Cornucopia Institute http://www.cornucopia.org Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming Fri, 25 Jul 2014 20:17:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Open Source Seed Initiative: Challenging the Corporate Control of Our Food Systemhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/open-source-seed-initiative-challenging-corporate-control-food-system/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=open-source-seed-initiative-challenging-corporate-control-food-system http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/open-source-seed-initiative-challenging-corporate-control-food-system/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 20:17:06 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12902 by Linley Dixon, PhD Seed diversity is undeniably essential to life. Scientists have only scratched the surface in identifying the millions of genetic traits stored in seed banks including variations in appearance, and nutrition, as well as resistance to disease, drought, and salinity. Intellectual property rights allow research plant breeders to patent new plant varieties they breed and gene sequences they “discover.” There are some philosophical questions to grapple with here. First, should we even

The post The Open Source Seed Initiative: Challenging the Corporate Control of Our Food System appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
by Linley Dixon, PhD

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

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

First, should we even be allowed to patent life? Patenting seed encourages the use of a narrow set of traits to which biotechnology and breeding are targeted—for example, the ability for a plant to break down a patented chemical. Innovations are restricted to the best-selling crops and are targeted toward mechanized monoculture farming because large-scale production sells the most seed and chemical inputs. If genes and varieties are not patentable, big seed companies are not able to make big financial investments in varieties that promote big monoculture farming practices.

To try and change this trend, a group of scientists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are raising awareness of the growing number of patented genes and seeds by coordinating the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI, www.opensourceseedinitiative.org).

OSSI was launched in 2011 with the realization that, according to their website, “continued restrictions on seed may hinder our ability to improve our crops and provide access to genetic resources.” In April 2014, OSSI’s first release of seeds included 36 varieties of 14 different crops with an open-source license stating that the seeds and DNA sequences cannot be legally protected in any way in the future.

Though this is a small step toward decentralizing the responsibility for agricultural innovation, the OSSI is raising awareness that we cannot leave our future in the hands of a few corporations.

It is impossible to know what genes will become useful for adaptations to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, drought, salinity, and other future shifts in environmental conditions.

Seed viability diminishes with time. Therefore, if unique varieties of seeds are not continually grown, pollinated, and new seeds collected and properly stored, some traits will be lost forever. Likewise, if farmers are not saving and replanting their seed, adaptations to local conditions will not be preserved. Future food security depends on the availability of a diverse gene pool within each food crop that is available to all for future experimentation.

With the increasing industrialization of our global food supply, the number of unique cultivars farmers are growing is dramatically being reduced.

When a crop species lacks diversity in the field, conditions favor the spread of plant diseases. The United States’ most economically devastating crop epidemic was caused by the intentional use of cytoplasmic male sterility genes, which also unknowingly created susceptibility to a disease.

In the summer of 1970, Southern Corn Leaf Blight, caused by a type of fungus, Bipolaris maydis, wiped out a billion dollars’ worth of corn in the United States. Seeking to reduce the labor involved with hybrid corn seed production, seed companies used the trait for cytoplasmic male sterility. This eliminated the need for hand detasseling of female plants so that foreign pollen could more easily be introduced to create hybrids.

The disease resulted in the loss of 250 million bushels of corn in Illinois alone that year, clearly demonstrating the threat to food security from genetic uniformity and monoculture farming practices.

There are numerous examples of plant epidemics triggered by a lack of genetic diversity in the field, including Stem Rust of Wheat, which contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire, and Late Blight of Potato, which caused the death or emigration of 2 million people from Ireland.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just a story of our past. Biotech seed companies count on farmers to be lured by their latest high yielding varieties as American tax payers foot the bill in the form of subsidies and federal crop insurance when disease inevitably strikes the thousands of acres planted with genetically related seed.

