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.

Your Pesticide Levels Can Drop Dramatically by Eating All Organic

February 13th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: In a new study, 16 children and adults who ate only organic food for six days experienced a 60.5% reduction in the levels of common pesticides in their bodies. Although the sample was very small, the study confirms similar previous research. Criticisms of those previous studies included the small sample size, drawing attention to the need for more funding for independent research.

Eating an organic diet for one week is enough to lower toxin levels, study finds
by Bailey King

Source: Larry Grubbs, Flickr

While most people know they “should” be eating organic because, well, that’s what the health world tells us, the price tag for organic items is often a huge deterrent for many healthy eaters.

With the knowledge that pesticides cover nearly every inch of conventional produce, many studies have backed the benefits of eating an organic diet — some going as far as to say it can prevent cancer.

new study published Tuesday by researchers out of the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at San Francisco found that after less than one week of eating organic, toxin levels in the body were dramatically lowered.

Researchers examined four families from different backgrounds who ate a conventional diet for six days, then an organic diet for another six. By testing their urine before and after going organic, researchers found huge drops in bodily pesticides — pesky chemicals that have been linked to cancer, hormonal imbalance, and neurological disorders and more, MindBodyGreen reports.

After six days on the organic diet, overall pesticide levels dropped 60.5 percent in both the adults and children, Civil Eats reports. Though the most notable statistic was a 95 percent drop in malathion, which is a toxin linked to brain damage in children. Read Full Article »

Healthy, Nutritious, or Hype?

February 13th, 2019

Evaluating the Hot Market for Plant-Based Beverages

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

by Anne Ross, JD
Farm and Food Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute

Source: Adobe Stock

Sales of non-dairy, plant-based beverages are burgeoning. In 2010, only one-fifth of U.S. households purchased or consumed plant-based beverages. By 2017, these beverages, commonly referred to as “milk,” had posted a 9% gain and reached a whopping $1.6 billion in annual sales.

Supermarket shelves are stocked full of plant-based beverage options, derived from a variety of sources, including nuts, seeds, legumes, and cereal grains. These products can be found in an assortment of flavors in both refrigerated and shelf-stable packaging. As plant-based beverages take over grocery store displays, it’s important for consumers to have the information they need to evaluate which, if any, of these beverages are right for them.

Cornucopia’s upcoming report and the accompanying scorecard will help consumers compare nutritional profiles of plant-based beverages, while also comparing them to that of dairy milk. Cornucopia’s report rates over 300 products from 49 brands, making it the most comprehensive examination of plant-based beverages available. Read Full Article »

China Stacks Hogs to Save Land and Transportation Costs

February 11th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: The article below offers surreal imagery of hogs raised in high-rise farms. Hog waste from one such facility will be shunted to on-site waste treatment facilities before being sold to farmers as fertilizer and sprayed on nearby forests. Observers of intensive livestock management worry that the set-up creates a massive disease vector.

Seven stories of sows: Inside China’s high-rise hog farms
by Reuters

On Yaji Mountain in southern China, they are checking in the sows a thousand head per floor in high-rise “hog hotels.”

Click on the image to watch the video.

Privately owned agricultural company Guangxi Yangxiang Co Ltd is running two seven-floor sow breeding operations, and is putting up four more, including one with as many as 13 floors that will be the world’s tallest building of its kind.

Hog farms of two or three floors have been tried in Europe. Some are still operating, others have been abandoned, but few new ones have been built in recent years, because of management difficulties and public resistance to large, intensive farms.

Now, as China pushes ahead with industrialization of the world’s largest hog herd, part of a 30-year effort to modernize its farm sector and create wealth in rural areas, companies are experimenting with high-rise housing for pigs despite the costs. The “hotels” show how far some breeders are willing to go as China overhauls its farming model. Read Full Article »

GMO Bt Crops May Not Be as Safe as Advertised

February 8th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Cry toxins are highly active protein toxins originally isolated from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). They are genetically engineered into some GMO crops to perforate the gut membrane of insects that eat them. Poisoned pests stop eating and eventually die. Unfortunately, non-target animals, including monarch butterflies, swallowtail butterflies, lacewings, caddisflies, bees, water fleas, and mammals, are also susceptible to Cry toxins. Several influential studies used by the industry to show the safety of Cry toxins for non-target organisms are now in question. It appears the researched insects’ feed contained an inexplicably large dose of antibiotics, and antibiotics are known to inhibit the deadly action of Cry toxins.

Rigging the Science of GMO Ecotoxicity
Independent Science News
by Jonathan Latham, PhD

Source: khteWisconsin, Flickr

Researchers who work on GMO crops are developing special “artificial diet systems”. The stated purpose of these new diets is to standardise the testing of the Cry toxins, often used in GMO crops, for their effects on non-target species. But a paper published last month in the journal Toxins implies a very different interpretation of their purpose. The new diets contain hidden ingredients that can mask Cry toxicity and allow them to pass undetected through toxicity tests on beneficial species like lacewings (Hilbeck et al., 2018). Thus the new diets will benefit GMO crop developers by letting new ones come to market quicker and more reliably. Tests conducted with the new diets are even being used to cast doubt on previous findings of ecotoxicological harm. Read Full Article »

Sewage Sludge on Fields Poisoning Wisconsin Water

February 6th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Sewage sludge contains toxic wastes, including pharmaceuticals, household and industrial chemicals, and heavy metals. Many industrial chemicals, including compounds called PFAS used to make heat-resistant, stain-proof, and nonstick products, are unregulated. Very small amounts of PFAS compounds have serious health implications, and recent testing has revealed dangerous levels in Wisconsin water. More than half of all sewage sludge is spread on farmlands, according to the EPA. Organic standards forbid the use of sewage waste on farm fields used in organic production.

Wisconsin case shows how sewage plants spread unregulated toxins across landscape
Wisconsin State Journal
by Steven Verburg

Source: Kristian Bjornard, Flickr

Detection of a toxic chemical in a northeastern Wisconsin wastewater treatment plant’s sludge has prompted a halt to application of the material on nearby farms and raised broader concerns about how public sewer systems across the state may be spreading the chemical across the landscape.

The contaminated sludge in Marinette also highlights unease and confusion in local communities over the absence of enforceable federal or Wisconsin environmental standards for the chemicals — often referred to by the acronym PFAS — despite at least two decades of research linking them to serious health problems.

Marinette has the worst PFAS contamination of drinking water that has been detected in the state. Private wells serving dozens of homes in the neighboring town of Peshtigo are affected, many with PFAS levels exceeding a federal health advisory. Tyco Fire Products, the local company blamed for the pollution, has installed water treatment systems and distributed bottled water in dozens of homes. Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
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Ph: 608-625-2000