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.

The Realities of Starting a Farm

September 20th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Although the couple in this film are atypical of new farmers—they had enough resources to acquire land and a solid consultant—the documentary they created about their struggles to start an organic, biodynamic farm is an honest look at what it takes (and gives) to partner with land and animals.

An L.A. couple left urban life to start ‘The Biggest Little Farm’ and then made a movie about it
Los Angeles Times
by Amy Kaufman

It all started with Todd. A flat-coated retriever-border collie mix with commanding blue eyes. He’d been rescued from a bad situation, trapped with over 200 other dogs in cages at a hoarder’s house.

His new adoptive home was far nicer: an apartment in Santa Monica with a newly married couple, John and Molly Chester. But it was still small. And when they left for work — John directed television docuseries, Molly was a traditional foods private chef — Todd would bark. For hours.

The Chesters tried everything to calm him down from citronella bark collars to anxiety vests. Nothing worked, and before long, the couple was served with an eviction notice.

John, 47, and Molly,40, didn’t know what to do. If they found another apartment, surely Todd would just continue barking there. And placing him in another family, after he’d already suffered so much in his early years, was out of the question.

So they decided to do something crazy. For years, they’d dreamed of starting their own farm, but in the way so many of us do — romantically fantasizing about giving up the urban sprawl for a simpler life. They knew nothing about farming; they’d only grown a small tomato plant on their apartment patio. But Todd was the push the Chesters needed. They found a family friend to serve as an investor, and in 2011, purchased 130-acres of land in Moorpark, 50 miles north of Los Angeles.

Enjoy this video short from the Chesters’ farm

Their journey is the subject of a new documentary directed by John, “The Biggest Little Farm,” which debuts at the Telluride Film Festival this weekend and screens next week at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film, which is seeking theatrical distribution, isn’t entirely a grass-is-greener story. It depicts the immense struggles the Chesters faced in trying to create an organic, biodynamic business, which they named Apricot Lane Farms.

Read Full Article »

Trump Administration Pressing Africa to Adopt GMO Agriculture

September 19th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: A U.S. State Department trade-policy specialist recently traveled to Africa to encourage officials to ease restrictions against, and encourage the use of, GMO seeds. The work of trade representatives is to develop and coordinate U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct investment policy. This trip benefits the biotech industry in the U.S., down to the official’s assurances regarding GMOs’ (questionable) ability to feed the people and promote good health.

US seeks to push African countries to adopt GM crops
The East African
by Kevin J Kelley

Source: Kyle MacDonald

A Trump administration official is visiting Africa this week to promote government acceptance of genetically engineered crops.

Peter Haas, a State Department trade-policy specialist, told a three-day biotechnology conference in South Africa that use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in agriculture can help meet the continent’s food needs while also fostering improvements in human health.

Mr Haas is travelling next to Ethiopia to discuss adoption of GMO products with African Union officials at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

His visit follows a warning in June by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that the Washington intends to file cases in international forums against governmental restrictions on GMO imports that are not “science-based.”

Africa could be a target of that US legal offensive. Read Full Article »

Conventional Models Meet Organic Practices

September 18th, 2018

Preserving Family-scale Grain Farming

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

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

Source: Adobe Stock

Over the past few years, imports of organic corn, soybeans, and other grain have soared, an escalation attributed to shortfalls in domestic production.

The majority of imported organic corn and soybeans are used for livestock feed. Amid concerns in recent
years about the authenticity of imported organic grain, coupled with domestic farmers being squeezed out of the market, conventional approaches to “organic” grain production have emerged.

Enter Pipeline Foods, LLC. Pipeline identifies itself as the first U.S.-based global supply chain solutions company focused exclusively on non-GMO and organic food and feed.

The company has acquired feed elevators, is building a state-of-the-art grain terminal in North Dakota, and plans to invest an additional $300-$500 million in its plan to build organic supply chains.

As consumer demand for organic food grows, similar corporate models that vertically integrate all stages of production and distribution under centralized management will emerge. Pipeline contends that consolidating grain processing and distribution using this model of control creates a more sustainable organic supply chain. Read Full Article »

Comment by October 4: Ask the NOSB to Uphold Real Organic Integrity

September 18th, 2018

Beyond Pesticides is a highly-respected ally in our fight to protect the integrity of the organic label. Since we are doing less direct scrutiny of materials, we are depending more upon their analysis. Why?

  1. In a process greatly accelerated during the Obama administration, the National Organic Standards Board has been successfully stacked with employees of members, or corporate allies, of the powerful industry lobby group, the Organic Trade Association — even in seats designated for citizens who “own and operate” organic farms.
  2. Under the leadership of the NOSB board representative who works for Clif Bar, the OTA-friendly panel gave away much of its power and autonomy to set its work plan and meeting agendas to the political appointees at the USDA. The will of Congress, that the NOSB be an independent body advising the USDA Secretary, has been subverted.
  3. Finally, since the Trump administration has taken over, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has shown no hesitation in overruling unanimous votes on approving/disapproving non-organic substances for use in organic food and agriculture (and has scuttled animal welfare policy advice as well). This disrespect for the public-private NOSB collaboration is unprecedented.

Thus, we are directing more of our resources to marketplace education and activism. However, Cornucopia staff will be at the upcoming NOSB meeting to “witness” the proceedings and report back to the organic community. And we will be testifying.

As an example, all the materials of concern to Beyond Pesticides, delineated below, are dubious in terms of their need. Good organic stewardship is about preventing problems with crops and livestock rather than having to remediate them, using chemicals, after the fact. It is quite questionable whether or not these proposals are consistent with the philosophies underpinning organic management (a requirement of law before they are approved).


Comment by October 4 to Protect Organic Integrity!

The Fall 2018 NOSB meeting dates have been announced and public comments are due by October 4, 2018. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label. Written comments may be submitted through until 11:59 pm ET October 4, 2018. Reservations for in-person and webinar comments close at the same time. Read Full Article »

GMO Salmon is Being Sold as Sushi

September 14th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Although AquaBounty, the makers of engineered fast-growing salmon, have refused to tell the public where their product is being sold, their CEO recently bragged to investors that it is being used in the Canadian buyer’s “high-end sashimi lines, not their frozen prepared foods.” Consumers must continue to be wary of the origin of their food: know your farmer!

Maker of GMO salmon says it sold 4.5 tonnes in Canada this year but won’t say to whom
by Michael Drapack

AquaBounty CEO tells investors Canadian buyer is using engineered salmon for ‘high-end sashimi line’

Source: Maya Puspita

Prepared sashimi products are where you’re likely to find genetically modified salmon in Canada, the CEO of AquaBounty Technologies, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company that produces the fish, told investors Thursday.

Ron Stotish wouldn’t say exactly who is buying the company’s product but did tell a group of investors meeting in New York that it has sold 4.5 tonnes of it in Canada so far this year.

This is on top of the roughly nine tonnes that were sold last year.​

There is no requirement in Canada for the fish to be labelled as genetically engineered, so unless the company does it voluntarily there is no way for customers to tell the difference between non-GMO salmon and AquaBounty’s product. Read Full Article »

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Ph: 608-625-2000