The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute, through research and investigations on agricultural and food issues, provides needed information to family farmers, consumers and other stakeholders in the good food movement and to the media. We support economic justice for the family-scale farming community – partnered with consumers – backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.

Following an Email Trail: How a Public University Professor Collaborated on a Corporate PR Campaign

February 3rd, 2016

U.S. Right to Know
by Carey Gillam

Bruce Chassy
Source: University of Illinois

Former University of Illinois food science professor Bruce Chassy is known for his academic gravitas. Now retired nearly four years, Chassy still writes and speaks often about food safety issues, identifying himself with the full weight of the decades of experience earned at the public university and as a researcher at the National Institutes of Health. Chassy tells audiences that before he retired in 2012, he worked “full time” doing research and teaching.

What Chassy doesn’t talk much about is the other work he did while at the University of Illinois – promoting the interests of Monsanto Co., which has been trying to overcome mounting public concerns about the genetically engineered crops and chemicals the company sells. He also doesn’t talk much about the hundreds of thousands of dollars Monsanto donated to the university as Chassy was helping promote GMOs, or Monsanto’s secretive role in helping Chassy set up a nonprofit group and website to criticize individuals and organizations who raise questions about GMOs. Read Full Article »

Sikkim is India’s First Organic State

February 2nd, 2016

Traditional Meal in Sikkim, India

All of Sikkim’s farmland has been certified organic under the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) regulations by the end of 2015. “Sikkim has already achieved that feat of living in harmony with nature, and is therefore a model of development which also protects nature,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

Under NPOP guidelines and the government program Sikkim Organic Mission, it took 12 years to convert the Himalayan state into the first 100 % organic state of India, eliminating pesticides, chemical fertilizers and GMOs, and working closely with the local ecosystem to preserve biodiversity and prevent erosion.

Sikkim’s organic mission started in 2003, when its Chief Minister Pawan Chamling declared his intent to make Sikkim India’s first organic state. Chamling has been reelected five times, so he was able to oversee the entire process. First, the state officially banned the sale of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, forcing its farmers to go organic. And it ran a number of events like a two-day workshop in March 2010 where organic experts and scientists advised farmers on making the transition. But Sikkim’s organic switch is not just good for public health; it’s also good for the economy as organic produce has higher profit margins for farmers, reports the Huffington Post. Read Full Article »

Activists Demand A Bill Of Rights For California Farm Workers

February 2nd, 2016

NPR – The Salt
by Tracie McMillan

Source: USDA

Farm workers in two of the nation’s most important agricultural counties joined other low-wage food sector workers on Wednesday, demanding better wages with a new Bill of Rights.

The thrust of the bill, which is aimed at workers in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in California, is to establish a “rule of law” in the fields, observers say.

There are rampant violations of farm workers rights in agriculture,” says Bruce Goldstein, executive director of Farmworker Justice, a national advocacy group supporting the effort. “A lot of this is that a lot of employers feel like it’s not likely they’re going to get caught [breaking laws], and that if they get caught the cost is not that much —so they might as well take the risk.”

That’s particularly true because so many farm workers – an estimated 40 to 50 percent — are undocumentedMany are afraid that if they report labor abuse they’ll be deported, says Goldstein. Read Full Article »

Upper Midwest Farmers Transitioning to Organic Can Get Aid

February 1st, 2016

by Blake Nicholson


BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota and Minnesota are helping farmers with the three-year transition from traditional crops to organic production, an effort that the industry’s main trade group says could boost the acreage of organically grown crops in the U.S. if it takes root beyond the upper Midwest.

Minnesota started its grant program first, in 2013, and North Dakota followed suit this year. Both programs assist with the transition costs — everything from soil testing to education. Minnesota farmers can get up to $750 annually and North Dakota farmers up to $1,000.

The expense of the transition, which bans farmers from using mainstream chemicals and likely leads to lower yields, is not prohibitive, but “there’s a learning curve there that the farmer needs to go through,” said Lowell Kaul, an organic farmer near Harvey, North Dakota, who serves on a board that advises the state agriculture commissioner. During the conversion, farmers can’t sell their crops into the organic market until they are certified organic by a government-approved agency. Read Full Article »

Going Back to the Future: Is Biodynamic Agriculture the “Newest” Trend in Organic?

February 1st, 2016

by Elizabeth Candelario, Demeter Co-Director

Source: Harmony Farm in Tipp City, OH

In the early 1920’s a growing group of European farmers were increasingly concerned about what they were witnessing on their farms.  Their soil was depleted, their seeds weren’t germinating, their crops’ quality was declining, and their animals were suffering.  The overall life and vitality of their farms was markedly changing.  Seeking the causes behind their observations, the farmers approached Dr. Rudolf Steiner-a well-know scientist and social advocate, who is now best known as the founder of Waldorf education- for guidance.

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

It’s not surprising that farms began to resemble factories.  Read Full Article »

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