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 Industry Watchdog Shuffles Leadership, Squares Off with Powerful Lobbyists

October 21st, 2018

[Read Cornucopia’s formal Citizen Petition to the USDA for new regulations to prohibit the use of oil and gas wastewater in organic production.]

Fracking Water, Synthetic Ingredients on Agenda at This Week’s USDA Meetings

On the eve of the biannual meeting of the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), in St. Paul, Minnesota, The Cornucopia Institute has formally submitted a citizen’s petition requesting the USDA ban the use of wastewater from the oil and gas industry in organic crop production.

Cornucopia, a farm policy research group based in Wisconsin, is requesting that the NOSB prohibit the practice as water that has been used in fracking and other energy production has been found to be contaminated with hydrocarbons, other toxic and carcinogenic chemicals like benzene, and heavy metals.

“Organic regulations already prohibit using sewage sludge because of contamination with toxins and heavy metals,” said Mark A. Kastel, Cornucopia’s executive director. “A loophole has existed whereas potentially contaminated wastewater from sewage treatment plants is being used to irrigate land in drought prone areas like California, as is processed fracking water.  Both should be banned on an immediate basis.”

The NOSB is a 15-member expert advisory panel set up by Congress to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on the implementation of the Organic Foods Production Act.  It also oversees the use of any synthetic or non-organic materials allowed for use in organic farming or food processing.

In addition to submitting their wastewater petition, Cornucopia policy staff are commenting on three non-organic materials designed as antimicrobial processing aids (such as washing produce after harvest) and to fumigate soil: silver dihydrogen citrate (an antimicrobial), allyl isothiocyanate, and natamycin (an antifungal drug). Read Full Article »

Fall 2018 NOSB Meeting – Webinar: Thursday, October 18, 2018

October 19th, 2018

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

You can also view our notes from the Tuesday webinar.

Ten of 15 NOSB members present at the beginning of the call:

Source: Hideya Hamano

Ashley Swaffar
Jesse Buie 
Emily Oakley
Steve Ela
Harriet Behar
Asa Bradman
Tom Chapman
Eric Schwartz
Lisa de Lima 
Scott Rice

Two board members joined after the first commenter:

Dave Mortensen
A-dae Romero-Briones 

Not present:

James R. “Rick” Greenwood
Dan Seitz
Sue Baird 

Michelle from NOP gives some housekeeping comments. Transcripts will be available a couple weeks after the meeting concludes.
Paul Lewis officially opens the meeting. This will be Tom Chapman’s last chairing of the webinar; he has been doing it for the last three years.
Tom Chapman (Chair of NOSB) also offers some oral comments. Read Full Article »

Seven Artificial Flavors Banned by FDA in Response to Lawsuit

October 19th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: “Artificial flavors” in ingredient listings on conventional food packaging are a motley crew of synthetic chemicals that processors do not have to name specifically. Consumers may never know which “artificial flavors” they are eating. The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) pays its own panel of scientists to review and approve flavors, and the panel reports its findings to the FDA. These government agencies use the panel’s reports but do no further research. Artificial flavors are determined GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) in the U.S. based on the word of the flavoring industry itself. The story below is a win for consumers—and also illustrates the work we have to do in our food system. You can avoid these suspect toxic additives by purchasing only organic food.

FDA Bans Use of 7 Synthetic Food Additives After Environmental Groups Sue
NPR – The Salt
by Allison Aubrey

Source: Matt Lucht

Ever heard of these food additives? Synthetically-derived benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, methyl eugenol, myrcene, pulegone, or pyridine?

These compounds can help mimic natural flavors and are used to infuse foods with mint, cinnamon and other flavors.

You’ve likely never seen them on food labels because food manufacturers are permitted to label them simply as “artificial flavors.”

Now, the Food and Drug Administration has announced these compounds will no longer be allowed to be used as food additives. The FDA is giving manufacturers time to remove them from the food supply.

The decision comes in response to a petition brought by environmental and consumer groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Food Safety, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Read Full Article »

Regrets of a Salmon Farmer

October 18th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Salmon farming is huge business, dominated by a single company in the U.S. The fish are fed toxic feed, laced with multiple troubling chemicals. Under these circumstances, they are vulnerable to disease and parasites, including sea lice, and surrounding wild sea animals are infected as well. The current industry response is to pour increasingly toxic pesticides into the ocean. Ocean salmon aquaculture, as it is currently practiced, eventually makes the area surrounding the fishery uninhabitable, and the fishery must either shut down or move. Avoid farmed fish for your health, the ocean, and all of the creatures in it.

Swimming in Circles: Aquaculture and the End of Wild Oceans
by Dr. Mercola

In this interview, investigative journalist and fishing industry insider Paul Molyneaux discusses aquaculture and the dangers of farmed fish, which are also the topics of his book “Swimming in Circles: Aquaculture and the End of Wild Oceans.”

From my perspective, the two most dangerous foods served in most restaurants are factory farmed chicken, which is responsible for a majority of foodborne illnesses, and farmed fish, especially farmed salmon, which is among the most toxic foods on the planet.

Salmon Farming in Cobscook Bay
At the age of 17, Molyneaux left home and got a job in commercial fishing, which led to work in aquaculture in the late ’70s.

“I always had an interest in aquaculture, although I primarily was a commercial fisherman. In the late ’80s, I ran a fish processing plant for the Passamaquoddy tribe in Eastport, Maine, on Cobscook Bay. There was a sudden push to do salmon farming in the bay.

The way the promoters — at the time, a company called Ocean Products — sold it to us was [by] saying, ‘You can become farmers of the sea. You can start giving back to the ocean.’ We bought it hook, line and sinker … Last summer, there were about six of us standing on the dock in Eastport, saying, ‘Geez, we thought this was going to be great.'”

Read Full Article »

Nebraska Farmers Caught, as Part of a Wider Conspiracy, Selling GMO Grain as Organic

October 18th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: These farmers and their accomplices who marketed and sold the GMO grain as organic, over eight years, were thankfully caught and are on the hook for almost $11 million. While that is a substantial sum, fraud in U.S.-grown crops is a much smaller business than import fraud. Domestic organic fraud of this kind is relatively uncommon because organic farms are inspected and audited by their organic certifying agent. Organic producers must supply their certifier with paperwork backing up their agricultural practices, including reconciling inputs such as seed and how much crop is marketed.

This farm was certified by Organic Certifiers (OC) of California. Was OC knowingly a co-conspirator too? Unlikely. Was OC negligent in inspecting this farm? Or was the sophisticated approach developed by the perpetrators something that any certifier would be hard-pressed to identify? The Cornucopia Institute will make sure the USDA uses its authority accrediting certifiers to answer these questions, and we will report back to the organic community.

Nebraska farmers to plead guilty in organic grain fraud scheme
Omaha World-Herald
by Ryan J. Foley | AP

Source: USDA

Three Nebraska farmers will plead guilty to knowingly marketing non-organic corn and soybeans as certified organic as part of a lengthy, multi-million-dollar fraud scheme, federal prosecutors revealed.

Tom Brennan, his son James Brennan and family friend Michael Potter have each agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud. Their plea hearings are scheduled for Friday in federal court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Prosecutors allege that the three conspired with the owner of a large Iowa-based company to dupe customers nationwide who thought they were buying grains that had been grown using environmentally sustainable practices. Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827
Ph: 608-625-2000