Cornucopia Institute http://www.cornucopia.org Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming Fri, 02 Oct 2015 00:13:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Are Your Children Roundup-Ready?http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/10/are-your-children-roundup-ready/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/10/are-your-children-roundup-ready/#comments Fri, 02 Oct 2015 00:13:47 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17799 Use of the Herbicide Glyphosate Has Skyrocketed Since the 1990s Source: ThinkStockPhotos.com For thousands of years, children ate the same food their parents ate when they were children. In the United States today, this is no longer the case. Most dramatically, the proliferation of the use of the herbicide glyphosate, made possible by genetically engineered (GE) foods, is subjecting our children to a large-scale science experiment. Children born today are repeatedly exposed to genetically engineered

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Use of the Herbicide Glyphosate Has Skyrocketed Since the 1990s

Source: ThinkStockPhotos.com

For thousands of years, children ate the same food their parents ate when they were children. In the United States today, this is no longer the case. Most dramatically, the proliferation of the use of the herbicide glyphosate, made possible by genetically engineered (GE) foods, is subjecting our children to a large-scale science experiment.

Children born today are repeatedly exposed to genetically engineered (GE) foods. GE crops include soybeans, corn, canola, alfalfa, and cotton, with wheat under development. GE ingredients find their way into many processed foods — unless they are certified organic. Beverages, candy, baked beans, and many other products are sweetened with corn syrup or sugar from GE sugar beets. Salad dressings, crackers, and chips are made with canola oil, corn oil, or soybean oil, and unless certified organic, all are likely GE.

Most of the corn grown in the U.S. today is genetically engineered for either insect resistance, herbicide resistance, or both. Children are most likely exposed to significant amounts of GE food when they eat corn-based dry cereals, like corn flakes or corn puffs, and snack foods that are corn-based.

Glyphosate was brought to market in the 1970s. Since then, its use has increased exponentially. Today, glyphosate is the active ingredient in the most heavily used herbicide in the world: Monsanto’s Roundup.

Children in the 1980s were exposed to only trace amounts of glyphosate because it could not be sprayed on a crop without killing it. That all changed with the advent of genetically engineered crops in the 1990s. By 2010,“Roundup-Ready” crops — plants designed to tolerate repeated applications of the herbicide  — had come to dominate conventional agriculture. Dangers from GE foods include both the unknown effects of novel DNA, as well as the known effects of high doses of herbicides.

Today, children are exposed to much higher amounts of glyphosate than their counterparts even a decade ago. Since the Roundup-Ready trait for glyphosate resistance is the most common GE trait, the spread of GE crops has caused an increase in the levels of glyphosate in food. Glyphosate may be applied several times to GE crops, each time being absorbed and stored in the tissues. The residues cannot be removed by washing, and they are not broken down by processing, such as freezing or drying. When humans or animals eat the herbicide-treated foods, they ingest the herbicide.

Feeding herbicide-tolerant GE corn and soy to children gives them a dose of glyphosate with every bite. Glyphosate is often portrayed by the manufacturers as safe for human exposure while being deadly to weeds. However, scientific research indicates that the herbicide is not as harmless as it has been portrayed. Rather, evidence shows that glyphosate may be the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions now prevalent in Westernized societies.

Scientists now know that glyphosate effects are long-term. These effects include interfering with fundamental biochemical reactions in the human GI tract, depleting essential amino acids, and predisposing us to obesity, depression, autism, inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

There is a great need for additional studies to verify the effects of glyphosate consumption over a human life span, in particular its effects on bacteria in the GI tract, especially when fed to young children.

As the number of herbicide-resistant crops increases, so too does the use of glyphosate use and its presence in our food and our environment. GE crops and the toxic agrichemicals used to grow them are expressly prohibited in organic production. Feeding your children organic foods is one sure way to minimize their exposure to glyphosate, avoiding harmful exposures that could potentially affect them for the rest of their lives.

Caption:

Nearly 90% of U.S. corn is treated with glyphosate. The typical American child’s diet includes dozens of corn-based processed foods.

Credit: ThinkstockPhotos.com

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Dirty Money, Dirty Sciencehttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/10/dirty-money-dirty-science/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/10/dirty-money-dirty-science/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 16:47:23 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17794 FoodTank by Doug Gurian-Sherman Source: Capt. Spaulding The biotech industry’s web of attempts to buy credibility, by laundering its messages through supposedly independent academic scientists, is unraveling and beginning to reveal the influence of huge amount of industry money on the independence of academic agricultural science. Some of this process was revealed recently in The New York Times. Many of these efforts to influence policy or public opinion start with industry staff emails, including suggested

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FoodTank
by Doug Gurian-Sherman

Source: Capt. Spaulding

The biotech industry’s web of attempts to buy credibility, by laundering its messages through supposedly independent academic scientists, is unraveling and beginning to reveal the influence of huge amount of industry money on the independence of academic agricultural science. Some of this process was revealed recently in The New York Times. Many of these efforts to influence policy or public opinion start with industry staff emails, including suggested topics, points, and themes, which are then laundered through the credibility of academic scientists. It is a matter of academic scientists promoting positions and arguments of the industry, not merely a sharing of positions that each party already held and were acting on.