Genetic uniformity lends itself well to industrial-scale, monoculture food production that depends heavily on mechanization, subsidies, and chemical inputs—and, more recently, patented, genetically engineered seed. These practices threaten our food security and the health of farm workers, and leave chemical residues on our food and in our environment.

In recent years, the lack of genetic diversity has continued to contribute to widespread epidemics. Genetic uniformity can be linked to the top ten emerging plant diseases and is likely the cause of Goss’s Wilt, a new disease of corn, as reported in the New York Times in 2013. In addition, 90% of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are genetically engineered. The hybrids chosen for genetic modification come from a small gene pool of high yielding varieties and are planted in vast monocultures across the globe. The combination of large acreages planted to identical or similar genotypes produce ideal conditions for severe epidemics.

It is imperative to do all we can to shift to a more sustainable model of agriculture. Citizens have a social responsibility to challenge policies that allow for the patenting of life. We need to support public sector breeding programs, seed banks, and public access to the genetic resources they preserve. If we can prevent genes from being patented, plant breeding research will largely return to the public sector and to the many smaller diverse seed companies. This will encourage the development of genetically diverse plant varieties adapted to local conditions and resilient to environmental changes.

This story originally appeared in The Cultivator, The Cornucopia Institute’s quarterly print publication available to members and online.

The post The Open Source Seed Initiative: Challenging the Corporate Control of Our Food System appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/open-source-seed-initiative-challenging-corporate-control-food-system/feed/ 0
What the Starbucks?! Tell Starbucks to Serve Only Organic Milk From Cows Not Fed GMOshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/starbucks-tell-starbucks-serve-organic-milk-cows-fed-gmos/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=starbucks-tell-starbucks-serve-organic-milk-cows-fed-gmos http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/starbucks-tell-starbucks-serve-organic-milk-cows-fed-gmos/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:52:10 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12892 GMOinside.org Green America’s campaign, GMOinside, launches a petition asking Starbucks to serve only certified organic milk. Sign here.   Starbucks. Easily one of the world’s most popular and widespread coffeehouse brands, Starbucks has paved the way for the modern mass coffeehouse industry with its promotion of its corporate social responsibility and consistently strong branding. One area of improvement? Starbucks dairy milk. While not genetically modified themselves, dairy products are not immune to the insidious impacts of

The post What the Starbucks?! Tell Starbucks to Serve Only Organic Milk From Cows Not Fed GMOs appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
GMOinside.org

Green America’s campaign, GMOinside, launches a petition asking Starbucks to serve only certified organic milk. Sign here.

starbucksGMOinside
 

Starbucks. Easily one of the world’s most popular and widespread coffeehouse brands, Starbucks has paved the way for the modern mass coffeehouse industry with its promotion of its corporate social responsibility and consistently strong branding.

One area of improvement? Starbucks dairy milk.

While not genetically modified themselves, dairy products are not immune to the insidious impacts of GMOs. Cows living in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are fed a grain diet comprised almost entirely of genetically modified corn, soy, alfalfa, and cotton seed. These crops degrade the quality of our land and water, perpetuate corporate-controlled agriculture, and have potentially negative health impacts on livestock. Additionally, the overuse of antibiotics in industrialized farming is contributing to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, putting us all at risk.

With biotech giants Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and Syngenta lending power to industrialized agriculture, the future of our food system rests in the hands of profit-driven corporations, while people and the planet come last on the list of priorities.

Starbucks boasts nearly 20,000 retail stores in over 60 countries. With its global presence, Starbucks must prove its true dedication to sustainability and provide organic dairy milk at all of its locations to support a sustainable future for all.

Starbucks is already a leader in the coffee shop industry by serving rBGH-free dairy and using only USDA-certified organic soy milk. By setting the same organic standard for dairy milk, Starbucks can demonstrate a serious commitment to providing environmentally and socially conscious products.

Ask Starbucks to step up to the plate and commit to serving organic dairy milk at all of its locations by signing here.

