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.

Tell the USDA and the House Agriculture Subcommittee: No Genetic Engineering in Organic!

Dear Under Secretary Ibach and House Agriculture Subcommittee,

USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach recently made comments before the House Agriculture Subcommittee suggesting it is time to discuss the possible allowance of certain gene-editing methods within organic production.

We vehemently disagree.

The organic marketplace is premised on being free from genetic modification. Ibach’s statements, in specific reference to gene-editing technology that alters only a plant’s existing genome, may have been an attempt to test the organic waters for acceptance.

But organic consumers do not want gene-edited food. In a 2017 survey conducted by Natural Grocers, 70% of respondents said they buy organic specifically to avoid GMOs. The organic label promises food produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, without antibiotics or other harmful pharmaceuticals, and without genetic engineering.

Ignoring the fundamental intent of the USDA organic label renders it meaningless and threatens the $52.5 billion industry.

Additionally, gene-editing techniques are not needed to resolve problems resulting from drought, pest resistance, and other challenges within our foodsheds. Traditional breeding techniques have been effective for centuries. When appropriately funded, the science behind selective breeding and other traditional techniques has exponentially improved.

Instead of inviting chemical and biotechnology companies into organic agriculture, the USDA and House Agriculture Subcommittee should provide farmers the financial support they need to develop new cultivars that are not genetically engineered.

The survival of the USDA organic label depends on farmers dedicated to the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) standards that were adopted and codified into federal law in 1990 and have been clarified by the National Organic Standards Board since then. Consumers rely on the organic label to find food produced under OFPA’s environmental and humane standards and free of genetic modification. We will not tolerate the intrusion of genetic engineering into organic production.

We urge the House Agricultural Subcommittee to take these concerns seriously.

Sincerely,
The Cornucopia Institute Board of Directors
– Cameron Molberg, President (New Growth Management)
– Helen Kees, Vice President (Wheatfield Hill Organics)
– Goldie Caughlan, Secretary (Retired from PCC Natural Markets and former NOSB member)
– Kevin Engelbert (Engelbert Farms and former NOSB member)
– Jim Crawford (New Morning Farm)
The Cornucopia Institute Staff
Fair World Project
Green America
Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association
Pesticide Action Network North America
Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association

 


 

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South American Grain Fraud Allegations Draw Industry Scrutiny

August 20th, 2019

Cornucopia has long called on the USDA to stop fraudulent organic grain imports from crossing U.S. borders.

Cases of fraudulent organic grain imports originating from Eastern Europe are well documented, as is the USDA’s failure to expeditiously investigate and impose penalties on bad actors intent on defrauding American farmers and consumers.

Source: Chesapeake Bay Program, Flickr

Now the article below discloses that South America may also be an origin of concern.

According to a complaint submitted to the USDA, Rivara SA, an Argentinian company, exported millions of pounds of fake organic corn and soybeans to the U.S.

The complaint relies on recorded conversations of a Rivara employee who allegedly admitted that Rivara was engaged in import fraud.

Perdue Agribusiness, a subsidiary of Perdue Farms, is Rivara’s largest customer.  Because Perdue Farms is the largest organic chicken producer in the U.S., the allegations raise serious concerns about the integrity of much of the U.S.’s organic chicken supply.

The article also notes that Tiryaki, the largest supplier of organic grain into the U.S., is transitioning to a new certifier after its former certifier, Control Union, was suspended by the USDA.

Cornucopia previously reported that USDA’s suspension followed the European Union’s action against Control Union for poor performance that facilitated organic fraud.

Cornucopia was the first to publicly call attention to the Tiryaki supply chain and will continue to monitor suspicious imports wherever they originate.


Organic-grain complaint raises questions about major Argentine supplier
Company in Argentina is scrutinized over its practices
by Adam Belz
Associated Press

For years, American farmers’ battle against fake organic-grain imports has centered on Eastern Europe. Now, an organic farm in South America is being scrutinized.

A lengthy complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and obtained by the Star Tribune, alleges fraud at an organic-grain company in Argentina that exports millions of bushels of organic corn and soybeans to the United States each year.