The emails from several academic scientists linked in the NYT article show numerous instances of industry personnel, such as Eric Sachs of Monsanto, in ongoing dialogue with academic scientists, including strategizing about how to influence policy and how academic scientists can carry out industry desires.

A deeper dive into the emails coming forward through this article and from U.S. Right to Know public disclosure efforts shows a broader and more troubling picture of influence peddling in the agricultural sciences.

The overriding issue is the huge amount of money from the biotech and industrial agriculture industries pouring into public universities, and the corrosive effect all that money is having on the independence of science. Evidence suggests that biotech industry influence is a pervasive problem, corrupting science and distorting public discussion. It extends much farther than the specific examples provided by the New York Times article. As with the climate change debate, where a powerful fossil fuel industry is slowing response to an environmental and social disaster, the biotech industry and industrial agriculture more broadly is delaying choices that would move us toward an urgently needed sustainable and just food and agriculture system.

The emails linked to the New York Times article also reveals some of the many other academic scientists, who have vocally supported biotech or panned biotech critics, were copied on industry emails. We should not implicate scientists in greenwashing or collusion with the biotech industry simply for being copied on emails, or even some communication with companies. It is not clear from these emails whether those other scientists have also engaged in collaboration with the industry, or accepted industry money. But the efforts of many of these scientists to vigorously defend biotechnology or even attack critics have been documented elsewhere.

There is no reason to think this money buys less influence in academia than the widely recognized corrupting influence that money has on politics. Unlike academic science though, no one has illusions that our political process is objective. The perceived objectivity of academic scientists presents a huge opportunity for the biotech industry to influence public opinion in ways it could not accomplish otherwise.

A Tangled Web

Since the NYT article was published, several of these scientists have doubled down, saying that they have been proud to serve a cause they believe in. And I have no reason to doubt their sincerity. These scientists are effective in their spokesperson roles in part because of their backgrounds in molecular biology, the deep interest in which preceded their involvement with the ag biotech industry.

But this misses the point, which is that the collaboration with industry, its public relations machines, such as Ketchum, and access to industry dollars, allows these scientists to amplify their voices with the journalists and the media, the public, and policymakers way beyond what could otherwise occur.

As one small example, Bruce Chassy, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois, bemoans the challenges of flying economy class (all he can afford, he says) to participate as an invited speaker at a biotech conference in New Delhi. He strongly implies he would not endure such tribulations, and would skip the meeting without industry support. In an August 29, 2011 email to Eric Sachs of Monsanto, he suggests that the ag industry trade group CropLife, of which Monsanto and other biotech companies are members, pay his way (Chassy was listed as a speaker at the event). In a separate email, Monsanto’s Sachs also suggests to Chassy that he participate in an American Medical Association meeting to try to dissuade the AMA from supporting mandatory labeling of GE foods.

That academic scientists recognize the value of their perceived independence is suggested in an email from University of Florida Scientist Kevin Folta to Monsanto’s Keith Reding, Regulatory Policy Lead, on April 17, 2013: “keep me in mind if you ever need a good public interface with no corporate ties. That knows the subject inside out and can think on his feet [emphasis added].”

In another example from the NYT article, Dow reminds David Shaw, a Mississippi State University weed scientist, of its generosity. And an email to Shaw on Jan 17, 2012 from John Jachetta, Government affairs leader at Dow AgroSciences, urges Shaw to submit comments to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to approve Dow’s Enlist soybeans, and provides three pages of helpful suggestions about topics and arguments. The Enlist crops are resistant to glyphosate and 2,4-D herbicides, and are the industry’s response to the epidemic of glyphosate resistant weeds caused by the first generation of glyphosate resistant crops. This strategy has been criticized as futile and one that will lead to greatly increased herbicide use and more herbicide resistance.

In a February 20, 2012 email from Shaw back to Jachetta, Shaw supplies his draft comments and asks for feedback from Dow.

In several emails in the spring of 2013, John Sorteres of Monsanto coordinates activities with both Shaw and, apparently, Prof. Mike Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University, on how to counter public comments to APHIS that argue against approval of Monsanto’s dicamba resistant crops, including detailed arguments and analyses. Dicamba is an herbicide similar to 2,4-D.

An August 30, 2013 email from Mississippi State acknowledges unrestricted gifts from Monsanto to Dr. Shaw and four other faculty members.

I go to some length to describe these interactions because, in addition to their collaboration with the biotech industry, both Shaw and Owens were on the steering committee of the so-called second “weed summit,” held in the spring of 2012, and sponsored by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. The summit was called to address the crisis in weed control caused by glyphosate herbicide resistant weeds that arose from the use of genetically engineered herbicide resistant crops.

Dr. Shaw contacted the Union of Concerned Scientists, where I was formerly a senior scientist, for input into the meeting. One of our highest priority recommendations was that Penn State University weed scientist David Mortensen be included as a speaker and participant at the meeting.