The post What the Starbucks?! Tell Starbucks to Serve Only Organic Milk From Cows Not Fed GMOs appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/starbucks-tell-starbucks-serve-organic-milk-cows-fed-gmos/feed/ 0
Budding Organic/Specialty Meat Processor Shutdown in Conflict with Former Farming Town (Now Madison, WI Bedroom Community)http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/budding-organicspecialty-meat-processor-shutdown-conflict-former-farming-town-now-madison-wi-bedroom-community/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=budding-organicspecialty-meat-processor-shutdown-conflict-former-farming-town-now-madison-wi-bedroom-community http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/budding-organicspecialty-meat-processor-shutdown-conflict-former-farming-town-now-madison-wi-bedroom-community/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:02:42 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12887 Family-Scale Farmers, Consumers and Retailers Impacted Across State The Sauk Prairie Eagle by Rob Schultz A dispute between Black Earth Meats and village of Black Earth officials that appears destined for a courtroom has forced the popular organic meat processing facility to close, its owner said Tuesday. Black Earth Meats expects to close by the end of July after it lost its loan with the Bank of New Glarus following the Village Board’s decision last

The post Budding Organic/Specialty Meat Processor Shutdown in Conflict with Former Farming Town (Now Madison, WI Bedroom Community) appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
Family-Scale Farmers, Consumers and Retailers Impacted Across State

The Sauk Prairie Eagle
by Rob Schultz

black earth meatsA dispute between Black Earth Meats and village of Black Earth officials that appears destined for a courtroom has forced the popular organic meat processing facility to close, its owner said Tuesday.

Black Earth Meats expects to close by the end of July after it lost its loan with the Bank of New Glarus following the Village Board’s decision last month to pursue legal action to stop the company’s operations at its present site rather than work with it to find a new facility site, owner Bartlett Durand said.

“This is a tragedy,” Durand said he told his employees.

The board made its decision after the growing company outlined four possible options to move the slaughter facility out of town as ordered by the board last December, Durand said. The facility had been labeled a public nuisance.

“We came with four plans to discuss with them and they just said they would prefer litigation,” Durand added. “I told them if they did that we’d lose the note and they did it anyway, and we lost the note.”

Durand and Black Earth Meats Market, LLC, filed a suit against the village and its officers on July 2, seeking $5.3 million in damages from what it said were improper allegations that led to loss of revenue as well as an improper proposal to take the property without just compensation.

Durand said 22 employees will lose jobs and many others will be affected by the company’s closing. “I’m crying right now because I just finished talking with my employees. I’m struggling a little bit,” he added.

Black Earth Meats is the only small organic meat processing facility in the state, and it created a niche with its focus on local grassfed and organic meats and humane handling of animals. It became so popular that it opened a retail butcher shop in Madison called the Conscious Carnivore. Durand said the shop, located on University Avenue, will remain open.

In a statement he read to his employees, Durand said the closing also “affects over 100 restaurants, retailers, and farmer’s market purveyors. … It affects the thousands of customers who rely on us for good meat. And it affects the development of a local food infrastructure and small-scale processing.”

But Village President Patrick Troge said in May that Black Earth Meats had grown too big for its facility and it was disrupting village services and creating problems for neighbors, including a school. An overflow of animal waste and byproducts created problems at the wastewater treatment plant that serves Black Earth and other communities , Troge said. Also, neighbors complained about odors, garbage and truck traffic on residential streets, he added.

Last December, the Village Board told Black Earth Meats that it had 120 days to present the board with a plan to move its slaughter operation outside the village or face litigation. In April, the company asked for an extension after they both agreed to hire an economic development group to find potential options , Durand said.

Economic Development Partners, of Verona, was then hired with a $4,000 partnership grant from Alliant Energy, and its proposals were presented to the board, Durand said. The company asked the board to reaffirm its right to conduct slaughter on the premises to avoid losing its loan. “Instead, the village passed a motion directing its attorney to pursue legal action against the company to stop all nuisance activities,” Durand said.

