delicious, nourishing meals and live a harmonious life.

by Amanda Love, Board Member, The Cornucopia Institute

Amanda Love 2014Was it my grandmother who owned a health food store in New Mexico long before they were popular or my health-conscious mother? Was it reading Emerson and Thoreau in high school that opened my mind to new expanses? Or the college study-abroad trip to Italy, where I experienced real food, real family values and la dolce vita?

I’m not sure which of these had the most influence on me or if they all converged to make me begin to question my way of life and start doing things differently. But I do know that the real turning point for me came the summer of 1997, when I rode my bicycle across the country. This trip unequivocally changed my life.

Suffering from a broken heart and knowing an adventure could be the cure, I signed up for a bike trip that was all about spreading awareness for “sustainable transportation.” I had no idea what “sustainable” meant at the time, but I considered myself an environmentalist and I knew it sounded good—despite the fact that I had never ridden a bike more than 13 miles in one stretch, much less the proposed 70 miles a day! But I was up for the challenge.

Starting out in Portland, Oregon, I was in bliss as I took in the nature, green landscapes, waterfalls, brilliant sunrises and sunsets. My legs ached and moaned for about a month biking through Oregon and Idaho until we summited the Grand Tetons. Finally, we enjoyed some coasting relief while riding through the plains of eastern Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio—only to climb again starting in West Virginia. By the time we reached the Appalachians, my legs were old pro’s at this biking business, and I had woken up in many ways.

At the start of the trip, I gave no thought to where my food came from. I didn’t even know about organic food much less free range, sustainably produced or grass-fed. By the end of the trip, I had not only become a conscious eater, I had become an activist.

The long days out on the road had purged me of my addiction to TV and unconscious eating. I saw the beauty as well as the ugliness and unconscious ways of this country. My nose took in all of it—the scent of wildflowers in bloom, forests and mountain air as well as the stench of factory farms, road kill, toxic fumes from every tailpipe, and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers that went on for miles.

This trip was the turning point that helped me become empowered to make my own decisions about what I eat, whether or not I own a car, and what I want to support with my dollars. After we triumphantly reached Washington, D.C., two and a half months after our journey began, we lobbied Congress to support sustainable transportation, a term I was now very familiar with.

A few months later, I moved from my home state of Texas to Northern California. There I was surrounded by like-minded people who not only cared about what they ate and how they lived, they were willing to protest to protect what they held dear. I joined the steering committee of a successful campaign designed to help defend our small town against corporate abuses. During the process, I met activist Julia Butterfly and got to sit with her for an hour, in a treehouse, in Luna, the ancient redwood she was protecting.

I then found myself at Heartwood Institute, where I learned to cook amazing health-conscious and nutritious food. I was immersed in a world of healers and those becoming healers. I knew this world was my home and I would continue on this path.

Since I was a little girl, my body had always been sensitive—or maybe just intelligent enough to know that nothing but real food worked for it. Finally having real, organic, healing food to eat all the time, I could feel my body being nourished on a level it had never known before. Going back to eating chemically produced food would never again be an option for me.

For the last 16 years, I have shared my message with others and have hoped to inspire them to take their health into their own hands by the simple (and yet complex) choice of what they put into their mouth.


AMANDA LOVE is an inspirational “chef-tivist” who teaches families, farmers and food lovers how to reclaim the power of simple, nourishing cooking. She has served on Cornucopia’s board of directors since 2011. Learn more at www.thebarefootcook.com.