Mortensen’s research focuses on ecologically-based weed control, and he has been a critic of the reliance on herbicide resistant crops that characterize current weed control in corn and soybeans in the US. He is also one of the best-versed scientists on ecological practices as alternatives to herbicide resistant crops and over-reliance on herbicides. Our request to include Mortensen was not accepted. As a consequence, the critique of the failing herbicide resistant crop strategy at the weed summit, and support for feasible non-herbicide, ecologically-based alternatives, was weakened to the point of ineffectiveness.

Since that time, the USDA has unconditionally approved these new GE crops, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (U.S. EPA) stewardship plan does not require any alternatives to the use of herbicides on these crops. Serious efforts to implement agroecological alternatives to GE herbicide resistant crops would be a threat to the industry’s bottom line, because these approaches require much lower use of herbicides and expensive herbicide resistant seeds.

While not proof of collusion between the industry and academics, it is part of a bigger pattern of exclusion and intimidation that has been linked to industry influence.

Greatly Increased Flow of “Big Ag” Money is Going to Universities

Even a quick internet search shows numerous “generous” donations from Monsanto to universities, such US$1 million from Monsanto to Iowa State University for the “Monsanto Student Services Wing,” in 2012, Monsanto Student Travel awards, or US$1 million for a community center at the University of Missouri in 2012, among many examples of industry funding of academia.

If these were isolated situations, their overall impact on academic independence and integrity might be negligible. But that is far from the case. The particular situations detailed in the NYT article are undoubtedly the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Since the beginnings of the assault on government funding for public institutions in the 1980s, public, independent, and research funding of agriculture science has stagnated or fallen. Meanwhile, private sector funding, previously a minority of research dollars, is now the majority. This was documented in the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on agricultural preparedness and research, in late 2012. PCAST noted that 61 percent of research funding is from the private sector, with 11 percent of that, or about US$957 million, going to universities and other state institutions. And this does not include millions of dollars in gifts for non-research purposes, such as student centers.

It was also revealing, as I noted at the time, that the PCAST report seems to consider private sector funding only as a positive, calling it by the favorable and innocuous sounding term, “Public-Private Partnerships,” with virtually no caution about the possible cost to scientific independence that may accompany these funds.  But when we examine the participants or advisors for this report, we find it replete with biotech industry representation.

Some of the many connections, and millions of dollars provided by the ag industry to academia, was also documented in the 2012 Food and Water Watch report, “Public Research Private Gain.”  It would stretch credulity to suggest that the biotech industry would provide these funds without the expectation of quid pro quos. And the emails revealed by the NYT strongly suggest this.

The organic industry is also implicated by the New York Times article. And of course, influence from the private sector can come from any industry.

However, as the New York Times article notes, the research contributions of the organics industry is miniscule compared to those of the biotech and industrial ag industries. Unfortunately, the extensive highlighting of Charles Benbrook, who performs research on organics supported by the industry, gives the appearance of an equivalence between biotech and organic that isn’t credible. This comparison, in practical terms, is a distraction from the real world issue, which is the corruption of independent agricultural science by biotech, and more broadly, industrial agriculture industries.

​Part one of a two part series on the influence of money in agricultural research.

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Lithuania Bans GM Crops as Biotech Industry Loses More Groundhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/lithuania-bans-gm-crops-as-biotech-industry-loses-more-ground/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/lithuania-bans-gm-crops-as-biotech-industry-loses-more-ground/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 00:39:33 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17788 Sustainable Pulse Source: Artiom P Lithuanian Agriculture Minister, Virginija Baltraitienė, announced last week that the Baltic country has demanded an EU opt-out regarding the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops. Baltraitienė stated; “So far we are not ready. We have to choose whether to promote organic production, or allow GMOs. Our strategy is to increase the number of clean, high-quality products.” Commercial GM crop cultivation has never been allowed in Lithuania, and the majority of previous Biotech

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Sustainable Pulse

Source: Artiom P

Lithuanian Agriculture Minister, Virginija Baltraitienė, announced last week that the Baltic country has demanded an EU opt-out regarding the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops.

Baltraitienė stated; “So far we are not ready. We have to choose whether to promote organic production, or allow GMOs. Our strategy is to increase the number of clean, high-quality products.”

Commercial GM crop cultivation has never been allowed in Lithuania, and the majority of previous Biotech company requests for trials for GM maize, GM oilseed rape and GM potatoes in the country were not given permits by the Environment Ministry, however the official opt-out has strengthened Lithuania’s position on this issue even further.

The Director of the Agricultural Production and Food Department at Lithuania’s Ministry of Agriculture, Rimantas Krasuckis, simply stated that GM crops are “not proven”.

On Monday, Northern Ireland also joined the massive wave of EU countries that have decided to ban the cultivation of GM crops under new EU regulations that were passed earlier in 2015.