Village board member Patrick Frey declined to comment Tuesday. No other village officials, could be reached for comment.

Durand said he told his employees: “I am devastated that seven years of work building up a local meats infrastructure is destroyed with this unthinkable act by the Village Board.”

The post Budding Organic/Specialty Meat Processor Shutdown in Conflict with Former Farming Town (Now Madison, WI Bedroom Community) appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/budding-organicspecialty-meat-processor-shutdown-conflict-former-farming-town-now-madison-wi-bedroom-community/feed/ 0
Leaked Document Reveals US-EU Trade Agreement Threatens Public Health, Food Safetyhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/leaked-document-reveals-us-eu-trade-agreement-threatens-public-health-food-safety/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=leaked-document-reveals-us-eu-trade-agreement-threatens-public-health-food-safety http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/leaked-document-reveals-us-eu-trade-agreement-threatens-public-health-food-safety/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 18:05:13 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12883 Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) WASHINGTON D.C. – A draft chapter of the U.S-EU trade agreement leaked today by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) reveals public health and food safety could be at risk, according to an accompanying analysis. The leaked chapter concerns Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues—those surrounding food safety and animal and plant health—in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated. Only TTIP negotiators and

The post Leaked Document Reveals US-EU Trade Agreement Threatens Public Health, Food Safety appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)

iatp.logoWASHINGTON D.C. – A draft chapter of the U.S-EU trade agreement leaked today by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) reveals public health and food safety could be at risk, according to an accompanying analysis. The leaked chapter concerns Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues—those surrounding food safety and animal and plant health—in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated. Only TTIP negotiators and security cleared advisors, mostly corporate representatives, can read and comment on draft negotiating texts.

According to the IATP analysis accompanying release of the leaked document, “This leaked draft TTIP chapter doesn’t tell us everything about where negotiations are headed on food safety, but it tells us enough to raise serious concerns.”

While key details have not been disclosed to the public or remain to be negotiated, the chapter clearly indicates negotiators continue to subordinate SPS regulations to the object of maximizing trade. The text, for example, supports the U.S. approach to not require port of entry food inspections and testing, meaning food contamination outbreaks will be harder to trace to their origin, and liability harder to assess—a win for U.S. meat and food companies that could jeopardize food safety for consumers. Further, the text indicates the trade agreement could make it more difficult to restrict imports from countries with animal or plant diseases, such as Mad Cow Disease or plant fungus outbreaks.

The leaked chapter does acknowledge animal welfare but lacks enforceable language, meaning a U.S. state or EU member state could pass mandatory laws or rules on agriculture animal welfare, but such mandatory measures could not be used to prevent import of products from abused animals. Alternatively, unenforceable trade policy could further the misguided “Right to Farm” legislation under consideration in several states.

“While many key details regarding things like GMOs are still hidden, it’s clear public health is losing out to corporate interests in a big way,” said IATP’s Dr. Steve Suppan, author of the analysis. “Moreover, it’s an affront to democracy that the public need rely on leaked documents to find out how these agreements could affect health and safety.”

The draft chapter would set up a Joint Management Committee to discuss concerns about U.S. and EU SPS regulations. But the draft provides very little information about how this committee or the yet to be negotiated TTIP Oversight Body, to which the Committee reports, would function if discussions did not resolve concerns about the effect of regulations on trade. It is not clear whether the Oversight Body would refer unresolved SPS concerns to the proposed and very controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism. The ISDS would have a private tribunal of trade lawyers, not a public court of law, decide whether U.S. or EU SPS rules, laws or enforcement measures violated TTIP. If the tribunal decided in favor of the complaining investor, the tribunal would determine the compensation that the EU member state or U.S. governments would have to pay investors for loss of anticipated benefits under TTIP.

Read the IATP analysis and the complete leaked chapter text for more information.

