Cornucopia News Archive

Organic Industry Watchdog Shuffles Leadership, Squares Off with Powerful Lobbyists

Sunday, 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

Friday, 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 »

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

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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 »

“Fauxganic” Takeover in Full Swing

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

Finding and Protecting Real Organic Food Going Forward

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

by Linley Dixon, PhD, current Associate Director of the Real Organic Project

The Country Hen is one example of a
certified organic industrial-style egg
producer. Their porches, shown here, are
approved as “outdoor access” by their certifier
and the USDA’s NOP.

“Farmstead,” “local,” “sustainable,” “artisanal,” “family-farmed,” “free-range,” “grass-fed,” even “CSA”… Every time people in the good food movement come up with words to market their superior products, corporate agribusinesses start using the same language!

One word we all thought would be safe from Big Ag’s routine co-opting is “organic,” because it is protected by federal law.

The humble beginnings of what is now a $50 billion industry lie in small, diversified family farms. In the 1980s, many pioneering organic farmers lobbied the government to harmonize the variable organic standards that had resulted from a hodgepodge of private certifiers.

At the time, many in the organic movement were skeptical of the government’s loyalty to organic integrity over agribusiness interests. Conversely, conventional farmers lobbied against the label out of fear that it would make their chemical-intensive practices look bad.

Nevertheless, the creation of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) was thought to be a big win for the family farmers that led the movement. Recent events have, unfortunately, vindicated the original skepticism of the USDA’s commitment to protect the real organic farmer. Read Full Article »