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.

Spring 2019 NOSB Meeting – Webinars: April 17 & 18

April 18th, 2019

Cornucopia policy staff members attended the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) pre-meeting webinars on April 17 and 18, where the NOSB heard comments from the public. Our notes from this meeting are below.

Wednesday, April 17

Fourteen NOSB members present:

Source: Alan Clark, Flickr

Harriet Behar (January 2016 – January 2020) – NOSB Chair
Steve Ela (January 2017 – January 2022) – Vice Chair
Scott Rice (January 2016 – January 2021)
Sue Baird (January 2017 – January 2022)
Jesse Buie (January 2016 – January 2021)
Tom Chapman (January 2015 – January 2020)
Lisa de Lima (January 2015 – January 2020)
James R. “Rick” Greenwood (May 2018 – January 2023)
A-dae Romero-Briones (January 2016 – January 2021)
Dan Seitz (January 2016 – January 2021)
Ashley Swaffar (January 2015 – January 2020)
Emily Oakley (January 2016 – January 2021)
Asa Bradman (January 2017 – January 2022)

Will be joining later:
Dave Mortensen (January 2017 – January 2022)

There are currently 14 board members since one resigned.

Introductions from Michelle Arsenault.
Paul Lewis, Director of Standards Division from the National Organic Program (NOP), opens the meeting.

This webinar was recorded and transcribed and will be part of the official record for the NOSB’s Spring 2019 meeting.

[In Cornucopia staff notes on individual comments below, our staff has included the commenter’s name and affiliation] Read Full Article »

Cornucopia is Looking for a Development and Communications Director!

April 17th, 2019

The Cornucopia Institute is seeking candidates for its Development and Communications Director position.  Applicants for this position should possess fundraising and member stewardship expertise and an ability to oversee the organization’s communications efforts. 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.

Learn more about this position and how to apply on our Jobs page. Please, no phone calls.

The Development and Communications Director is expected to provide his or her own worksite.  Because of this, employment with Cornucopia is possible anywhere in the U.S.

The Cornucopia Institute is an equal opportunity employer. Read Full Article »

Cornucopia’s Updated Core Values

April 16th, 2019

Cornucopia staff and board members are grateful for the outpouring of kind and encouraging words from our supporters during this time of transition.

We and our members remain dedicated to the important work before us as watchdogs of the organic industry.

Our energized staff members have co-authored a list of updated core values to guide us as we move forward in our work and our search for an executive director.

I am proud to share it with you, below.


Devin Mathias
Interim Executive Director

Updated Core Values of The Cornucopia Institute

  • Integrity is the root of the organic community and is essential to the work we provide to our constituency. The Cornucopia Institute aims for full transparency in its efforts.

  • The Cornucopia Institute continues to be a watchdog within the organic industry, working to protect the character of the organic standards while auditing the integrity of products bearing the organic seal.
  • The Cornucopia Institute researches, issues, and promotes findings, based in science, that are fundamental to maintaining the integrity of organic labeling, production, processing, and marketing.
  • The Cornucopia Institute will be a vocal, visible catalyst for interaction between consumers and producers within the good food movement.
  • The Cornucopia Institute works to identify and capitalize on opportunities to partner with likeminded organizations and individuals. We are a collaborative and unifying force within the authentic organic industry.
  • The Cornucopia Institute is committed to treating others, including its dedicated champions, volunteers, and staff, with the utmost respect.

Read Full Article »

“Organic” Hydroponic Operations Allowed to Spray Glyphosate on the Soil

April 11th, 2019

With No Soil to Certify, They Can Contaminate the Earth and Sell Faux-ganic Produce to Unsuspecting Consumers

“Organic” hydroponic production is a form of factory farming: the ground is leveled, compacted, and often covered with plastic, while plant roots bathe in synthetic nutrients or are supported by sterile substrates like gravel or coconut coir. The rows and rows of identical indoor plants resemble the worst of livestock production where hens are crammed into battery cages or cattle are packed into barren feed lots—all unable to touch real soil or live natural lives.

Source: USDA, Flickr

Now, the Real Organic Project has brought to light an even more shocking practice in large-scale, “organic” hydroponic production. Glyphosate—the particularly toxic herbicide that is absolutely prohibited on organic farms—is sprayed on fields just prior to constructing hydroponic greenhouses awaiting organic certification. This is done to remove aggressive weeds from the greenhouses.

“It’s vital that consumers understand what is happening here,” said Marie Burcham, an attorney and the director of domestic policy for Cornucopia. “If you see cheap ‘organic’ tomatoes or berries out of season in your area, those are almost certainly hydroponically grown! They are often so cheap, they are putting real organic farmers—farmers who care about the health of the land they farm—out of business.”

The National Organic Program (NOP) continues to assert that hydroponic, aquaponic, and aeroponic production is allowed, although these practices appear incompatible with the precepts and even the regulatory basis for organic production. The NOP’s argument in this case seems to be that because the glyphosate does not “touch” the plants being certified, it is all above board—or at least legally defensible.

Cornucopia disagrees. Glyphosate is insidious and can cause contamination in non-target plants via airborne drift and other routes of exposure. In addition, research shows that glyphosate is strongly bound up in soils, and residues pose a risk to subsequent crops. But hydroponic producers seem to have a special license to do many things that are incompatible with organic principles. Read Full Article »

Missing: The Organic Label

April 11th, 2019

How Cornucopia’s DIY Certification Guide helps you determine which farms provide the best food in the absence of organic labeling

Spring marks the return of fresh eggs, colorful produce, and more diverse offerings at farmers markets and CSAs. Signs and advertisements make many claims about production methods, but it is important to know what the claims actually mean.

Source: Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr

Certified organic food is produced according to strict federal standards and requires an involved, third-party certification process. But what about local markets that do not have sufficient organic offerings or where producers choose not to get certified but claim they use “organic practices?”

“Farmers markets are usually the best place to get fresh local food from family scale-farmers,” said Marie Burcham, an attorney and Cornucopia’s director of domestic policy, “However, vendors sometimes greenwash and make claims that don’t have real meaning or are misleading. Some fruits and vegetables may be conventional produce that was bought wholesale and not locally produced.”

Because many smaller, local farms and CSAs have chosen not to go through the certification process, consumers need to be more engaged in judging the practices employed on these non-certified farms. This food might have been harvested 10 hours ago down the road, rather than 10 days ago across the country. Cornucopia’s newly-updated DIY Certification Guide helps patrons ask farmers and marketers the kinds of insightful questions that an organic certifying agent would ask when inspecting an organic farm. Read Full Article »

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