The post Leaked Document Reveals US-EU Trade Agreement Threatens Public Health, Food Safety appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/leaked-document-reveals-us-eu-trade-agreement-threatens-public-health-food-safety/feed/ 0
‘Organic’ Disappears From Some Menushttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/organic-disappears-menus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=organic-disappears-menus http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/organic-disappears-menus/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:45:48 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12873 Market research shows organic claims have dropped on restaurant menus, which may reflect the profusion of other claims in the food industry. ‘Green noise’ confuses consumers, research finds Capital Press By Mateusz Perkowski Credit: Zigzag240 Restaurateurs are reducing organic claims on their menus in favor of claims related to geography, allergens and other features, according to market research. The term “organic” remains the top ethical claim on restaurant menus but its usage has dropped 28

The post ‘Organic’ Disappears From Some Menus appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
Market research shows organic claims have dropped on restaurant menus, which may reflect the profusion of other claims in the food industry.

‘Green noise’ confuses consumers, research finds

Capital Press
By Mateusz Perkowski

Credit: Zigzag240

Restaurateurs are reducing organic claims on their menus in favor of claims related to geography, allergens and other features, according to market research.

The term “organic” remains the top ethical claim on restaurant menus but its usage has dropped 28 percent between 2010 and 2013, according to the Mintel market research firm.

Meanwhile, menus are more likely to contain claims like “gluten-free” that provide nutritional information or details about where products were grown, according to Mintel.

Less specific terms like “original recipe,” “signature,” “farmstead” and “farm style” are also on the rise, the company said.

Experts say the trend probably reflects the broader profusion of claims in the food industry, which may confuse some consumers.

Roughly one-third of people surveyed by the Consumers Union believe that “organic” is basically the same as “natural,” even though the standards for organic labeling are much more stringent, said Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer safety and sustainability for the group.

“The market is flooded with self-proclaimed claims and consumers think they mean something,” said Rangan.

There are labels that involve third-party certification, which convey valid data about farming practices, but others are little more than a logo drawn up by the food manufacturer, she said.

“We’re seeing more and more credible labels, but we’re also seeing more uncredible labels,” Rangan said. “We have a lot of green noise in the marketplace.”

It’s troubling that consumers may believe alternate labels are basically equivalent to organic when they’re actually not, said Mark Kastel, co-founder of the Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog group.

Consumers may not realize that foods labeled as  “non-GMO” — referring to genetically modified organisms — can still be produced with pesticides and treated sewage, unlike organic goods, Kastel said.

In some cases, the “non-GMO” label is also misleading because the product is made with crops for which no biotech traits are available, he said. “You have people labeling non-GMO watermelon when there is no GMO to be concerned about.”

Despite the uptick in competing claims, Kastel does not believe that organic claims are declining in the overall food industry, which is experiencing growing sales of organic food.

“Organic is still a claim that has some global meaning,” he said.

While some consumers may be uncertain about the difference between organic claims and other labels, those who seek out organic goods probably understand they’re regulated by USDA, said Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director for the Organic Consumers Association.

“I’m not concerned that organic is being edged out of the marketplace by other claims,” she said.

The results of the Mintel restaurant survey, which showed a drop in organic claims on menus, may have been skewed by concerns about labeling rules, Baden-Mayer said.

Restaurateurs may be hesitant to use organic claims if they’re not certified organic as retailers, she said.

“Organic is more heavily regulated than any other claim,” she said.