Northern Ireland and Lithuania have followed France, who announced their decision last week, and also Greece and Latvia in asking for an opt-out from growing GM crops. Germany and Scotland have also made it clear that they will follow the same path.

German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt informed German states in August of his intention to use a new EU law, passed in March, to ban the use of GM crops. This followed the Scottish Government’s announcement earlier in the same month that they will take similar action to protect Scotland’s clean, green status.

The German announcement also came as Professor Carlo Leifert, Professor of Ecological Agriculture at Newcastle University, said that he strongly believes the Scottish Government ban on GM crops is right and that “there are likely to be significant commercial benefits from Scotland being clearly recognized as a GM-free region”.

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Member Abruptly Resigns from Key Federal Organic Advisory Panelhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/member-abruptly-resigns-from-key-federal-organic-advisory-panel/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/member-abruptly-resigns-from-key-federal-organic-advisory-panel/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 17:20:15 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17822 USDA Seeking Replacement for National Organic Standards Board Cornucopia, WI: One of the newest members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has resigned from the 15-member advisory body to the USDA. Paula Daniels left the board eight months into her five-year term after participating in just one board meeting. Daniels, from Los Angeles, occupied one of three NOSB seats reserved for environmentalists and/or resource conservationists. Daniels, an attorney, cited changing work commitments for her

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USDA Seeking Replacement for National Organic Standards Board

usda logoCornucopia, WI: One of the newest members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has resigned from the 15-member advisory body to the USDA. Paula Daniels left the board eight months into her five-year term after participating in just one board meeting. Daniels, from Los Angeles, occupied one of three NOSB seats reserved for environmentalists and/or resource conservationists.

Daniels, an attorney, cited changing work commitments for her decision to leave the board.

“NOSB members take on a considerable workload commitment over the course of their five-year terms,” said Will Fantle, the Codirector of the Wisconsin-based organic watchdog The Cornucopia Institute. “Perhaps Daniels, who had never been to an NOSB meeting prior to her appointment, was a little surprised at the size of the task.”

In addition to needing a replacement for Daniels, USDA is currently in the process of selecting five new board members to replace the individuals whose terms expire at the end of 2015.

On numerous occasions Cornucopia has formally asked USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to make the NOSB appointment process transparent, and share with the organic food and agriculture community the names of individuals applying for the board. Although this had occurred during a prior presidential administration, Vilsack has never made the applicants’ names public prior to announcing new board members.

“We contend that knowledgeable stakeholders would welcome the opportunity to provide the Secretary with input to help him select the best and brightest individuals with a history of involvement with organics for this important board,” Fantle explained.

To fill the new vacancy on the NOSB, for an environmental/resource conservation representative, the USDA just published details on the appointment process in the Federal Register. Interested individuals can find the application information at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/09/30/2015-24800/national-organic-standards-board-nosb-call-for-nominations. Applications must be received within 30 days.

The NOSB, created by Congress with passage of the landmark 1990 Organic Foods Production Act, acts as an advisor to the USDA Secretary on organic policy and has statutory authority to determine what synthetic materials may be allowed for restricted use in organic food and agriculture.

The USDA’s oversight of the rapidly growing $39 billion organic sector has lately come under fire. Cornucopia and 13 other organic stakeholders are suing the agency for unilateral changes imposed by regulators that weaken the powers and authority of the NOSB. In a separate case, the agency is being sued for its determination that synthetic pesticide contaminants may be allowed in organic compost.

Recently, Cornucopia called upon Vilsack to remove current leadership at the National Organic Program due to substandard enforcement of the organic regulations and alleged unethical activities and behavior.

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For the First Time, U.S. Considers Declaring a Bee Endangeredhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/for-the-first-time-u-s-considers-declaring-a-bee-endangered/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/for-the-first-time-u-s-considers-declaring-a-bee-endangered/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 16:28:52 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17781 TakePart by John R. Platt Rusty-Patched Bumblebee Source: Dan Mullen The imperiled rusty-patched bumblebee, which pollinates blueberries, apples, and other crops, has disappeared from 87 percent of its historic range. If the rusty-patched bumblebee is extremely lucky, it could soon be the first bee species to be protected under the United States Endangered Species Act. The rusty-patched bumblebee has not been very lucky at all in recent years. The insect, which was once common to

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TakePart
by John R. Platt

Rusty-Patched Bumblebee
Source: Dan Mullen

The imperiled rusty-patched bumblebee, which pollinates blueberries, apples, and other crops, has disappeared from 87 percent of its historic range.

If the rusty-patched bumblebee is extremely lucky, it could soon be the first bee species to be protected under the United States Endangered Species Act.

The rusty-patched bumblebee has not been very lucky at all in recent years. The insect, which was once common to the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest, has disappeared from 87 percent of its historic range. Even where it does exist, its populations are as much as 95 percent smaller than they were a few decades ago.

In response to this rapid decline, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in January 2013 petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the rusty-patched bumblebee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. After no action was taken, the group followed up with a lawsuit in 2014. Last week the FWS finally responded and agreed that the species may merit protection. The agency will conduct a 12-month review to determine if an Endangered Species Act listing is warranted.

