Cornucopia News Archive

A Decline in Biodiversity

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Signals Danger for Native Pollinators 

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

by Marie Burcham, JD, Director of Domestic Policy at The Cornucopia Institute

Source: AdobeStock

Pollinators are essential to nature, food production, and the future of our planet as we know it. They provide the service of pollinating over 85% of the world’s flowering plants, including the majority of food crops.

As such, pollinators are important keystone species and may be one of the most ecologically and economically important groups of diverse animals. In fact, the Xerces Society, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of these insects, notes that the economic value of native pollinators— species that are native to a specific region and pollinate the flowering plants in that region—is estimated at $3 billion per year in the U.S.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a report on the global status of biodiversity in early May 2019.

The report found that human activity has resulted in large-scale loss of biodiversity, as well as the harmful alteration of 75% of the Earth’s land mass and 66% of the world’s oceans. Read Full Article »

Organic Grain Detectives Raise More Questions for the NOP

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

New Paper by John Bobbe and Anne Ross, J.D. LL.M.:
Potential, Failures, and Pitfalls of the National Organic Program in Getting Control of Organic Grain Fraud

The integrity of organic grain underpins much of organic production. It provides the grains we eat, and it feeds the organic poultry, cattle, sheep, and other livestock that provide organic meat, dairy, and eggs.

Industrial organic livestock operations typically rely on imported “organic” grain because it is far cheaper than domestic organic grain, and it is available in enormous quantities.

John Bobbe and Anne Ross, J.D. LL.M.

When it comes to fraudulent organic grain imports, The Cornucopia Institute and OFARM have been at the forefront in calling on the USDA to act. Both groups have aggressively tracked suspicious shiploads of “organic” grain, investigated the identity of international supply chains responsible for many of these shipments, and advocated for stronger enforcement measures.

Now OFARM’s former executive director, John Bobbe, and Cornucopia’s Anne Ross have joined forces to again impress upon the NOP that the import crisis is ongoing and that the agency has not done enough to stop it. In a paper they co-authored, Bobbe and Ross contend, “NOP’s failed enforcement efforts have left many organic farmers in dire straits with seemingly nowhere to turn, except off the farm.”

In addition to raising questions about NOP priorities in implementing remedial measures, Bobbe stated, “NOP would also like to shove off most of its investigative work on the certifiers and appears to only look at complaints if they have a shut tight case handed to them before acting.”

Ross warns the situation for domestic organic grain farmers could only get worse if the NOP doesn’t act now to stop fraudulent imports from crossing U.S. borders. Ross worries that an increasing global supply of organic grain in a market already distorted by fraud leaves the U.S. organic grain farmers especially vulnerable.

The paper’s release comes a day before an appearance by the NOP’s Associate Deputy Administrator, Dave Glasgow, at OFARM’s meeting in Piper City, Illinois. OFARM members are looking to Glasgow for answers to the concerns Bobbe and Ross raised. Following the meeting, Cornucopia will report on whether those concerns were adequately addressed. Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute Rates More than 100 Cottage Cheese Products in New Scorecard

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Comprehensive Report Gives Consumers Valuable Tool to Decode Dairy Aisle

The Cornucopia Institute, which produces science-based reports that empower consumers to make informed decisions about their food choices, recently completed an investigation into the cottage cheese industry, a re-emerging market that’s forecasted to grow nearly 10% by 2022. Its new Cottage Cheese Scorecard rates more than 100 cottage cheese products from 24 brands.

Due to a recent surge in popularity, dairy consumers now choose from a growing number of cottage cheese options, ranging from organic and minimally processed cottage cheese to products laden with sugar and other potentially harmful additives. Cornucopia’s new report, Weighing the Curds, helps consumers separate nutritious options from overly processed concoctions.

“A lot has been written recently about the ‘comeback’ of cottage cheese. Cornucopia’s work offers more than a market data analysis—we actually give consumers a tool to differentiate the quality among the products available,” said Anne Ross, Cornucopia’s director of international policy.