The post ‘Organic’ Disappears From Some Menus appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/organic-disappears-menus/feed/ 0
Lack of Transparency Fuels Corruption Allegations in Organic Governancehttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/lack-transparency-fuels-corruption-allegations-organic-governance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lack-transparency-fuels-corruption-allegations-organic-governance http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/lack-transparency-fuels-corruption-allegations-organic-governance/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 21:15:37 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12869 USDA Asked to Make Public All Nominations to National Organic Standards Board  Industry Watchdog Releases List of Known NOSB Applicants The Cornucopia Institute has called upon USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to make public all candidates for appointment to fill the four vacancies on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).  The NOSB, a 15-member board of organic stakeholders representing farmer, consumer, environmental, retail, scientific, certifying and organic food processing interests, was established by Congress to advise

The post Lack of Transparency Fuels Corruption Allegations in Organic Governance appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

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

 Industry Watchdog Releases List of Known NOSB Applicants

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

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

“Transparency has been a hallmark of organic food and agriculture.  We think that letting the organic community know who has applied for the vacant positions will allow for feedback and help the Secretary make the best possible appointments,” said Cornucopia’s Will Fantle, the organic industry watchdog organization’s Codirector.  “Appointments have been made in the past of individuals who do not meet the legally mandated criteria for a seat on the NOSB.  Sunshine on the secretive process could have prevented such ill-advised moves,” added Fantle.

At least once in the 20-year history of the NOSB, during the Bush administration, the nomination process was public, but Secretary Vilsack has never followed that path.  The four NOSB vacancies up for appointment this year include an organic farmer, a retailer, an organic food handler (processor), and an environmentalist.  In addition to asking Secretary Vilsack to make the list of potential appointees public, Cornucopia has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the USDA seeking release of the candidate names.

The Cornucopia Institute reached out to members of the organic community asking for help identifying candidates and asking candidates themselves to step forward announcing their application to the NOSB.  The move has met with some success as Cornucopia has confirmed the identity of nine applicants who are seeking a seat on the NOSB.  These include:

  • Lisa de Lima, the Vice-President of Grocery for the retailer Mom’s Organic Market in the Washington, D.C. metro area
  • Rebecca Goodman, an organic dairy farmer from Wisconsin
  • Patrick Horan, an organic vegetable farmer from Connecticut
  • Alan Lewis, Director of Special Projects for the retailer Vitamin Cottage in Colorado
  • Cameron Molberg, an organic egg producer and feed mill operator from Texas
  • Sarah Manski, owner of PosiAir, an online green business services company, in California
  • Phyllis Haanan, an organic elderberry grower from Missouri
  • Colin Archipley, an organic hydroponic farmer from California
  • Scott Silverman, the Executive Director of Natural and Organic Product at KeHE Distributors in Colorado

“We think that this list of applicants likely does not include all who have applied for the vacancies on the NOSB,” said Fantle.   “We would encourage anyone else who does not appear on this list of known applicants to contact us and let us share their name with the public as well.  This will hopefully lead to the appointment of high-quality, informed and energetic individuals who are legally qualified to hold these positions of public trust.”

Cornucopia encourages any organic stakeholder who knows of a potential NOSB nominee, even if their knowledge is in the rumor-state, to inform the organization, confidentially, and Cornucopia will confirm the veracity of the information, as was done with the names above.

“We hope that by making the names of these candidates public, some of whom are eminently qualified to sit on the NOSB, it will be harder for Secretary Vilsack to ignore the intent of Congress by stacking the NOSB with additional agribusiness-friendly representatives,” said Helen Kees, a third generation certified organic farmer, and Cornucopia’s Board President.

The post Lack of Transparency Fuels Corruption Allegations in Organic Governance appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/lack-transparency-fuels-corruption-allegations-organic-governance/feed/ 0
Organic Seed Surveyhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/organic-seed-survey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=organic-seed-survey http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/organic-seed-survey/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:42:50 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12865 National Organic Coalition Credit: KoS The National Organic Coalition (NOC) encourages your participation in a national seed survey conducted by Organic Seed Alliance. This survey is conducted every five years to monitor organic seed availability and use, challenges in sourcing organic seed, and organic plant breeding needs, among other topics that inform the organic community’s understanding of the barriers and opportunities in improving organic seed systems in the U.S. If you are a certified organic crop producer, please

The post Organic Seed Survey appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
National Organic Coalition

Credit: KoS

The National Organic Coalition (NOC) encourages your participation in a national seed survey conducted by Organic Seed Alliance. This survey is conducted every five years to monitor organic seed availability and use, challenges in sourcing organic seed, and organic plant breeding needs, among other topics that inform the organic community’s understanding of the barriers and opportunities in improving organic seed systems in the U.S. If you are a certified organic crop producer, please take this survey.