 

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WHITE HOUSE PETITION: President Obama, Please Reverse USDA Coup Undermining Organicshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/white-house-petition-president-obama-please-reverse-usda-coup-undermining-organics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=white-house-petition-president-obama-please-reverse-usda-coup-undermining-organics http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/white-house-petition-president-obama-please-reverse-usda-coup-undermining-organics/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 19:26:56 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12769 WHITE HOUSE PETITION: Ask President Obama to Reverse USDA Coup Undermining Organic Governing Board and Shifting Power to Agribusiness Lobbyists Stop allowing corporations to add gimmicky and risky synthetic chemicals to organics When Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), they created a unique and powerful citizen advisory panel, with statutory authority, to assist the Secretary of Agriculture in implementing the act.   The independent National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was a key

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WHITE HOUSE PETITION: Ask President Obama to Reverse USDA Coup Undermining Organic Governing Board and Shifting Power to Agribusiness Lobbyists

Stop allowing corporations to add gimmicky and risky synthetic chemicals to organics

sign petition button

When Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), they created a unique and powerful citizen advisory panel, with statutory authority, to assist the Secretary of Agriculture in implementing the act.   The independent National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was a key component of OFPA when it passed Congress.  Without its creation as a buffer between corporate lobbyists and an industry-friendly USDA (the agency testified against the organic legislation before its passage), it is unlikely that OFPA would have received the requisite support in the organic farming community.

Now the independence and power of the 15-member NOSB – composed of farmers, environmentalists, public interest groups, food processors, a scientist, a retailer and a certifier – is being seriously undermined.  Last fall the USDA, in its most unapologetic and undemocratic power grab to date, broke with 15 years of precedent in stripping the NOSB of much of its authority and power.

Please help roll back these changes by signing this petition
to President Obama and USDA Secretary Vilsack.

The USDA’s power grab includes a critical change to the legally mandated sunset review process for synthetic and non-organic materials approved for use in organic production.  These materials receive temporary (five-year) approval for use until organic alternatives are developed, hence the term “sunset.” The USDA’s revision makes removal of the synthetics highly improbable (even if they are found to be a threat to human health or the environment), and dulls incentives for developing organic alternatives.  Key congressional sponsors of the original organic legislation (Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon) have expressed their strong objection to the new policies as have several highly respected former chairs of the NOSB.

The USDA has also removed the ability of the NOSB to set their own work plan and agenda as well as effectively conducting their own meetings.  The USDA now even claims the power to co-chair NOSB meetings.  Additionally, the Ag Secretary has made legally questionable appointments stacking the NOSB with corporate agribusiness employees who do not meet the criteria established by Congress.

All of these crass and possibly illegal acts by the USDA have the potential to undermine consumer confidence in the certified organic label.  Indeed, over the past two presidential administrations, the board has adopted a number of policies favorable towards powerful agribusiness interests and failed to address practices that threaten organic integrity.

Previous research from The Cornucopia Institute has documented how powerful corporate interests, including the industry lobby group the Organic Trade Association (OTA), have been gaming the system for years with the help of a friendly USDA.

But in the past few years, farmers, consumers and groups like Cornucopia have stood up and begun challenging industry proposals pushing increased use of gimmicky synthetics and suspect nutraceuticals in organic food.  We have been successful in blocking a number of the industry-backed schemes.  In fact, we have been so successful that corporate interests and their minions at the USDA have now decided they need to change the rules in the middle of the game.

The future of organic food and agriculture is at a crossroads.  Consumers are increasingly hungry for healthy, nutrient-dense food produced in a sustainable manner and believe that the farmers growing the food should be able to earn a real living wage.  Farmers and consumers must again stand together and forcefully request that President Obama step in and force the USDA to back off their power grab and return to the NOSB its rightful powers and authority.

Join with us and sign the petition to President Obama and USDA Secretary Vilsack.
Help save the bright future of organic food and agriculture.

sign petition button

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Children on Dairy Farms Run One-Tenth the Risk of Developing Allergies; Dairy Farm Exposure Also Beneficial During Pregnancyhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/children-dairy-farms-run-one-tenth-risk-developing-allergies-dairy-farm-exposure-also-beneficial-pregnancy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-dairy-farms-run-one-tenth-risk-developing-allergies-dairy-farm-exposure-also-beneficial-pregnancy http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/children-dairy-farms-run-one-tenth-risk-developing-allergies-dairy-farm-exposure-also-beneficial-pregnancy/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:14:25 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12785 Science Daily Credit: Gennex, CRI Children who live on farms that produce milk run one-tenth the risk of developing allergies as other rural children. According to researchers at The University of Gothenburg in Sweden, pregnant women may benefit from spending time on dairy farms to promote maturation of the fetal and neonatal immune system. The occurrence of allergic diseases has risen dramatically in Western societies. One frequently cited reason is that children are less exposed