No other bees or bumblebees are listed under the Endangered Species Act, and the move comes amid growing concern about the decline of honeybees, which pollinate a third of the world’s food supply.

“This is a pretty big deal, even though this is just the first step in the listing process,” said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species program director for the Xerces Society, who cowrote the initial petition. Listing the species could not only help preserve it, she said, but also help the many plants that it has historically pollinated, including wildflowers and commercial crops such as blueberries, cranberries, apples, and alfalfa.

As with other disappearing bees, the rusty-patched bumblebee’s decline seems to stem from a complex mix of threats, including habitat loss, pesticides, climate change, parasites, and diseases. One of the greatest threats—and probably the biggest reason for this species’ decline, according to Jepsen—is the transmission of diseases to wild populations from commercially managed bumblebees, which are trucked around the country to pollinate farms.

“The research that has been done shows that in many cases managed bumblebees are full of a variety of pathogens that are harmful to wild bumblebees,” Jepsen said, “but we’re still trucking managed bumblebees all over the country. There really are no standards to ensure that they are free of diseases before they’re moved around.”

The Xerces Society and other environmental groups petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2010 to regulate the movement of commercial bumblebees. No action on that front has been taken.

FWS’ decision to consider listing the rusty-patched bumblebee comes five years after Canada officially protected the species—a move that may have been too late, said bumblebee expert Sheila Colla, assistant professor with York University in Toronto. She pointed out that in the 1970s and 1980s, the rusty-patched bumblebee was the fourth-most-common bumblebee species in Canada. It has since only been found at a single site, once in 2005 and again in 2009.

Despite the possible disappearance from Canada, Colla said the attempts to protect it there were not fruitless. Listing the species freed up funding to conduct surveys, which have occurred annually since 2004. “It also put other species on the radar, as we now know we have to detect losses earlier in the trajectory to be able to conserve a species,” she said.

As for the rusty-patched bumblebees in the U.S., Jepsen said immediate action is a priority.

Will this month’s actions be enough to turn the rusty-patched bumblebee’s luck around? Only time will tell.

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Is the Organic Label Worth Saving?http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/is-the-organic-label-worth-saving/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/is-the-organic-label-worth-saving/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 00:20:42 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17777 by Mark Kastel Big Food/USDA Collusion Undermines the Seal, but the Fight Continues Cornucopia board president Helen Kees and her family operate Wheatfield Hill Organics, a fifth- generation, diversified farm in west-central Wisconsin. She was one of the state’s first certified organic beef producers. We are getting more correspondence from our farmer-members, and consumers, asking whether it’s time to give up the fight to save the integrity of the organic label from corporate plunderers and their all-too-accommodating federal

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by Mark Kastel

Big Food/USDA Collusion Undermines the Seal, but the Fight Continues

Cornucopia board president Helen
Kees and her family operate
Wheatfield Hill Organics, a fifth-
generation, diversified farm in
west-central Wisconsin. She was
one of the state’s first certified
organic beef producers.

We are getting more correspondence from our farmer-members, and consumers, asking whether it’s time to give up the fight to save the integrity of the organic label from corporate plunderers and their all-too-accommodating federal regulators. Many suggest that it’s time to create an alternative label and/or an alternative certification system.

My standard reply to this suggestion is: “Too many good people have worked too hard, for too many years, to grow organics into a marketplace force with real economic value (now $40 billion/year) to hand over the label to a pack of corporadoes out to make a quick buck.”

Although many people around the country have access to local food that is produced under organic management, most citizens still need a reliable retail alternative to the dominant, toxic agricultural paradigm  that is conventional food.

We thought that the USDA organic seal would equate to a Cliff Notes version of ethical food research. Sadly, it’s just not good enough anymore. The USDA has sat back and greased the skids for corporate agribusiness to redefine what organic farming means.

That’s why Cornucopia has created several in-depth reports and associated scorecards rating the ethical approach brands take to creating organic dairy products, eggs, soy foods, breakfast cereal, yogurt, and more. In a few weeks we will release a major update to our Scrambled Eggs report and scorecard.

We are also in the process of creating similar resources investigating meat chickens and organic beef. These reports will distinguish between the brands that depend on family farmers, whose animals are respected and live rich lives, and those that source from factory farms and imports.

The scorecards should not be necessary. You and I are already paying taxes for the USDA to assure, as charged by Congress, that it will protect the organic marketplace for ethical farmers, and the processors they partner with, and the authenticity of organic food for consumers. It shouldn’t take the tireless work of a public charity, The Cornucopia Institute, and the thousands of members who financially support the organization, to get the job done.

But that’s not the case today. The USDA needs to step up and do their job!

If we succeed in our efforts to turn around the USDA, the scorecards will change. Instead of a 1-5 scale, there will only be the top two tiers: certified organic, complying with the minimum requirements of the law, and the heroes in this industry that are going “beyond organic.”

