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.

Fall 2018 NOSB Meeting – Webinar: Tuesday, October 16, 2018

October 17th, 2018

A Cornucopia staff member attended the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) pre-meeting webinar yesterday, where the NOSB heard comments from the public. Cornucopia’s notes from this meeting are below.

Thirteen of 15 NOSB members present:

Source: Aaron Yoo

Ashley Swaffar
Jesse Buie 
Emily Oakley
Steve Ela
Harriet Behar
Asa Bradman
A-dae Romero-Briones 
Sue Baird 
Tom Chapman
Eric Schwartz
Lisa de Lima 
Dave Mortensen
Scott Rice

James R. “Rick” Greenwood was not present.
Dan Seitz may have joined late.

Michelle from NOP gives some housekeeping comments.
Paul Lewis gives opening comments
Tom Chapman (Chair of NOSB) also offers some oral comments. Read Full Article »

Organic Consumers Have New Weapon to Fight Fraudulent Imports

October 15th, 2018

Buyer’s Guide Highlights Brands Sourcing Exclusively from U.S. Farms

In response to consumer concerns after published reports of fraudulent organic grain imports flooding the American market, The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog, has released a web-based Buyer’s Guide that identifies brands of organic dairy products, eggs, and poultry derived from animals that are exclusively fed U.S.-grown grains.

Cornucopia has also published a companion report, Against the Grain: Protecting Organic Shoppers against Import Fraud and Farmers from Unfair Competition, outlining over a decade of neglect by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). USDA inattention has resulted in approximately half the organic corn and over 80% of the organic soybeans fed to domestic animals being imported from China and former Soviet Bloc countries with epidemic levels of commercial fraud.

“Identifying marketplace alternatives for consumers is critical to putting an end to the profiteering perpetrated by agribusinesses that fail to verify the authenticity of organic grains being used to produce their products,” said Mark A. Kastel, Cornucopia’s codirector.

The farm policy research group’s release of its mobile-friendly Buyer’s Guide follows its groundbreaking June 2018 white paper that chronicles how a small number of Turkish-based multibillion-dollar agribusinesses, with production in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Moldova, came to dominate the U.S. organic grain market. Read Full Article »

Ex-Monsanto Scientist Decries the Potatoes He Bioengineered for Simplot

October 12th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Caius Rommens, PhD spent his career in bioengineering with Monsanto and JR Simplot. Encouraged by other industry scientists and the companies he worked for, he is responsible for the GMO traits in potatoes that have made it quietly to the market. In the article below, Rommens reflects on his past work and the ethics around genetically modifying plant traits.

Hidden Health Dangers: A Former Agbiotech Insider Wants His GMO Crops Pulled
Independent Science News
by Caius Rommens

Pandora’s Potatoes
by Caius Rommens

Genetic engineering isn’t everyone’s childhood dream. Even I didn’t care for it when I started studying biology at the University of Amsterdam, but my professor explained it was an acquired taste and the best option for a good job. So, I suppressed my doubts and learned to extract DNA from plants, recombine the DNA in test tubes, reinsert the fusions into plant cells, and use hormones to regenerate new plants.

People say that love is blind, but I started loving what I did blindly. Or, perhaps, what started as an acquired taste soon became a dangerous addiction. Genetic engineering became part of me.

After I received my PhD, I went to the University of California in Berkeley to help develop a new branch of genetic engineering. I isolated several disease resistance genes from wild plants, and demonstrated, for the first time, that these genes could confer resistance to domesticated plants. Monsanto liked my work and invited me to lead its new disease control program in St. Louis in 1995.

I should not have accepted the invitation. I knew, even then, that pathogens cannot be controlled by single genes. They evolve too quickly around any barrier to infection. It takes about two to three decades for insects and plants to overcome a resistance gene, but it takes only a few years, at most, for pathogens to do the same. Read Full Article »

Pro-technology Think Tank Claims Non-GMO Campaign “Deceives Consumers”

October 10th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: The innocuously named industry think tank, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), has filed a Citizen Petition [PDF] with the FDA to request a prohibition on use of Non-GMO labeling on food. ITIF stops short of declaring all GMOs safe in their petition, but they do argue that there is no scientific difference between genetic engineering and conventional breeding. This opinion is not shared by the World Trade Organization. GMO products must be assessed for safety before they can be marketed (those assessments are generally made by the company seeking to sell the GMO product, but that issue is for another day).

The ITIF petition is spearheaded by Dr. Luther Val Giddings, who has spent the last 30 years immersed in “science and regulatory policy relating to biotechnology innovations in agriculture and biomedicine.” Giddings spent nine years working for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). According to 2014 and 2015 tax records, BIO has funded ITIF, a supposedly “independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute,” in the past.

Petition filed by ITIF over false claims levied by Non-GMO Project
Wisconsin State Farmer

Source: Greg Emmerich

To counter false claims and allegations by the Non-GMO Project butterfly campaign, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s top-ranked science and technology policy think tank, filed a Citizen Petition to the Commissioner of Food and Drugs calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a regulation prohibiting the use of the term “Non-GMO” on consumer foods and goods and requiring distributors to omit any “Non-GMO” term or claims on their labeling. Read Full Article »

Max Goldberg Interviews USDA Sec. Perdue on Organic Issues

October 8th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Organic Insider’s Max Goldberg interviewed USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue regarding the agency’s decision to allow hydroponic growers to label their produce “organic.” Perdue began by saying, “It shouldn’t be competitive,” and wound up with a quote about feeding people “more efficiently and more effectfully [sic] … around the world.” The organic label exists to ensure standards in organic agriculture for consumers and international trade. The label has, in the past, provided assurance to consumers about the methods and materials used in organic food production. Perdue continues to signal that the USDA is seeking quantity over quality in all agriculture, including organic.

Video Interview: USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue is Asked About the Legality of Hydroponics in Organic
Organic Insider
by Max Goldberg

This story has been licensed from Organic Insider. To read the full newsletter or to subscribe, please visit Organic Insider.

Last week in New York City, I had the rare opportunity to speak with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and was able to ask him about a variety of organic subjects, most of which Organic Insider has extensively covered over the past few years. Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
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Ph: 608-625-2000