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Science Daily

Credit: Gennex, CRI

Children who live on farms that produce milk run one-tenth the risk of developing allergies as other rural children. According to researchers at The University of Gothenburg in Sweden, pregnant women may benefit from spending time on dairy farms to promote maturation of the fetal and neonatal immune system.
The occurrence of allergic diseases has risen dramatically in Western societies. One frequently cited reason is that children are less exposed to microorganisms and have fewer infections than previous generations, thereby delaying maturation of the immune system.

A study by researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, monitored children until the age of three to examine maturation of the immune system in relation to allergic disease. All of the children lived in rural areas of the Västra Götaland Region, half of them on farms that produced milk.

Lower risk of allergy

The study found that children on dairy farms ran a much lower risk of developing allergies than the other children.

“Our study also demonstrated for the first time that delayed maturation of the immune system, specifically B-cells, is a risk factor for development of allergies,” says Anna-Carin Lundell, one of the researchers.

Need for additional studies

Children with an allergic disease at the age of 18 and 36 months had a higher percentage of immature B-cells in their blood circulation at birth and during the first month of life. Additional studies are needed to corroborate the correlation between delayed B-cell maturation during the neonatal period and the risk for subsequent development of allergies.

The Gothenburg researchers will start off by examining children as they turn eight.

“We need to identify the specific factors on dairy farms that strengthen protection against allergies and appear to promote maturation of the immune system as early as the fetal stage,” Ms. Lundell says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Gothenburg. The original article was written by Krister Svahn. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A.-C. Lundell, S. Johansen, I. Adlerberth, A. E. Wold, B. Hesselmar, A. Rudin.High Proportion of CD5 B Cells in Infants Predicts Development of Allergic DiseaseThe Journal of Immunology, 2014; 193 (2): 510 DOI:10.4049/%u200Bjimmunol.1302990

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The Cultivator – Summer 2014http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/cultivator-summer-2014/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cultivator-summer-2014 http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/cultivator-summer-2014/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:25:54 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12771 The Summer 2014 Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter, is now available online. Download the PDF here. In it you’ll find: Cover story: Turmoil Shakes NOSB Meeting in Texas: USDA Restricts Citizen Board’s Governance and Authority on Organic Standards Good Eggs: Scorecard Update in the Works Commentary: Walmarting Organics Memoir: My Road to Organics – “The Barefoot Cook,” Amanda Love Feature: NOSB Dissension, Decisions and Delays News: Open Source Seed Initiative New Policy Officers and Advisor Welcomed Farmer Profile: Pleasant Hill Farm

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Summer 2014 Cultivator coverThe Summer 2014 Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter, is now available online. Download the PDF here.

In it you’ll find:

Cover story: Turmoil Shakes NOSB Meeting in Texas: USDA Restricts Citizen Board’s Governance and Authority on Organic Standards

  • Good Eggs: Scorecard Update in the Works
  • Commentary: Walmarting Organics
  • Memoir: My Road to Organics – “The Barefoot Cook,” Amanda Love
  • Feature: NOSB Dissension, Decisions and Delays
  • News: Open Source Seed Initiative
  • New Policy Officers and Advisor Welcomed
  • Farmer Profile: Pleasant Hill Farm

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Second Silent Spring? Bird Declines Linked to Popular Pesticideshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/second-silent-spring-bird-declines-linked-popular-pesticides/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=second-silent-spring-bird-declines-linked-popular-pesticides http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/second-silent-spring-bird-declines-linked-popular-pesticides/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:59:01 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12758 Neonicotinoids are aimed at insects, but they’re affecting other animals too, study says. National Geographic by Jason Bittel Credit: Audrius Meskauskas Pesticides don’t just kill pests. New research out of the Netherlands provides compelling evidence linking a widely used class of insecticides to population declines across 14 species of birds. Those insecticides, called neonicotinoids, have been in the news lately due to the way they hurt bees and other pollinators. (Related: “The Plight of the Honeybee.”)

