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.

Sign On: No GMOs in Organic!

August 2nd, 2019

The Cornucopia Institute recently reported on troubling comments made by USDA Under Secretary Ibach at a House Agriculture Subcommittee meeting regarding the possibility of gene editing in organic.

Sign our petition below! If your organization would like to sign on, please contact us.

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What the National Organic Program Doesn’t Say Is Telling

November 8th, 2019

Report from the Fall 2019 National Organic Standards Board Meeting

At the October meeting, National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Chair Harriet Behar identified several troubling issues that have plagued the organic program in recent years. These issues included the languishing origin of livestock, pasture, and native ecosystems rules, and the certification of hydroponic production in 2017.

Since 2017, the National Organic Program (NOP) has offered no guidance to certifiers on hydroponic production. This has led to inconsistent application of the rules by certifiers, including some allowing pesticide use in greenhouses immediately prior to organic certification.

This 40-acre conventional operation differs from the company’s
organic operations only in the nutrients fed to the plants.
Image source: Don Barrett, Flickr

In response to stakeholder backlash, Deputy Administrator of the NOP Dr. Jennifer Tucker sent a memo of clarification to certifiers in June 2019. It suggested (but did not clarify) the organic regulations requiring the three-year period during which no prohibited substances can be applied on land transitioning to organic only apply to soil-based operations.

At the October meeting, NOSB member and organic farmer Emily Oakley asked Dr. Tucker for clarification that the three-year transition applies to every organic operation, without exception.

Dr. Tucker sidestepped the question, claiming that the organic regulations are clear about regulatory requirements and prohibited substances are not allowed in organic production. While she said the organic regulations apply to all operations, she did not explicitly say the three-year transition applies to all operations. Instead, she emphasizes that operators with questions need to contact their certifiers.

Read Full Article »

Watchdog Cornucopia Remains Committed to Mission

November 8th, 2019

Board and Staff Retreat Marks New Chapter Under New Leadership

Fueled by organic Equal Exchange coffee and chocolate, the board and staff of The Cornucopia Institute gathered in Minneapolis for three energizing days of staff and board meetings. Led by Jonathan Rosenthal, Cornucopia’s new interim executive director, the retreat marked a new chapter for the organization, as well as its unwavering commitment to elevating authentic organic and calling out “faux-ganic” brands.

Rosenthal observed, “The Cornucopia Institute is known for its industry research and outspoken work to protect the integrity of organic agriculture. I am honored to work with this devoted, talented staff and deeply committed board.” While our leadership has changed, our underlying principles continue: Cornucopia highlights the most ethical farmers and agricultural practices, stays abreast of regulatory issues, rallies consumers and producers to action, and investigates and reports on fraud and dubious practices within the industry. Read Full Article »

Commercial Agriculture Research Finds Chemicals Are Better for the Environment?

November 6th, 2019

Hardly surprising.

Source: Tobias Nordhausen, Flickr

You may have seen the study suggesting that organic agriculture actually creates more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional agriculture. The Cornucopia Institute has observed research on this topic often comes from an industrial agriculture viewpoint. For more on this issue, read “Big Ag’s Long Arms in Scientific Research.

We believe the research published in Nature Communications in October 2019 is based on this biased viewpoint. The researchers did not consider all of the factors involved in greenhouse gas emissions—nor do they claim to. The study has been sensationalized (or weaponized, depending on your background) in the press.

This article in Organic Insider, written by former New York Times food business reporter Stephanie Strom, sheds some light on the research claims. Organic remains the most environmentally friendly food production method with third-party verification.


Why Claims That Organic is Worse for the Environment Do Not Hold Up
Organic Insider
by Stephanie Strom

Dominating the headlines recently has been a study out of the UK which claims that organic farming is bad for the environment.

Not exactly.

In the report, which assesses the potential changes to net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if England and Wales shifted to 100% organic food production, it clearly acknowledges that organic farming might contribute to a reduction in GHG emissions “through decreased use of farm inputs and increased soil carbon sequestration.”

Nonetheless, the authors contend that organic’s positive environmental impact “must be set against the need for increased production and associated land conversion elsewhere as a result of lower crop and livestock yields under organic methods.” Read Full Article »

Follow the National Organic Standards Board Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA #NOSB

October 23rd, 2019

Join The Cornucopia Institute as we keep you informed via live tweet and web updates from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in Pittsburgh, PA October 23-25th.

We will be sharing the play by play both below and with our Twitter followers, at #NOSB or by simply following our stream.

For background on issues up for discussion at the meeting, see:

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

8:55 AM ET: Opening Remarks 

Dr. Jennifer Tucker, Deputy Administrator of the NOP, welcomes all to the fall 2019 NOSB meeting.

A-dae is unable to attend and there is one vacancy on the board. A decisive vote will require nine votes.

Harriet Behar, chair of the NOSB, welcomes everyone and thanks the board for their work.

Each board member introduced themselves.

[A list of the current NOSB members can be found here.] Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute Hires Jonathan Rosenthal as Interim Executive Director

October 18th, 2019

The Cornucopia Institute is thrilled to announce the hiring of Jonathan Rosenthal as the new Interim Executive Director.  With this hire, Cornucopia is moving confidently to evolve into a more sustainable, relevant, and powerful voice in the good food movement. Rosenthal will shepherd the organization through a just, transparent, and collaborative transition while honoring the mission set forth by Cornucopia’s founders and board.

Jonathan Rosenthal

Rosenthal has spent decades promoting sustainable agriculture. In 1986, he co-founded Equal Exchange, which continues to build economically just and environmentally sound trade partnerships that foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers. In 2005, he co-founded and led the first U.S. fair trade fruit company, Oké USA.

More recently he has worked as an executive director, consultant and advisor across fair trade, worker co-op, and new economy movements, helping organizations advocate for economic, ecological and racial justice for family-scale farmers. With experience that spans both the fair trade and organic movements, he is entrenched in a unifying cause: converting the destructive aspects of business into a positive force for people and the environment.

For Cornucopia, Rosenthal will analyze the organization’s structure and processes, provide staff, board, and financial guidance and support and set up a robust process for the hiring of permanent leadership in 2020. “I am thrilled and honored to join the talented team at Cornucopia and to return supporting the vitality of farmers and family-scale farms. Together we can grow the relationships and programs built over the past 15 years, while updating and strengthening the organization’s capacity to move boldly into the future. Over the next six to nine months, we will use this transition as an opportunity to pause, reflect, and develop a sharpened vision, revamped organizational culture, and enhanced capacity for deepening collaboration and impact.” Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
P.O. Box 826 Viroqua, Wisconsin 54665
Ph: 608-637-8278
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