In the meantime, we have been asked to create an alternative certification, or certification on top of the USDA credentials. But if we did so, Cornucopia would run into the same inherent conflict of interest that current certifiers have. The farms and processors pay the certifiers for their blessing—and the larger the factory farm or business, the bigger the payday for the certifier.

Today organics has become a bifurcated industry. On one side you’ve got certified organic farmers who attend farmers markets, run CSAs, and sell directly to co-ops and other local stores. They are joined by a handful of ethical companies, some of them very large, like Nature’s Path, North America’s largest organic cereal manufacturer; Eden Foods, a diversified organic food company; Nutiva, maker of organic “superfoods”; and Dr. Bronner’s (don’t drink their soap, but it is made with certified organic oil).

These large companies, still controlled by the founding families, are truly walking their talk, proving that you can sell 100 million dollars’ worth of products and not betray your values.

On the other end of the spectrum are large agribusinesses that primarily sell conventional food, that have invested in organic brands (see Dr. Phil Howard’s Who Owns Organics infographic at cornucopia.org). They are either betraying organic consumer goodwill, sourcing from giant factory farms or dubious imports from China and elsewhere, or they are operating in secrecy, with the blessing of the USDA, and we just don’t know the true pedigree of their food.

The organic farmers who comply with the spirit and the letter of the law, and their high-integrity certifiers, are doing so because they are honest and ethical—not because there’s a high likelihood of the USDA sniffing out improprieties. The majority of organic farmers, the smaller family-scale operations, really do believe in the mission.

Who owns the organic label anyway? We all do. Large and small farmers, large and small businesses, and especially customers, who are willing to pay a premium for food produced to a different ethical standard.

In this world of massive corporate corruption, where government regulators have been “bought and sold” (think FDA oversight of Big Pharma or USDA assurance of GMO safety), why should organics be any different? Because we said so!

Congress enacted a damn good law in the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. It set up the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) as a multi-stakeholder independent body to advise the Secretary of Agriculture and create a buffer between corporate lobbyists and the regulators. That law has been grossly disrespected and violated under Democratic and Republican administrations, but it has never been more undermined than it is right now.

So, stay tuned. If we need to shift gears, you will be the first to know. In the meantime, we are going to continue to fight like hell, in Washington, in the federal courts, and in the court of public opinion, to save the organic label. After 30 years of a loving farmer/consumer partnership in building this viable marketplace alternative, it’s worth the effort.

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Groups Call on Restaurant Chains to Serve Antibiotic-Free Meathttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/groups-call-on-restaurant-chains-to-serve-antibiotic-free-meat/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/groups-call-on-restaurant-chains-to-serve-antibiotic-free-meat/#comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 16:07:28 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17773 [NOTE: The Cornucopia Institute is one of 109 organizations to sign this important letter.] The Hill by Lydia Wheeler Source: Everjean Consumer, food and health groups are calling on the CEOs of the nation’s top 25 restaurant chains to only serve meat and poultry that’s free of antibiotics. In a letter signed by 109 organizations — including Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, the National Center for Health Research, and Public Health Alliance

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[NOTE: The Cornucopia Institute is one of 109 organizations to sign this important letter.]

The Hill
by Lydia Wheeler

Source: Everjean

Consumer, food and health groups are calling on the CEOs of the nation’s top 25 restaurant chains to only serve meat and poultry that’s free of antibiotics.

In a letter signed by 109 organizations — including Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, the National Center for Health Research, and Public Health Alliance — the groups said American consumers are deeply concerned about antibiotic use in animal agriculture.

The letter said “80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are currently sold for use by livestock producers who routinely administer these drugs in order to promote faster growth and prevent disease in living conditions that are often crowded and unsanitary. The overuse and misuse of these critical drugs enables some of the bacteria to become resistant, proliferate and spread.”

The groups said antibiotics should only be used for a genuine therapeutic need, such as a diagnosed illness or a documented outbreak of disease.

“They should never be administered routinely for purposes such as growth promotion or disease prevention,” they said.

The letter goes on to ask restaurant chains and their CEOs to publicly adopt antibiotic stewardship policies that prohibit the use of antibiotics or routine use of antibiotics for growth promotion, and to let their suppliers know they expect poultry and other meats to meet this standard.

The push follows a report from Friends of the Earth, ConsumersUnion, the Center for Food Safety, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Keep Antibiotics Working and the Food Animal Concerns Trust that found that most meat served in fast food chains comes from animals raised in industrial facilities that routinely use antibiotics.

The report, “Chain Reaction: How Top Restaurants Rate on Reducing Use of Antibiotics in Their Meat Supply,” found that only five of the 25 chains had adopted publicly available policies that meaningfully limit routine antibiotics use: Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s. The policies ranged from strict prohibitions on any antibiotics use, like Chick-fil-A’s, to policies that prohibit using antibiotics important to human medicine on chickens, like at McDonald’s.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) hailed the release of the report on Tuesday.

