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.

“Organic” Hydroponic May Not Be Bound by a Three-Year Transition Period

May 16th, 2019

Cornucopia reached out to Dr. Jennifer Tucker, the National Organic Program (NOP) Deputy Administrator, for further comment on the issues raised by Civil Eats, below.

NOP Deputy Administrator
Dr. Jennifer Tucker
Source: USDA

Tucker stated that she did not feel the context was illustrated well in the article. Her quotes came out of a discussion surrounding hydroponic operations being erected on rooftops or in already established buildings, not greenhouses erected on land. She emphasized to Cornucopia that it was not a blanket statement about NOP policy or an interpretation of the rules as they stand.

Massive hydroponic operations continue to be erected on top of soil. This has a profound effect on the soil integrity, whether or not prohibited substances like glyphosate are applied to the ground beneath. Good soil health has far-reaching benefits, including carbon sequestration, preventing pollution run-off, and water and nutrient storage.

Tucker did note that she shared some of the concerns of organic stakeholders about prohibited substances being applied to the land, but she did not clarify how this rule will be enforced if the three-year transition period is discarded.

The NOP has drafted an official policy statement regarding these concerns that is currently in review. Tucker stated that she does not have a timeline for this official policy’s date of release but made assurances that it is a high priority. There are no current plans to develop standards specific to organic hydroponic production. Read Full Article »

Is Corporate Organic a Problem? It Depends on Who You Ask

May 15th, 2019

As consumer demand for organic food continues to rise, many corporations that previously only marketed conventional food have thrown their hats into the ring. While they claim to be making organic food more widely available, the effects of their vertically integrated supply chains and lobbying efforts to stretch the organic regulations have had catastrophic effects on real organic farmers.

Source: JP Davidson, Flickr

For instance, 80% of the organic eggs now on the market come from factory “organic” henhouses. The birds are offered screened porches in lieu of real outdoor access–relying on the argument that this protects them from disease. In fact, our investigations suggest that hens granted legitimate outdoor access rarely succumb to the kinds of disease that can wreak havoc in giant operations.

While the eggs from these industrial producers are a step above conventional eggs, they cannot match the value of truly organic eggs—to the eater, the hen, the farmers, and the environment.

The BBC program, The Food Chain, takes a look at the corporatization of “organic” from the perspective of experts in India, the Netherlands, and the U.S. The Real Organic Project’s Dave Chapman was interviewed for this episode and observes: “It’s not a given in my mind that big is bad, it’s just that when big is bad, it’s very bad.”

Organic Inc
BBC, The Food Chain

At heart, the organic movement is driven by ethics, not market-forces. It started out as a reaction to large-scale industrial agriculture, with an anti-establishment vibe which abhorred mass produced, processed food. But, as demand for organic products has grown, big business has moved in, and now accounts for an increasing amount of the market.

Big Food has money and clout. It can support farmers to transition to organic, and throw its weight behind marketing the virtues of organic methods and food. But whilst its products might be organic on paper, has it truly embraced the spirit of the movement, and does that matter? Read Full Article »

Monsanto/Bayer Loses for the Third Time

May 14th, 2019

Thousands of lawsuits against Monsanto are pending in state and federal courts alleging the company failed to warn consumers that glyphosate causes cancer. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world.

Source: Corey Templeton, Flickr

Monsanto continues to cite statements from the EPA that glyphosate poses “no risk to public health,” a position that contradicts a 2015 report from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which found glyphosate was probably carcinogenic to humans. Documents released in legal proceedings have raised questions regarding the legitimacy of the EPA’s review of glyphosate and whether Monsanto had ghostwritten research involving the chemical.

The article below chronicles the pending litigation against Monsanto, including the most recent verdict against the company in a case brought by a couple who contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The California jury handed the company its third major loss, ordering Monsanto to pay the couple more than $2 billion.

Glyphosate is not allowed in organic production.

California jury hits Bayer with $2 billion award in Roundup cancer trial
by Tina Bellon

A California jury on Monday awarded more than $2 billion to a couple who claimed Bayer AG’s glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer caused their cancer, in the largest U.S. jury verdict to date against the company in litigation over the chemical. Read Full Article »

Regenerative Organic Certification is Coming Soon

May 10th, 2019
Source: USDA, Flickr

Despite recent news that studies show organic food is worse for the environment due to land-use concerns, real organic farming is based on regenerative principles. Researchers at the Rodale Institute have shown that if all farms and ranches used regenerative organic techniques (practices premised on supporting soil health), global carbon emissions could be captured in the soil. The positive impact this would have on climate change cannot be overstated.

Several companies, including Patagonia and Dr. Bronner’s, have teamed up with other allies from the Regenerative Organic Alliance.  The focus of the program and their eventual add-on label, Regenerative Organic Certification, is said to be: soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness for farmers. ROC-certified products are expected to be publicly available by 2020.

Cornucopia will continue to advocate for policies and consumer support of family-scale farmers that use practices that support the health of the planet. Consumers can vote with their forks by choosing organic food from real organic farmers using regenerative practices.

Reckless farming is destroying the planet. This could save it
by Rose Marcario and David Bronner for CNN Business Perspectives

Editor’s Note: Rose Marcario is the president and CEO of Patagonia. David Bronner is the CEO of Dr. Bronner’s. The opinions expressed in this commentary are their own.

The United Nations released a dire warning recently: Climate change is here and it’s a clear and present danger to our entire planet. Of course, we didn’t need another report to tell us that — we see it in extreme and unusual weather, disappearing wildlife and falling farm yields. But there is one major cause of this global catastrophe that doesn’t get the attention it deserves: industrial-scale chemical agriculture. Read Full Article »

The Power of the Pesticide Industry

May 9th, 2019

The article from the Washington Post, below, highlights how much sway the pesticide industry has in the U.S. government, regardless of the administration in power. Not only do chemical companies hold lobbying power, they also have had a role in drafting the laws that are supposed to regulate their actions and protect consumers. This is a dangerous conflict of interest that has proved, time and again, to lead to public safety concerns. For example, glyphosate (which is one of the most widely used pesticides) was deemed safe by regulatory agencies but has been linked to cancer in ongoing lawsuits against its manufacturer.

Source: CGP Grey, Flickr

The USDA is in charge of pesticide oversight in the agricultural sector. As in other areas, the USDA tends to be lax in its analysis of all relevant data. Often chemical manufacturers produce their own safety data and studies, which are then taken as fact by regulators. Other federal agencies including the Public Health Service and Food and Drug Administration have taken different approaches to evaluating “poisons” for public use. Some only consider negative effects if they are immediate. The health and environmental effects of long-term exposure are rarely studied.

Whenever pesticides or other chemicals are being introduced to the changing market, regulators should use the precautionary principle: accepting new products or processes whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown should be resisted. As the Washington Post article elucidates, the fact that policymakers and regulators do not take a hard line toward pesticides is not a Republican or Democrat problem. It is everyone’s problem—although some individuals are put at higher risk than others.

In better news, some states are taking action against specific pesticides. Vermont is banning consumer use of neonicotinoid pesticides by July 2019, and California is in the process of banning chlorpyrifos.

Organic food is produced without these pesticides. Cornucopia and its allies will continue to work to keep it that way, using precautionary principles that take into account all science—not just those studies funded by chemical companies.

Why both major political parties have failed to curb dangerous pesticides
The Washington Post
by Elena Conis

The news that David Bernhardt, President Trump’s Interior Secretary nominee, blocked a federal report on the risks certain pesticides pose to hundreds of endangered species has enraged scientists and environmental groups. Read Full Article »

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