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Neonicotinoids are aimed at insects, but they’re affecting other animals too, study says.

National Geographic
by Jason Bittel

Credit: Audrius Meskauskas

Pesticides don’t just kill pests. New research out of the Netherlands provides compelling evidence linking a widely used class of insecticides to population declines across 14 species of birds.

Those insecticides, called neonicotinoids, have been in the news lately due to the way they hurt bees and other pollinators. (Related: “The Plight of the Honeybee.”)

This new paper, published online Wednesday in Nature, gets at another angle of the story—the way these chemicals can indirectly affect other creatures in the ecosystem.

Scientists from Radboud University in Nijmegen and the Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology and Birdlife Netherlands (SOVON) compared long-term data sets for both farmland bird populations and chemical concentrations in surface water. They found that in areas where water contained high concentrations of imidacloprid—a common neonicotinoid pesticide—bird populations tended to decline by an average of 3.5 percent annually.

“I think we are the first to show that this insecticide may have wide-scale, significant effects on our environment,” said Hans de Kroon, an expert on population dynamics at Radboud University and one of the authors of the paper.

Second Silent Spring?

Pesticides and birds: If this story sounds familiar, it’s probably because Rachel Carson wrote about it back in 1962. Carson’s seminal Silent Spring was the first popular attempt to warn the world that pesticides were contributing to the “sudden silencing of the song of birds.”

“I think there is a parallel, of course,” said Ruud Foppen, an ornithologist at SOVON and co-author of the Nature paper.

Foppen says that while Carson battled against a totally different kind of chemicals—organophosphates like DDT—the effects he’s seeing in the field are very much the same. Plainly stated, neonicotinoids are harming biodiversity.

“In this way, we can compare it to what happened decades ago,” he said. “And if you look at it from that side, we didn’t learn our lessons.”

How Neonicotinoids Work

In the past 20 years, neonicotinoids (pronounced nee-oh-NIK-uh-tin-oyds) have become the fastest growing class of pesticides. They’re extremely popular among farmers because they’re effective at killing pests and easy to apply.

Instead of loading gallons and gallons of insecticide into a crop duster and spraying it over hundreds of acres, farmers can buy seeds that come preloaded with neonicotinoid coatings. Scientists refer to neonicotinoids as “systemic” pesticides because they affect the whole plant rather than a single part. As the pretreated seed grows, it incorporates the insecticide into every bud and branch, effectively turning the plant itself into a pest-killing machine.

This lock, stock, and barrel approach to crop protection means that no matter where a locust or rootworm likes to nibble—the root, the stem, the flower—the invader winds up with a bellyful of neurotoxins.

“The plants become poison not only for the insects that farmers are targeting, but also for beneficial insects like bees,” said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) who’s been building a case against the widespread use of neonicotinoids. The pesticide’s top-to-bottom coverage means the plants’ flowers, pollen, and nectar are all poisonous too.

Worse still, Sass says, neonicotinoids can persist in the soil for years. This gives other growing things a chance to come into contact with and absorb the chemicals.

“So they actually end up in plants that grow on the sides of fields and that were never meant to be targeted,” she said.

Bye Bye Birdie

The new Nature paper shows strong evidence that neonicotinoids are dangerous even if not ingested.

The study looked at population statistics for over a dozen species of birds common to farmlands in the Netherlands. Most of these species are dependent on insects for all or part of their diet, though some also munch on seeds and grains. This means that there are two ways neonicotinoids could be harming the Netherlands’ birds.

