Cornucopia News Archive

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 »

Attempted Suicide in Wisconsin = Marketplace Fallout in Real Terms

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Dear urban allies,

You have the power. You have the power to protect your family by buying the truly best, authentic organic dairy products. And by doing so, you have the power to protect family farmers who get their hands dirty for a living and crack a sweat producing nutrient-superior milk.

Right now, many are being crushed in the marketplace by factory farms the USDA has allowed to fraudulently produce “organic” milk. These are not just jobs for family farmers. The majority of these farms have been in the same families for multiple generations. These are highly skilled practitioners, but in today’s technologically sophisticated employment marketplace there are few other places for them to go.

You can speak loudly, in solidarity with these farm families, by doing your homework and voting with your pocketbook every time you are standing in front of the dairy cooler. Choosing organic is not enough.

Please use Cornucopia’s Organic Dairy Scorecard to separate family farms, most with cows that have names not numbers, from the livestock factory imposters.

Every day you spend your money wisely, you have a true impact.

I shared the message below with our dairy farmer-members and collaborators in the industry Tuesday.

In organic solidarity,

Mark A. Kastel

Hello all,

I bring sad news. An organic dairy farmer in eastern Wisconsin, yesterday, shot himself in an apparent suicide attempt. Unless I receive permission from the family, I’m not going to relay any identifying information, but I’d like to use this as a cautionary tale for all of us in the community and a warning to business people who treat farmers like expendable pawns—if you have too many automobiles in stock, you might shut down your factory for a few weeks and furlough your workers, but it just doesn’t work that way with cows, farmers, and their families.

First, and I will also say this at the end of my message, if you are a producer who is currently struggling, you are sadly in good company. If you are feeling despondent or are having challenges controlling your anger, which is understandable, please, please talk to someone you trust. Read Full Article »

New Farm Bill Weakens Organic Regulatory Oversight

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

Congress Agrees with Cornucopia: USDA Undermined Organics and Violated Law

The 2018 Farm Bill is one of the biggest pieces of legislation of the year—but getting it off the ground has been a challenge for the divided Congress. With many Farm Bill programs already expired, or set to expire by the end of the year, the passage of the legislation was time-critical.

Signing the Conference Report
for the 2018 Farm Bill
Source: House Agriculture Committee Democrats

The final text from the conference committee was released Monday, December 10. By Wednesday, both houses of Congress had passed the legislation, by strong bipartisan margins, and sent it to the President’s desk for his signature.

In addition to perennially contentious funding for food stamps and farm subsidies, the bill contains most of the logistics that keep the USDA wheels turning.

In an affront to the organic farming community, this Farm Bill codifies a number of contentious changes to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). These provisions weaken and confuse the NOSB’s ability to represent the public and advise the USDA Secretary on organic matters. Read Full Article »