Cornucopia News Archive

Organic Advocacy Groups File Legal Action to Prohibit Hydroponics from Organic

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

[Read the rulemaking petition to the USDA.]

Healthy Soils are a Legal Requirement of Organic Production
Soil-less “Organic” Systems are Misleading to Consumers, Undercut Farmers

Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a new legal action demanding the Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibit hydroponic operations from the organic label. Hydroponic production systems—a catch-all term that applies to food production methods that do not use soil—do not meet federal organic standards and violate organic law, which requires that organic farming include soil improvement and biodiversity conservation. Hydroponic systems cannot comply with the organic standard’s vital soil standards because hydroponic crops do not use soil at all. The CFS filing was endorsed by over a dozen other organic farmer, consumer, retailer, and certifying organizations, including the Organic Farmers Association, Northwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA), PCC Community Markets, and the Cornucopia Institute.

Source: Adobe Stock

“Mislabeling mega-hydroponic operations as ‘organic’ is contrary to the text and basic principles of the organic standard. Right now there is a pitched battle for the future of organic, and we stand with organic farmers and consumers who believe the label must retain its integrity,” said George Kimbrell, CFS legal director.

Consumers trust the organic label and pay extra for the assurance that it indicates a more healthful and environmentally-friendly way of producing the food they buy. Since the federal Certified Organic label was introduced more than twenty years ago, the organic food market has grown exponentially and is now a $60 billion industry in which multinational corporations have bought organic brands and compete with small food producers growing food using environmentally-friendly methods.

“Allowing hydroponic systems to be certified as organic undercuts the livelihood of organic farmers that take great lengths to support healthy soil as the bedrock of their farms,” stated Kate Mendenhall of the Organic Farmers Association. “Hydroponic producers getting the benefit of the organic label without actually doing anything to benefit the soil undermines the standard and put all soil-based organic farmers at an untenable economic disadvantage.” Read Full Article »

Who Needs the Organic Label

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Is It Really Worth Fighting For?

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

by Mark A. Kastel
Executive Director at The Cornucopia Institute

Mark Kastel, Executive Director

My mother is proud to tell me that 64 years ago she bucked the trend by breast-feeding me for a whole week or two. God knows what the comparative quality was of infant formula back then. We know how it compares to breastmilk now—it doesn’t.

Subsequently, I lived a typical American childhood, downing an occasional Coca-Cola (with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup) after a grilled “cheese” sandwich of Kraft Velveeta on Wonder Bread. Luckily, whole milk was less than occasional.

By my 20s, I was low-energy and by my 30s I had a legitimate health crisis. Fortunately, I saw a progressive physician-allergist who suggested I eat all organic food (by then I already had a pretty healthy, whole foods diet— long before there was any store by that name).

After decades of eating, gardening, farming, and advocating for organics, my health is excellent. Having recovered from pesticide poisoning/environmental illness, I’m very protective of my diet. I need organic food!

Many people, like me, come to organic food because of what it doesn’t have: agrichemicals, drug residues, and novel foods that have never been part of the human diet—GMOs. But what might be its greatest attribute, and what might have saved my health, is its comparable nutrient density. Read Full Article »

Restaurants Frequently Misrepresent What’s Organic

Monday, January 14th, 2019

USDA Will Enforce–But Consumers are the Frontline Investigators

Many consumers who choose organic food for home cooked meals want the same benefits of organic certification when they eat out. Unfortunately, many are being misled or defrauded.

Restaurants recognize that local and organic foods are no longer narrow niche markets and that promoting organic food can bring in a wider customer base, but the rules and regulations surrounding how restaurants can market their organic offerings are sparse. The federal organic regulations for retail operations generally consider restaurants exempt from organic certification.

However, it is still illegal to co-mingle or misrepresent the organic status of anything sold in a grocery store or as an ingredient used in food preparation at restaurants. The term “local,” although abused, is not a regulated term.

“A problem arises when a restaurant uses the term ‘organic’ in their name, signage, or marketing materials,” said Marie Burcham, a policy analyst and attorney for The Cornucopia Institute.  “It can and often does make consumers think the majority of what they are eating is certified organic.”

Gil Rosenberg experienced this confusion when he started eating at Bareburger, a New York City restaurant chain. Bareburger displayed that it sold organic food front and center, advertising “organic grass-fed burgers” and burgers “made with our custom proprietary organic blend,” along with other marketing on awnings, windows, and menus that flaunted the term “organic.” A burger at Bareburger will cost around $15–not cheap by American standards.

“People want organic food and they are willing to pay for it,” continued Burcham, “But what if they are not getting what is advertised? That’s misrepresentation.”

Rosenberg commented that he had been eating at various Bareburger franchise locations for nearly five years before discovering their misrepresentations. “When I would go [to Bareburger], I was told that the burgers, fries, and onion rings were ‘organic,’” stated Rosenberg. “They had the word ‘organic’ inside the restaurants, on the walls, burger clam shell boxes, takeout bags, menus, servers’ t-shirts, ketchup packs, and attached to their logo and awnings. Now it is clear to me that their marketing was designed to convince the public that all their food is certified organic, when only a small percentage of their menu is.” Read Full Article »

Double Your Donation Until Midnight on New Year’s Eve: Protect Your Food and the Best Farmers

Monday, December 31st, 2018

Dear allies in the authentic food movement,

For the next few hours, you can take advantage of doubling your money to protect the authenticity of the food you want to eat and support the livelihoods of families practicing eco-agriculture (many of whom are financially stressed right now).

Making a gift at this time really leverages your dollars and voice.

We are excited that a generous family foundation has again offered to match, dollar-for-dollar, every donation, up to $50,000, made to Cornucopia before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

We hope you will consider a gift to support the good fight for good food!

Not only do your dollars fuel this mission, you give us the moral authority to speak out! With you and other farmers and consumers standing together, we have the power of the people in this movement.

Thank you for your support today and throughout the year,

Will Fantle
The Cornucopia Institute

P.S. We are so thankful for the outpouring of support this past month. We are working hard to personally thank everyone who has already donated. It is inspiring to see that so many people care about protecting good food and ethical farms.

If you’ve already donated this season, please consider passing this link along to friends and family who can double their donation to support family-scale organic and ecological farms to stand up against industry corruption in 2019. Thank you! Read Full Article »

Dr. Phil Howard Updates Seed Industry Graphic, December 2018

Monday, December 31st, 2018

Dr. Phil Howard, the creator of the popular Who Owns Organics infographic, updated his work on corporate consolidation in the global seed industry in December 2018.

The graphic below shows ownership changes occurring from 1996, when the top three corporations in the global seed industry controlled 22% of the industry, to 2018. Note that the size of the largest circles are proportional to global seed sales, which are dominated by Bayer and Corteva.

View or download a high resolution PDF of this image or a black and white PDF of this image.

In recent years, the “Big 6” agrichemical/seed firms have combined into the “Big 4”:

  • Dow and DuPont merged in 2015 and then divided into three companies, including Corteva
  • Chemchina acquired Syngenta
  • Bayer acquired Monsanto
  • Bayer’s seed divisions were sold to BASF

These four firms now control an estimated 60+% of global proprietary seed sales.

China’s ChemChina and Longping High-Tech are now ranked in the top ten in global seed sales. Both firms are planning more acquisitions in the near-term. Read Full Article »