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.

Native Bees May Help Save Crops

August 22nd, 2014

Voice of America
By Deborah Block

In June, U.S. President Barack Obama called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees and other pollinators that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease, pesticides and farming.

Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Before that can happen, though, scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, said biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees.

To most of us, a bee is just a bee, but not to Droege.

“They’re beautiful to look at under a microscope,” he said at his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, between Washington and Baltimore.

Pioneering research

Four years ago, Droege began his pilot project surveying native bees for the U.S. government’s Geological Survey. He sorts them in pizza boxes, which he uses for storage. He says scientists know a lot about honeybees — which produce honey and pollinate a third of U.S. crops – but very little about wild bees, which pollinate 75 percent of wild plants. Read Full Article »

GMO Labeling Measure Makes Colorado’s November Ballot

August 22nd, 2014

Washington Post
By Niraj Chokshi

Image Source: Colorado Right to Know

Image Source:
Colorado Right to Know

A proposal to require the labeling of genetically modified food qualified for Colorado’s November ballot, the secretary of state’s office announced Wednesday.

Backers of the measure, Proposition 105, submitted nearly 40,000 more valid signatures than the required 86,105.

The placement of the measure on the ballot could bring a huge wave of corporate spending, as was seen last fall in Washington state last year. Despite early signs that it would pass, the measure was ultimately defeated in Washington as an infusion of corporate spending flooded the state making the initiative campaign the most expensive in state history. Groups opposed were funded in large part by food giants, such as Pepsico, Nestle, Coca-Cola, General Mills, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto and Dupont. Two groups opposed to the measure spent $33 million, while $10 million was spent by groups in support of it.

Colorado won’t be alone this year. Read Full Article »

The War on Organics: Who’s Fighting It and How to Protect Your Family

August 20th, 2014

Mamavation
by Gina Badalaty

MonsantosyngentadupontThere’s a war going on in this country, and while it’s not being fought with weapons, it is being waged with marketing, misdirection and outright lies. “Big AG,” America’s top agricultural and biochemistry firms are leading an assault on organics, non-GMO foods, proper labeling and healthy choices. They are seeking to protect their profits as consumers move away from these toxic food choices. To help you protect your family from these deceptive practices, I’ve listed the top tactics that firms like Monsanto use to influence your buying choices.

OPEN PRESS INITIATIVES

Some of the attacks coming from Big AG are not openly deceitful. Corporations are revealing their identities and offering workshops, luncheons and other events aimed at promoting charities, global hunger solutions, the impact of food and more allegedly “positive” topics. Earlier this month, Aljazeera America reported that at last month’s BlogHer conference, an annual event that attracts thousands of bloggers, the Monsanto Corporation sponsored an invitation-only brunch to share discuss the impact of food on the environment. Bloggers were paid $150 each to attend a panel that featured two female farmers as well as a team from Monsanto.  In fact, Monsanto has a history of damaging the environment, unleashing everything from Agent Orange to a list of banned pesticides. Read Full Article »

Food Additives on the Rise as FDA Scrutiny Wanes

August 20th, 2014

Washington Post
by Kimberly Kindy

The explosion of new food additives coupled with an easing of oversight requirements is allowing manufacturers to avoid the scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of chemicals streaming into the food supply.

And in hundreds of cases, the FDA doesn’t even know of the existence of new additives, which can include chemical preservatives, flavorings and thickening agents, records and interviews show.

Michael Taylor
Credit: FDA

“We simply do not have the information to vouch for the safety of many of these chemicals,” said Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food.

The FDA has received thousands of consumer complaints about additives in recent years, saying certain substances seem to trigger asthmatic attacks, serious bouts of vomiting, intestinal-tract disorders and other health problems.

At a pace far faster than in previous years, companies are adding secret ingredients to everything from energy drinks to granola bars. But the more widespread concern among food-safety advocates and some federal regulators is the quickening trend of companies opting for an expedited certification process to a degree never intended when it was established 17 years ago to, in part, help businesses.

A voluntary certification system has nearly replaced one that relied on a more formal, time-consuming review — where the FDA, rather than companies, made the final determination on what is safe. The result is that consumers have little way of being certain that the food products they buy won’t harm them. Read Full Article »

NOSB Voting Scorecard Released – Lobbyists/Influence Peddlers Eroding Organic Standards

August 19th, 2014

Analysis Illustrates USDA/Agribusiness Collusion

CORNUCOPIA, WIS: A comprehensive voting analysis of members of the National Organic Standards Board, an expert body formed by Congress to insulate the governance of the industry from undue corporate influence, clearly illustrates how illegal appointments to the board by current and past USDA Secretaries have subverted congressional intent.

GoToScorecardbutton The study, produced by The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, analyzed the voting record of each individual board member over the past five years, including corporate representatives who were placed on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) filling seats that were specifically set aside for farmers and other independent organic industry stakeholders.

CI_NOSB_Scorecard_1“In recent years, just as with the polarized U.S. Supreme Court, many critical issues were decided by one-vote margins,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector and Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia. “Almost universally, the NOSB is split along ideological lines (corporate agribusiness versus farmers and consumers) on whether to allow controversial synthetic and non-organic additives in organic food or weak animal husbandry standards utilizing the ‘factory farm’ production model of organic meat, eggs and dairy products.”

Cornucopia’s analysis comes two years after the policy group released a white paper entitled The Organic Watergate. That report documented how a number of risky and/or gimmicky synthetic or non-organic materials were approved for use in organics. It highlighted a couple of board members, appointed as “farmers,” who did not meet the intent and legal qualifications that Congress had set out for composition of the board.

“We have two members of the current board, both sitting in seats that Congress had designated for someone who must ‘own or operate an organic farming operation’ but who were actually agribusiness employees when appointed to the five-year term on the NOSB,” said Kastel.

Of the four seats reserved for farmers on the current board, one is held by an employee of the giant California berry marketing firm, Driscoll’s (which does not grow organic strawberries but rather relies on contract farmers), and one by an individual who, when appointed, worked for the country’s largest organic marketing cooperative, CROPP ($928 million in annual revenue).  The voting records of these two agribusiness employees are significantly lower than those of the actual farmer members of the NOSB.

Voting records for the current 15-member NOSB board members include three independent members with a history of voting over 90% of the time to block practices eroding organic integrity.  These board members are Jennifer Taylor, public interest/consumer representative and academic; Jay Feldman, environmentalist and executive director of Beyond Pesticides; and Colehour Bondera, a certified organic farmer from Hawaii.

Voting scores of NOSB agribusiness representatives include those of Harold Austin (10% — handler with Zirkle Fruit), John Foster (16% — handler with WhiteWave/Earthbound Farms), Carmela Beck (17% — “farmer” with Driscoll’s) and Wendy Fulwider (34% — “farmer” with Organic Valley/Whole Foods-GAP).

The study’s analysis was based on Cornucopia’s policy positions over the past five years, prepared by experienced organic farmers, policy experts, former certification officials, and staff scientists with doctorates in related agricultural disciplines.

“The policy positions Cornucopia has publicly taken (and used for the scoring criteria) are clearly in the mainstream of thought within the organic community and are consistent with those taken by the vast majority of other consumer, environmental and farmer-supported organizations,” Kastel affirmed. Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827
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