“More and more Americans are realizing that the misuse of antibiotics in corporate agriculture is having a direct impact on their own health,” she said in a statement. “Antibiotic-resistant infections are on the rise and the usefulness of one of our most precious medical resources is on the decline.”

Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress, has been a leading advocate for ending the widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture.

“The companies that have failed to change their practices should examine this report and immediately make the change that the American public is demanding,” she said. “Lives literally depend on it.”

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Herbicide Scrutiny Mounts as Resistant Weeds Spread in U.S.http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/herbicide-scrutiny-mounts-as-resistant-weeds-spread-in-u-s/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/herbicide-scrutiny-mounts-as-resistant-weeds-spread-in-u-s/#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2015 23:54:17 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17766 Reuters by Carey Gillam Source: Mike MozartConcerns about the world’s most popular herbicide continue to mount, as U.S. agricultural experts note spreading weed resistance to glyphosate. As the key ingredient in Monsanto Co’s Roundup herbicide products as well as about 700 other products, glyphosate is widely used on farms as well as residential lawns. But the chemical has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years in part because scientists and environmentalists have warned that weed

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Reuters
by Carey Gillam

RoundUp.MikeMozart

Source: Mike Mozart
Concerns about the world’s most popular herbicide continue to mount, as U.S. agricultural experts note spreading weed resistance to glyphosate. As the key ingredient in Monsanto Co’s Roundup herbicide products as well as about 700 other products, glyphosate is widely used on farms as well as residential lawns.

But the chemical has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years in part because scientists and environmentalists have warned that weed resistance to glyphosate has become a significant problem that impacts crop production.

In the latest account of glyphosate-resistant weeds, U.S. weed scientist Dallas Peterson said this week that resistance is increasing rapidly in the key farming state of Kansas. The trend is a worrisome sign as weed resistance spreads from the southern U.S. into the Midwest and Plains farming states, he said.

Peterson, who is both a weed scientist at Kansas State University (KSU) and president of the Weed Science Society of America, said Kansas soybean farmers in particular are experiencing weed problems, particularly with a type known as Palmer amaranth. Wet weather along with the weed resistance contributed to the problem, he said.

“It’s really kind of exploded,” he said.

Farmers in other Midwestern states, including Missouri, Nebraska, and Illinois have reported mounting problems with weed resistance as well.

Weeds can choke off nutrients to crops hurting production, and raise costs for farmers who often use added chemicals or other means to combat the troublesome weeds.

Weed resistance across U.S. farmland is becoming such a significant problem that the agriculture committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has scheduled a briefing on the problem for Dec. 4.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that reliance on glyphosate by many farmers is the primary factor for the problem. Fourteen glyphosate-resistance weed species have so far been documented in U.S. crop production areas, according to USDA.

The use of glyphosate by farmers surged after Monsanto introduced glyphosate-tolerant “Roundup Ready” soybeans and other crops in the mid-1990s.

Monsanto and DowAgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical, are bringing new herbicides to market, combining glyphosate with dicamba from Monsanto, and glyphosate with 2,4-D from Dow.

Peterson warned, however, that tests at KSU showed that these combinations still had trouble controlling Palmer amaranth weeds.

Both companies said research shows their new herbicide combinations are highly effective, but they also advise farmers to use multiple strategies to fight the troublesome weeds.

(Reporting By Carey Gillam; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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True Colorshttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/true-colors/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/true-colors/#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2015 16:48:49 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17761 by Jérôme Rigot, PhD Read package labels carefully to spot non-organic colors and other ingredients in organic processed foods. Surprising Facts about Colorings and Other Non-Organic Ingredients in Organics Colors?!? Why would organic food need color? In fact, the original colors in prepared foods are often modified or destroyed during processing; thus, food manufacturers feel the need to add colors to their products to ensure their appeal to customers. As an example, let’s look at certified

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by Jérôme Rigot, PhD

Read package labels carefully to spot
non-organic colors and other ingredients
in organic processed foods.

Surprising Facts about Colorings and Other Non-Organic Ingredients in Organics

Colors?!? Why would organic food need color? In fact, the original colors in prepared foods are often modified or destroyed during processing; thus, food manufacturers feel the need to add colors to their products to ensure their appeal to customers.

As an example, let’s look at certified organic Strawberry Cobbler Multigrain Cereal Bars, manufactured by Health Valley Organic, which is owned by industry giant Hain Celestial Group, Inc.

Many people know that when you cook strawberries, their color changes to a dark reddish brown — the natural color may not be eye-poppingly appealing. But customers certainly want a vibrant strawberry-red color like the one on the package, don’t they?

PrintSo what to do? There are at least two options. One is to use the cooked strawberries as is (unthinkable!). Another would be to add color — in this case it would have to be a “natural” color because artificial colors are prohibited in organic products. If you look at the ingredients list (right), you will see that red cabbage extract was added for color. Red-cabbage-colored strawberry cobbler…what a feast!

But all humor aside, this is cause for concern. The red cabbage extract used for color is derived from conventional cabbage grown with toxic agrochemicals. Yet it appears on the National List, the itemization of all synthetic and non-organic substances allowed in organic production. Why?  Because at the time it was petitioned to be added to the National List, there was no commercially available red cabbage extract in organic form.