Some manufacturers heavily sweeten cottage cheese to improve its flavor. Many add thickeners and gums, such as the gastrointestinal inflammatory agent carrageenan, to make their products “creamier.” These additives mimic yogurt products that are marketed as healthy, but contain sugar and unnecessary additives.

“Cornucopia’s analysis found that organic cottage cheese products are far superior to their conventional counterparts,” continued Ross. “This is, in part, because most organic brands stay true to the simplicity of authentic cottage cheese.” Read Full Article »

Alleged Animal Abuse at Known “Factory Organic” Dairy Under Watch of Texas Department of Agriculture

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Cornucopia files formal legal complaint, encourages consumers to rebuke the false marketing of factory organic brands

[Read Cornucopia’s formal legal complaint to the USDA.]

Natural Prairie Dairy operation
Image from Cornucopia’s
2014 Flyover Investigation

Natural Prairie Dairy, one of the first “organic” dairies to employ industrial stocking practices, recently made headlines again. The Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) released a video in July showing severe abuse of dairy cattle at an operation housing approximately 14,000 cows, certified USDA organic by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).

The undercover video, along with ARM’s full report on their month-long investigation, shows cows being kicked, hit with shovels, stabbed with screwdrivers, force-fed, and inhumanely tied for many hours. Many cattle were observed with injuries, foot diseases, infected udders, and lameness. Downer cattle, unable to stand on their own, were beaten, dragged, left to die, and observed falling into cesspools, where they almost drowned before being dragged out by their heads.

“The abuse caught by the undercover investigator is appalling, whether it comes from an organic or conventional dairy,” commented Marie Burcham, JD, The Cornucopia Institute’s director of domestic policy. “Cornucopia reported to the USDA in 2010 that this certified organic dairy was violating organic regulations. Almost a decade later, Natural Prairie Dairy has not been decertified. We want proof that the USDA is willing to enforce the law.”

That proof remains elusive. Almost a month after ARM reported on the “squalid, overcrowded, and unsanitary conditions” at Natural Prairie Dairy, the operation remains listed as certified in the USDA’s Organic Integrity Database, and TDA remains an accredited certifier. Cornucopia has filed a formal legal complaint against the operation and its certifier.

TDA certifies some of the most egregious factory farms and has had multiple, serious non-compliances in years past. According to Freedom of Information Act disclosures, they failed to conduct annual inspections on approximately 22% of their clients in one year, had insufficient personnel to comply with and implement the organic certification program, and failed to conduct unannounced inspections. Read Full Article »

The Crisis in Organic Dairy

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Consumers Unite!

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

by Marie Burcham, JD, Director of Domestic Policy at The Cornucopia Institute and Melody Morrell, Operations Director

Source: AdobeStock

Family-scale organic dairies are struggling to make ends meet. Many have already lost their farms and businesses, some of which have been in the family for generations.

At their biannual meeting in April, the National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) heard from multiple family-scale dairy farmers about how their businesses are failing due to the inconsistent application of organic principles during certification.

For example, a small number of very large “organic” dairies are disregarding the origin of livestock rules by continuously cycling conventional livestock into production. Industrial organic operations, whose cows spend most of their lives in the feedlot, also struggle to meet even the most modest pasture requirements.

Authentic organic dairy farmers easily exceed the pasture requirements for organic livestock: 30% dry matter intake (DMI) and a minimum 120-day grazing season for each individual animal.

What’s more, the grain being fed in industrial operations may not actually be organic. In 2018, Cornucopia Director of International Policy Anne Ross, JD, exposed a network of fraudulent grain importers from overseas.

Available data shows the U.S. is importing more than they can possibly grow. This grain is cheap and abundant compared to real organic grain, making it an attractive choice for livestock factories.

Several dairy farmers shared emotional stories at the spring NOSB meeting in Seattle—about their families losing their homes, about financial ruin, about watching other dairies break or bend the organic rules without consequence, while their own ethical practices put them further and further into debt. Read Full Article »