The first is ingestion. Studies have shown that while neonicotinoids are commonly considered to be safer for mammals and birds than for insects, they can still be lethal in high enough doses. And the best way to get a concentrated dose of neonicotinoids is to eat seeds coated with them. A 1992 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that sparrows have difficulty flying after consuming a tiny amount of imidacloprid, and become immobile at higher doses.

The second way neonicotinoids can affect birds is by eliminating their food sources. Since these pesticides kill target and nontarget species alike, there are fewer flies, grasshoppers, stinkbugs, and caterpillars for the birds to feast on.

Causation vs. Correlation

While the new paper shows a correlation between high concentrations of neonicotinoids and declining bird populations, it doesn’t claim the pesticides are a direct cause of the decrease.

To make sure the correlation wasn’t some sort of coincidence, the team analyzed a number of alternative explanations.

Caspar A. Hallmann is an ornithologist and population ecologist at SOVON and Radboud University. As the lead author of the Naturepaper, he explained that there are numerous causes for population declines in birds, from changes in the kinds of crops planted in any given year and the amount of fertilizer used to the urbanization of former farmland. But when the team looked at the data, none of these explanations held up.

Hallmann said that, as with any correlative study, caution is a watchword. “But still,” he says, “we think we have a line of evidence that is building up.”

Pesticide Maker Disagrees

Bayer CropScience, the primary manufacturer of imidacloprid, defends the use of neonicotinoids. In a statement responding to Hallmann and his colleagues, the company writes: “Neonicotinoids have gone through an extensive risk assessment which has shown that they are safe to the environment when used responsibly according to the label instructions.”

The statement concludes by saying that the Nature paper fails to establish a causal link, and therefore “provides no substantiated evidence of the alleged indirect effects of imidacloprid on insectivorous birds.”

“Indeed, we showed a negative correlation, which is already very alarming,” the Dutch scientists said in response to Bayer CropScience’s critique. “Showing causal links at the ecosystem scale would require landscape-scale experiments,” which would be “difficult and probably very unethical.”

A Third View

The Dutch scientists say neonicotinoids are negatively affecting bird populations. Bayer CropScience says neonicotinoids are safe when used correctly. Whom do we trust?

Maybe an independent group that just completed a review of over 800 scientific studies on the effects of neonicotinoids on wildlife. The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, composed of 29 multidisciplinary scientists, recently released its landmark report titled Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems.

Overall, the scientists concluded that even when neonicotinoids were used according to the guidelines on their labels and applied as intended, the chemicals’ levels in the environment still frequently exceeded the lowest levels known to be dangerous for a wide range of species—and were “thus likely to have a wide range of negative biological and ecological impacts.”

Not Just Bees Anymore

David Gibbons, a member of the task force and head of the RSPB Centre For Conservation Science, the largest nature-conservation charity in Europe, explained that many European countries have already restricted three types of neonicotinoids—including imidacloprid—because of the mounting evidence that they harm bees.

(As of yet, similar protections do not exist in the U.S. Though not for lack of trying—the NRDC filed a legal petition just this week asking the EPA to withdraw its approval of neonicotinoid pesticides.)

“Over the last decade, there have been a number of mass die-offs of bees in several European countries,” said Gibbons.

The process of planting corn can actually dislodge the neonicotinoid coating, which tractors then kick up into the air with the dust from fields.

“These clouds of dust contain very high concentrations of neonicotinoids,” says Gibbons, “and are instantly lethal to bees.”

But part of the goal of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment report is to show that bees aren’t the only animals affected. The task force presents evidence that earthworms, aquatic invertebrates, lizards, fish, and many other animals are suffering ill effects as a result (either direct or indirect) of systemic pesticides.

Gibbons says it’s hard to say whether we’ve entered a second “silent spring.”

“However,” he adds, “[neonicotinoid] use is now so widespread—nearly 40 percent of the global insecticide market—that there are valid reasons to be worried.”

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