The complaint said that Rivara SA deliberately used prohibited fertilizers and herbicides to produce grain that it then passed off as organic to U.S. customers, including the largest U.S. producer of organic chickens. Read Full Article »

Cornucopia is Seeking an Executive Director

July 31st, 2019

The Cornucopia Institute is is seeking candidates for its Executive Director position.

Cornucopia acts as an organic industry watchdog protecting organics and alternative marketing mechanisms allowing farmers and consumers to connect. We seek to defend the integrity of the organic food label from governmental regulatory indifference as well as from agribusinesses profiteering from unethical and questionable food production and agricultural practices. Our staff are committed to ensuring that organic and local food remain true to the human and environmental health promises that they were founded on.

A heartfelt passion for protecting the environment, the good food movement, human health, humane livestock husbandry, and social/economic justice for family farmers is essential for this position.

The full job descriptions and details for application are available at https://www.cornucopia.org/job-opportunities/.
Please do not send email or call.

Read Full Article »

GMO-Friendly USDA Ogling Organic

July 25th, 2019

Under Secretary’s Testimony Opens Discussion to “Enhance Organic Production”

USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach recently made comments before the House Agriculture Subcommittee suggesting it is time to discuss the possible allowance of gene editing methods within organic production.

USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach
Source: USDA, Flickr

Ibach’s words are in line with the Trump administration’s stance. Organic standards currently prohibit the use of genetic engineering (GE) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but USDA Secretary Perdue has been very friendly toward biotechnology companies and products.

President Trump’s June executive order to streamline approval for new GMO crops was immediately followed by a USDA proposed rule that would allow biotechnology companies to regulate their own GE creations. Ibach’s testimony is not surprising in this environment.

“The allowance of any GE techniques under the organic label raises legitimate ‘slippery slope’ concerns. The USDA would be hard-pressed to find the resources to track allowed GE technologies and products in the organic sector, assuming they could summon the will,” observes Cornucopia’s director of domestic policy Marie Burcham, JD.

We have already seen the playbooks of biotechnology companies. Because GMOs are an expensive investment, both in terms of time and money, only the largest biotechnology companies are positioned to research, develop, and test new crops. They benefit enormously as regulatory hurdles are removed.

The majority of genetically engineered crops currently on the market have been modified to withstand synthetic pesticides, repel pest species, and extend crop shelf-lives to benefit processors and retailers.

Biotechnology companies hold patents on their seeds, which ensure they retain all rights to the engineered traits. As a result, four seed companies now own more than 60% of the global proprietary seed sales. Read Full Article »

EPA Betrays Public Trust, Refuses to Ban Harmful Pesticide

July 23rd, 2019

Chlorpyrifos is a widely-used pesticide with a trail of evidence of harm to children’s brain development. Prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos is known to reduce gray matter in fetuses and subsequently to lower IQs in children. EPA research has confirmed this danger, and the chemical was slated to be banned by the Obama administration. The decision, a political football, was reached at the conclusion of Obama’s presidency, and the ban was to be enacted by the incoming administration.

Source: Barbara Eckstein, Flickr

The Trump EPA rescinded the ban, leading to a lawsuit filed by public interest groups. In 2018, a federal court ordered the EPA to finalize the ban. Last week, the agency announced its decision not to ban chlorpyrifos. Read the whole story in the article below.

Chlorpyrifos is prohibited for use in organic agriculture, but more than half of all conventional apples and broccoli and a high percentage of conventional walnuts, asparagus, cauliflower, lemons, cherries, pecans, almonds, and peaches are treated with chlorpyrifos. Residues of the toxin remain on these foods even after washing and peeling (where reasonable). A recent study conducted by researchers at Emory University found that 59% of conventional milk samples contained chlorpyrifos.

Unsurprisingly, industry stakeholders present a different view. Phil Jost of Dow AgroSciences said in 2016, “The [EPA] assessment lacks scientific rigor, is contrary to EPA and Administration policies of data access and transparency in scientific decision-making, and falls short of the FIFRA requirement that decisions be based on valid, complete and reliable scientific data.”

To date, Hawaii, California, and New York have passed bans on chlorpyrifos, though these bans may not take effect for several years. Read Full Article »

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