Your responses are voluntary and will be held confidential by Organic Seed Alliance. NOC will not see your responses. Your responses will not be identified by individual or farm. All responses will be compiled and analyzed as a group. You can access the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QQ73TMW.

The post Organic Seed Survey appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/organic-seed-survey/feed/ 0
Walmarting Organics: Will the Growth of “Big Organic” Lower Food Quality, Weaken Standards, and Destroy Farmers’ Livelihoods?http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/walmarting-organics-will-growth-big-organic-lower-food-quality-weaken-standards-destroy-farmers-livelihoods/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=walmarting-organics-will-growth-big-organic-lower-food-quality-weaken-standards-destroy-farmers-livelihoods http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/walmarting-organics-will-growth-big-organic-lower-food-quality-weaken-standards-destroy-farmers-livelihoods/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 22:01:33 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=12859 Commentary by Mark Kastel As Yogi Berra said, “It seems like déjà vu all over again.” In 2006 The Cornucopia Institute released a report accusing Walmart of cheapening the value of the organic label by sourcing products from industrial-scale factory farms and developing countries, including China. At the time, Walmart announced that they would greatly increase the number of organic products they offered and price them at a target of 10% above the cost for

The post Walmarting Organics: Will the Growth of “Big Organic” Lower Food Quality, Weaken Standards, and Destroy Farmers’ Livelihoods? appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
Commentary by Mark Kastel

walmart low prices b&wAs Yogi Berra said, “It seems like déjà vu all over again.” In 2006 The Cornucopia Institute released a report accusing Walmart of cheapening the value of the organic label by sourcing products from industrial-scale factory farms and developing countries, including China.

At the time, Walmart announced that they would greatly increase the number of organic products they offered and price them at a target of 10% above the cost for conventional food. They failed miserably at that first attempt, eventually removing many of the organic items from their stores.

This past May, Walmart announced they will once again enter the organic arena, in earnest, with the goal of eliminating the premium price for organic food.

Since the announcement, Cornucopia has received numerous press inquiries asking if Walmart’s organic expansion is “good news or bad news” for the industry. My stock answer has been, as it was in 2006: If Walmart lends their logistical prowess to organic food, both farmers and consumers will be big winners by virtue of a more competitive marketplace. However, if the company applies their standard business model, and in essence Walmarts organics, then everyone will lose.

Organic family farmers in this country could see their livelihoods disintegrate the same way so many industrial workers saw their family-supporting wages evaporate as Walmart, Target and other big-box retailers put the screws to manufacturers—forcing a production shift to China and other low-wage countries.

Walmart became the nation’s largest organic milk retailer by partnering with the dairy giant Dean Foods/WhiteWave (Horizon Organic). They then introduced their own private-label organic milk packaged by Aurora Organic Dairy. Aurora, based in Boulder, Colorado, has faced a maelstrom of organic industry criticism and negative press for operating a number of industrial-scale dairies with thousands of cows confined in feedlot-like conditions. They were the subject of a USDA investigation that found the giant dairy had “willfully” violated 14 tenets of the federal organic standards.

This time around Walmart is keeping the sourcing of their organic products a secret by using a private-label supplier and marketing products under the Wild Oats brand, a former natural foods grocery chain briefly owned by Whole Foods before, in 2009, an antitrust rule forced it to divest its holdings (resulting in the eventual shutdown of the Wild Oats chain).

Walmart claims that each item in the line, to consist of about 100 packaged products including pasta, peanut butter, dried spices, and olive oil, will cost at least 25 percent less than other organic goods sold at their store, according to Consumer Reports.

