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.

Big Sugar has been Manipulating Scientific Views since the 1960s

September 19th, 2016

Cornucopia’s Take: It’s become an all too common practice for industries to fund science seeking results that they want.  According to documents found in a Harvard library’s basement, big sugar has been doing this since the 1960s. We are seeing this happen with the carrageenan industry and regulation today. Independent research is crucial to public health.

How the sugar industry artificially sweetened Harvard research
PBS Newshour
by Melissa Bailey, Stat

Source: Andrei Niemimäki

As nutrition debates raged in the 1960s, prominent Harvard nutritionists published two reviews in a top medical journal downplaying the role of sugar in coronary heart disease. Newly unearthed documents reveal what they didn’t say: A sugar industry trade group initiated and paid for the studies, examined drafts, and laid out a clear objective to protect sugar’s reputation in the public eye.

That revelation, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, comes from Dr. Cristin Kearns at the University of California, San Francisco, a dentist-turned-researcher who found the sugar industry’s fingerprints while digging through boxes of letters in the basement of a Harvard library. Read Full Article »

Farm Aid’s Strange Agribusiness Bedfellows: Concert Sponsor Investigated for Organic Labeling Improprieties

September 16th, 2016

Another Farm Aid Misstep: Partnering with Corporate Agribusiness While Purporting to Support Family Farmers

Top Sponsor “Indicted” for Misrepresenting Itself as Organic

CORNUCOPIA, WI: On the eve of the annual Farm Aid concert, Saturday in Bristow, Virginia, The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog, has filed a formal legal complaint against Farm Aid’s marquee sponsor, Bonterra Organic Vineyards, alleging it misrepresents its products as “organic.”

This is not the first time Cornucopia has attempted to bring serious ethical concerns to the attention of Farm Aid’s Board of Directors and management.

At past concerts Farm Aid has showcased their sponsor Silk, the leading brand of plant-based beverages, then owned by the giant dairy conglomerate Dean Foods (a.k.a. WhiteWave). Cornucopia supplied Farm Aid officials with information concerning Silk abandoning U.S. farmers to purchase organic soybeans from China at cheaper prices. Another past marquee Farm Aid sponsor, also owned by Dean/WhiteWave, was the Horizon Organic dairy brand, with a considerable amount of their milk production coming from giant “factory farms” with a history of violating the organic federal standards.

“Quite frankly,” said the Cornucopia Institute’s Codirector Mark Kastel, “we don’t really mind if Farm Aid raises money from corporate agribusinesses, and then launders it by making small grants to nonprofits that help family farmers. But we do mind them greenwashing some of the brands owned by ‘bad actors’ in the organic industry.”

bonterra-screen-shot-3a-rev-a The current dustup alleges Bonterra, a brand owned by the giant Chilean conglomerate Concha y Toro, and operated under its Fetzer subsidiary in California, as misrepresenting its wine as organic.  Their website clearly states that, “all of our award-winning wines are certified organic by CCOF.” The company also touts its “organic collection” on their e-commerce portal. Based on Cornucopia’s initial investigation, none of the company’s wine is actually certified organic.

It appears that only the grapes are organic.  Wine producers that add sulfur dioxide, a synthetic preservative, cannot legally qualify to represent their products as organic. Preservatives, including sulfur dioxide (or sulfites) are explicitly banned in U.S. organic food and wine production.

“There is nothing improper about labeling your wine ‘made with organic grapes’ and then adding sulfites,” said Kastel. “However, look at the preponderance of the Bonterra marketing campaign: the patently illegal and misleading verbiage on their website, the logo of the largest organic certifier in the country on their primary label, and their subterfuge in terms of corporate ownership. It’s a shame that Farm Aid didn’t choose one of the high-integrity, certified organic vintners that they could proudly stand with.” Read Full Article »

Slaves May Be Catching Your Fish

September 16th, 2016

Cornucopia’s Take: A recent report reveals that slave labor is used in the fishing industry, detaining workers on boats for months, or even years, at a time. Sustainability audits are not effective at protecting workers, so advocates offer a hotline, and a future app, so laborers can share their stories about this inhuman practice.

When fishermen are slaves, labor audits mean nothing
by Kristina Johnson

Source: Steve Crane

“We found men in cages and being beaten,” said AP reporter Robin McDowell over Skype at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sustainable Food Institute in Monterey, Calif. McDowell, along with her colleagues,  helped rescue more than 2,000 Southeast Asian men from slavery during a months-long investigation into labor abuses in the global fishing industry, especially in Indonesia and Hawaii.

According to the McDowell, 24 hour workdays, murders at sea, physical abuse and not docking for months or years at a time were common for the men they met. “A few… told the same story about a man named the Enforcer, an Indonesian villager who marched them up the hill and beat them until they fell to their knees and then put them in a hut and kept them there for a month,” she said. Read Full Article »

Under Hopeful New Law for Toxic Substances, Corporations Continue to Push the EPA to Look the Other Way

September 15th, 2016

Cornucopia’s Take: The Lautenberg Act, passed in June to update the 40 year old Toxic Substances Control Act, finally gives the EPA authority to evaluate and regulate the commercial chemicals it oversees. The EPA has requested help from chemical corporations to determine how to prioritize chemical reviews and evaluate their safety. Predictably, chemical companies are offering a lot of “input” concerning the need for their favorite chemicals.

Defending their toxics – Industry pushes to protect its preferred chemicals under the new TSCA
Science Blogs
by Elizabeth Grossman

Source: John McSporran

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act for the 21st Century was signed into law with a general sigh of relief that finally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would have the authority needed to evaluate and regulate the tens of thousands of commercial chemicals it oversees in the U.S. But as the EPA begins implementing the new law, the chemical industry is already busy pushing the agency to limit scrutiny of various widely used, highly toxic chemicals.

Among the EPA’s first tasks under the Lautenberg Act is to enact rules outlining how it will prioritize chemicals for review and how it will assess chemical risks. As part of this process, the EPA has asked stakeholders for input on how these rules should be shaped. Reading industry representatives’ comments reveals that many are using this as an opportunity to defend select chemicals. Read Full Article »

Toothless GMO Food Labeling Bill Becomes Law

September 14th, 2016

Corporate Elites Betray Organics

[This article was previously published in the fall issue of The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

by Will Fantle,
Codirector at The Cornucopia Institute

Source: Adobe Stock

The looming July 1 implementation date for Vermont’s first-of-a-kind, historic GMO food ingredients labeling law pushed Monsanto and other corporate giants in retailing, biotechnology, and agribusiness into overdrive as they ramped up pressure on Congress to negate the state law.

Labeling opponents wisely identified Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, as the key to crafting what they described as a “compromise” bill.  Stabenow’s bill was able to move enough Senate Democrats to join with an already solid block of Republicans to muscle through its swift passage. Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827
Ph: 608-625-2000