Red cabbage extract: is it so bad? Let’s look at the health and environmental effects of cultivating red cabbage conventionally. A database maintained by Beyond Pesticides indicates that there are 49 pesticides with established toxicity used for growing cabbage: 32 are acutely toxic, creating a hazardous environment for farmworkers; 47 are linked to chronic health problems (including cancer); 15 contaminate streams or groundwater; 44 are poisonous to wildlife; and 25 are considered toxic to honey bees and other insect pollinators.

Another cause for concern is that pigments derived from agricultural sources are highly concentrated. They are also most often extracted from parts of fruits or vegetables likely to contain the highest levels of pesticide residues. Examples include grape skin extract, beet juice extract, purple potato juice extract, and red cabbage extract, all commonly used for color in processed foods.

Why do people want organic food? Because producing it has minimal negative impacts on the environment and human health, and there are demonstrably lower pesticide residues.

Is this what you, the concerned customer, are getting when you purchase processed organic foods that contain “natural” colors or flavors?

To avoid potentially toxic color in your food, one of the most effective approaches is to stay away from any form of processed food. Home-cooked meals made from scratch are so satisfying. But if you must use processed foods, look at the label carefully. Only organic colors, which are becoming more readily available, should be listed. When possible, avoide organic food that lists a vegetable extract without specifying whether it is organic or not.

Other Allowed Ingredients

Colors are only a few of the highly questionable and controversial ingredients, synthetic or “natural,” allowed for use in organic processed foods.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) looks poised to keep many of these ingredients on the National List, even though, in many cases, they are not essential to the manufacture of the food or organic alternatives exist.

Ironically, unlike the USDA’s organic program, a number of corporations that manufacture and sell conventional processed foods are listening to their stakeholders—that is, their customers. KRAFT, General Mills, Hersheys, Nestlé, Kellogg, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and Subway, among others, have announced that they will remove a number of artificial ingredients, preservatives, and food processing aids from their products.

One of the most notable examples of this corporate responsiveness is Panera. In May, the popular bakery-café chain published its “No No List” identifying all of the ingredients it refuses to use or plans to remove from its food by the end of 2016. Surprisingly, some of the ingredients Panera has banned from its products are currently on or being petitioned for addition to the National List! (See sidebar at right.)

It is obvious that the corporate organic food industry is pressuring the USDA to keep ingredients in organic processed food that should not be there. That is why Cornucopia’s policy and scientific staff will be at the next NOSB meeting, October 26–29 in Stowe, Vermont. You can count on us to keep you informed as to when your voice — farmers and consumers together — can make a difference.

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Jim Riddle Presents at Organic Conference in Iranhttp://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/jim-riddle-presents-at-organic-conference-in-iran/ http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/jim-riddle-presents-at-organic-conference-in-iran/#comments Sat, 26 Sep 2015 00:35:43 +0000 http://www.cornucopia.org/?p=17757 Jim Riddle and Vandana Shiva On August 25, 2015, Jim Riddle, Director of Organic Independents LLP, spoke at the 3rd International Conference on Trade and Market Development of Organic Products in Tehran, Iran. Riddle spoke on the “Environmental and Health Impacts of GMOs.” The daylong conference was attended by 600 persons, with extensive media coverage. Other speakers included Dr. Vandana Shiva and Andre Leu, President of IFOAM. Riddle, from Winona, Minnesota, has long been respected

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Jim Riddle and Vandana Shiva

On August 25, 2015, Jim Riddle, Director of Organic Independents LLP, spoke at the 3rd International Conference on Trade and Market Development of Organic Products in Tehran, Iran. Riddle spoke on the “Environmental and Health Impacts of GMOs.” The daylong conference was attended by 600 persons, with extensive media coverage. Other speakers included Dr. Vandana Shiva and Andre Leu, President of IFOAM.

Riddle, from Winona, Minnesota, has long been respected as a leader in the US organic farming movement. In addition to having served as the chairman of the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board, the advisory/governing panel set up by Congress, he is also the founder of the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA).

This is the second time the Jim Riddle has traveled to Iran, having been invited to speak on “US Organic Regulations and Markets” at the same conference, in May 2014. During this visit, Riddle also presented a two-hour, interactive workshop for 100 attendees on regulations for the organic production of horticultural crops.

Mr. Riddle, Dr. Shiva and Mr. Leu met with Iran’s Vice President for the Environment, Massoumeh Ebtekar, where they discussed organic research and development needs to support the expansion of organic agriculture in Iran, along with environmental concerns related to the cultivation of genetically engineered crops.

“Iran has a long history of agricultural production and is a center of biodiversity for many domesticated crops and animals. It is good to see interest in organic production growing in Iran, since organic has much to offer in terms of protecting biodiversity, building soil health, better water use efficiency, cutting pesticide use, and producing healthy foods,” commented Riddle on his return.

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