I’ve always said that “private-label, store-brand organics” is an oxymoron. By its very nature the practice is secretive. Grocery chains want to pit supplier against supplier. They want the companies manufacturing their products to feel insecure knowing they could lose the business for a few pennies to a rival competitor. For that reason retailers don’t want their customers to become loyal to a specific brand-name supplier.

In contrast, most organic consumers are label readers. We want to know where our food is coming from, how it is produced and, if livestock are involved, how respectfully they are treated. None of that is possible with private-label products.

Target has taken a different approach. Although they have plenty of private-label brands (Archer Farms, Market Pantry, and Simply Balanced in their grocery aisles), they are also presenting a “curated” product line including many name brands owned by large agribusinesses that have invested in organics.

It should be noted that the product lines at Walmart and Target include both organic and conventional (“natural”) products under the same private-label brands.

Cornucopia’s 2006 report documenting the Walmart/factory-farm connection also highlighted the company’s decision to lower the per unit cost basis on organic products by collaborating with its long-time trading partner China.

Even if the organic certification process in China were not cause for serious concern—coupled with the fact that the USDA has provided little if any regulatory oversight there—food shipped around the world, burning fossil fuels and undercutting our domestic farmers, does not meet the consumer’s traditional definition of what is truly organic.

Meanwhile, Whole Foods Market announced that they are cutting many prices to meet increasing competition from mainstream retailers like Kroger, Safeway and now Walmart, and their stock plunged nearly 19% this past May.

“I don’t think consumers have any idea just how industrialized [mainstream organics] is becoming,” said best-selling food movement author Michael Pollan in an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “There are some real downsides to organic farming scaling up to this extent,” he added.

Both Pollan and I worry that the expansion of “Big Organic” will lower food quality, weaken standards and hurt small family farms.

There’s a reason that organic food costs more. It costs more to produce, and paying farmers a fair price has always been part of the deal. The claim that Walmart will be able to provide organic food that truly adheres to federal organic standards, without a premium price, seems questionable at best.

The last time Walmart rolled out organic foods on a large scale, The Cornucopia Institute caught them labeling “natural” food as organic. After an investigation by the USDA and making the commitment to take down fraudulent signage, the company was not prosecuted. Walmart obviously did not have the expertise, at the store level, to manage organics.

The gold standard in organic retailing remains the hundreds of member-owned food co-ops and independent natural foods grocery stores across the country. Many of them are like a farmers market seven days a week where you can also find reputable national brands. They also act as a portal for accessing the local food movement. Your community’s farmers market, or joining a CSA, can also provide your family with the highest quality organic food.

When Walmart and Target complete their product roll-out, you can be sure The Cornucopia Institute will publish a new report for our members, the public and the media. We will provide discussion and analysis as to whether these massive corporations have learned from their past failures relating to organics and are now offering a true competitive alternative in the marketplace.

This story originally appeared in The Cultivator, The Cornucopia Institute’s quarterly print publication available to members and online.

The post Walmarting Organics: Will the Growth of “Big Organic” Lower Food Quality, Weaken Standards, and Destroy Farmers’ Livelihoods? appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/walmarting-organics-will-growth-big-organic-lower-food-quality-weaken-standards-destroy-farmers-livelihoods/feed/ 0
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

The post Monsanto Visits Local School for 47 Minute Propaganda Presentation appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
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’.

The post Monsanto Visits Local School for 47 Minute Propaganda Presentation appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/monsanto-visits-local-school-47-minute-propaganda-presentation/feed/ 0
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

The post Don’t Repeat Mistakes That Led to Superweeds appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
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 glyphosate, 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 glyphosate 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.

The post Don’t Repeat Mistakes That Led to Superweeds appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.

]]>
http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/07/dont-repeat-mistakes-led-superweeds/feed/ 0