Cornucopia News Archive

Cornucopia is Seeking an Executive Director

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

The Cornucopia Institute is is seeking candidates for its Executive Director position.

Cornucopia acts as an organic industry watchdog protecting organics and alternative marketing mechanisms allowing farmers and consumers to connect. We seek to defend the integrity of the organic food label from governmental regulatory indifference as well as from agribusinesses profiteering from unethical and questionable food production and agricultural practices. Our staff are committed to ensuring that organic and local food remain true to the human and environmental health promises that they were founded on.

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 for this position.

The full job descriptions and details for application are available at
Please do not send email or call.

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GMO-Friendly USDA Ogling Organic

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Under Secretary’s Testimony Opens Discussion to “Enhance Organic Production”

USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach recently made comments before the House Agriculture Subcommittee suggesting it is time to discuss the possible allowance of gene editing methods within organic production.

USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach
Source: USDA, Flickr

Ibach’s words are in line with the Trump administration’s stance. Organic standards currently prohibit the use of genetic engineering (GE) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but USDA Secretary Perdue has been very friendly toward biotechnology companies and products.

President Trump’s June executive order to streamline approval for new GMO crops was immediately followed by a USDA proposed rule that would allow biotechnology companies to regulate their own GE creations. Ibach’s testimony is not surprising in this environment.

“The allowance of any GE techniques under the organic label raises legitimate ‘slippery slope’ concerns. The USDA would be hard-pressed to find the resources to track allowed GE technologies and products in the organic sector, assuming they could summon the will,” observes Cornucopia’s director of domestic policy Marie Burcham, JD.

We have already seen the playbooks of biotechnology companies. Because GMOs are an expensive investment, both in terms of time and money, only the largest biotechnology companies are positioned to research, develop, and test new crops. They benefit enormously as regulatory hurdles are removed.

The majority of genetically engineered crops currently on the market have been modified to withstand synthetic pesticides, repel pest species, and extend crop shelf-lives to benefit processors and retailers.

Biotechnology companies hold patents on their seeds, which ensure they retain all rights to the engineered traits. As a result, four seed companies now own more than 60% of the global proprietary seed sales. Read Full Article »

Add-On Label Identifies Real Organic Food

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

The USDA’s National Organic Program has failed consumers and true organic farmers by refusing to enforce pasture requirements for organic livestock and by allowing hydroponic produce to bear the organic label. As such, add-on labels are emerging to help consumers differentiate between industrial and authentic organic. Cornucopia supports the efforts of the Real Organic Project to verify ethical farming practices.

The Real Organic Project (ROP) is a grassroots, farmer-led movement created to distinguish soil-grown and pasture-raised products. ROP has created an add-on label to assure consumers that what they are buying is authentic organic food from family farms.

In 2019, certified organic farms are eligible to apply for this add-on label, free of charge.

As a follow up to the 60 ROP-certified pilot farms across the country in 2018, ROP has begun their 2019 certification program.

Real certified organic farmers can be part of the pilot program! Apply online for free Real Organic Project certification–or call ROP Associate Director Linley Dixon at 970-317-0309 to apply by phone. Read Full Article »

Alchemy by USDA and Certifiers

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

Conventional Cattle on Organic Dairy Farms

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

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

The organic dairy industry is in a state of crisis. A glut of organic milk in the market is putting economic strain on family-scale dairies, forcing some to close their doors after generations of operation.

Source: AdobeStock

A significant cause of the problem is overproduction by industrial-scale organic producers edging their competitors out of business. “Factory” dairies—many milking thousands of cows—have perfected ways to game the system to gain an economic advantage.

One of their insidious methods is to leverage their scale advantage by rotating conventionally raised calves and heifers into organic production.

Cows start lactating around two years of age, when they give birth to their first calves. Organically raised calves usually consume milk, by bottle or bucket—the same quality of organic milk we buy in the grocery store or co-op—from the time they are born until they are weaned.

When a dairy cow “ages out” or otherwise is removed from production, she needs to be replaced if the dairy wants to maintain the same level of production.

The organic regulatory framework allows for the conversion of a distinct herd of dairy cows to certified organic production a single time. In this vein, some operations do not raise their young calves as replacements for their culled cows.

Instead, they purchase cheaper, conventional cattle raised on medicated milk replacer that commonly includes antibiotics and other banned pharmaceuticals and substances. After being weaned, these calves are fed conventional grains (usually GMO) and hay treated with toxic chemicals. Read Full Article »

Why Don’t You See Organically Labeled Fish?

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

The Complicated Industry May Be Incompatible with Organic Principles

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

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

Consumers often note that they do not see fish with the USDA organic seal at their grocery store or fishmonger. It is a topic that has come up many times within the National Organic Program (NOP) and its advisory board, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

In 2003, Congress amended the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) to allow wild-caught fish to be certified organic as long as regulations were developed first. However, despite this change, regulators decided that wild fish should not be labeled organic because hunting wild animals is not “agriculture.”

In 2005, the NOP created an Aquaculture Working Group (AWG), which generated a report to inform the NOSB on the issues. The NOSB’s Livestock Committee then developed standards for farmed fish and other aquatic species, releasing several recommendations between 2007 and 2009.

It is far more difficult to create standards for aquaculture
than for produce or livestock.
Source: Adobestock

However, there are questions as to whether a proposed organic rule on fish farming, also called aquaculture, is even viable. Both wild catch and most fish farming are associated with environmental problems that may make them incompatible with fundamental organic tenets. Read Full Article »