Media/News Archive

Corporate Influence Hits Its Stride During Trump Administration

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: The corporate takeover of organics began long before President Trump thought about running for office. Hydroponic production was allowed under previous National Organic Program director Miles McEvoy during the Obama administration, while the National Organic Standards Board was packed with corporate executives eager to grow their brands. Thus far, the Trump administration has shown no inclination to change what is already in motion.

There is one additional note about the story below. Francis Thicke has clarified his position on which he is quoted in the article:

“I did not advocate for ‘the abandonment of the National Organic Program altogether,’ as the article implies. I told the reporter clearly that the Real Organic Project is an add-on certification that will require certification in the USDA-NOP program. So, it is not about abandoning the NOP; it is about shoring up the weaknesses in the NOP due to the NOP selling out to the interests of industrial agriculture.”

Is the USDA the Latest Site of Corporate Takeover in the Trump Administration?
The Nation
by Jasper Craven

Big Ag’s increasing influence has some farmers wondering whether it’s time to abandon the organic label altogether.

Francis Thicke

The US government’s organic-agriculture program isn’t exactly where you’d expect to find a nest of corporate lackeys and anti-environmental actors. And yet, at a recent meeting of the National Organic Standards Board in Jacksonville, Florida, that’s exactly what Iowa dairy farmer Francis Thicke alleged.

“Big business is taking over the USDA organic program,” Thicke said, addressing his colleagues in a speech marking his retirement. “Because the influence of money is corroding all levels of our government.”

The organic sector has exploded in recent years, as millions of Americans have shown themselves willing to fork over a bit more money on the promise of pesticide-free, high-quality food grown by well-paid farmers. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic sales jumped to $47 billion in 2016, an 8.4 percent increase from the previous year compared with the stagnant 0.6 percent growth in the food market overall. This increase in market share means new opportunities for farmers who are passionate about growing using organic methods—but it has also attracted aggressive interest from multinational food companies eager to take advantage of the profitability associated with the organic label. Organic products, once relegated to the shelves of crunchy food co-ops, now feature prominently in the portfolios of every major food corporation: Coca-Cola owns Odwalla; General Mills controls Cascadian Farm, Annie’s, and Lärabar; and grocery giants like Walmart sell USDA-certified organic products in every region of the country. Read Full Article »

Toxic Additives in Pesticide Formulas Largely Unregulated

Friday, March 16th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: The active ingredients in synthetic pesticides, like glyphosate in Roundup, are often under fire for their toxic effects. This study takes a look at the other additives, called adjuvants, in commercial pesticide formulations. Adjuvants may increase the toxicity or penetration of the active ingredients, and they are frighteningly unregulated. These pesticides are prohibited in organic agriculture.

Commercial pesticides: Not as safe as they seem
Science Daily
Source: Frontiers in Public Health

Source: Oregon Dept. of Agriculture

New regulations are needed to protect people and the environment from toxic pesticide ingredients that are not currently subject to safety assessments. This is the conclusion of the first comprehensive review of gaps in risk assessments for “adjuvants” — ingredients added to pesticide formulations to enhance the function or application of the active ingredient. Ignoring the potential dangers of other ingredients in commonly used commercial pesticides leads to inaccuracies in the safety profile of the pesticide solution, as well as confusion in scientific literature on pesticide effects, finds the review published in Frontiers in Public Health.

“Exposure to environmental levels of some of these adjuvant mixtures can affect non-target organisms — and even can cause chronic human disease,” says Dr Robin Mesnage from King’s College London, who co-wrote the review with Dr Michael Antoniou. “Despite this, adjuvants are not currently subject to an acceptable daily intake and are not included in the health risk assessment of dietary exposures to pesticide residues.” Read Full Article »

California State Agency Can No Longer Spray Dangerous Pesticides at Will

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: For more than 30 years, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has sprayed dangerous pesticides without proper analysis of risks to human health or the environment. The agency sprayed toxins on public and private lands, including organic farms, without notice or public input. A judge has recently ruled that pesticide spraying must be in line with current environmental laws moving forward.

California Court Ruling Ends Decades of State Pesticide Spraying
by Center for Biological Diversity

Source: Vera Izrailit

A judge has ordered the California Department of Food and Agriculture to stop using chemical pesticides in its statewide program until the agency complies with state environmental laws.

The injunction, issued late last week, is a sweeping victory for 11 public-health, conservation, citizen and food-safety groups and the city of Berkeley. The coalition sued the state after unsuccessfully attempting for years to persuade the agency to shift to a sustainable approach to pest control that protects human health and the environment.

Despite thousands of comment letters urging the department to take a safer approach, officials in 2014 approved a program that gave them broad license to spray 79 pesticides, some known to cause cancer and birth defects, anywhere in the state, including schools, organic farms, public parks and residential yards. Read Full Article »

Farmers Call for Block of Bayer-Monsanto Merger

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: To date, consolidation of seed and pesticide companies has given almost total control over pesticides, seeds, and agricultural traits to five firms. The pending Bayer-Monsanto merger will concentrate that power even further, and farmer input is critical to our understanding of what may happen if that merger goes through. Almost 50 farm groups, including Cornucopia, circulated this survey to conventional and organic farmers across the United States. Nine hundred fifty-seven farmers in 48 states responded, telling researchers that they experience higher seed prices without increase in seed productivity or seed diversity. The vast majority of the farmers polled are concerned that this merger offers more of the same.

Poll: Farmers Overwhelmingly Oppose Bayer Monsanto Merger
Friends of the Earth

Farmers’ Concerns Illustrate Why Merger Should Be Blocked; Milder Remedies Unlikely To Work

Source: TumblingRun

An overwhelming majority of surveyed farmers are concerned about the proposed Bayer-Monsanto merger and believe it will have a negative impact on independent farmers and farming communities, a poll released today has found.

According to the poll, of the farmers who responded:

  • 93.7 percent are concerned about the proposed merger of Bayer and Monsanto (82.8 percent are very concerned/10.9 percent somewhat concerned);
  • 93.7 percent of farmers are concerned that the proposed Bayer-Monsanto merger will negatively impact independent farmers and farming communities (83.9 percent are very concerned/9.8 percent somewhat concerned);

Read Full Article »

Trump Administration Proposes Roll-back of Key Conservation Programs

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Current conservation regulations conserve habitat for endangered species and provide protection for water and pristine environments near agricultural land. These regulations are worth billions of dollars in clean water and have incalculable worth for wildlife. Further cuts to the Conservation Reserve Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program will likely reverse the benefits they have produced to date.

Trump budget would undo gains from conservation programs on farms and ranches
The Conversation
by Ashley Dayer and Seth Lutter

‘Filter strips’ that protect water sources on this
Michigan farm were made possible by funding
from the Conservation Reserve Program.
Source: USDA

Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are starting to shape the 2018 farm bill – a comprehensive food and agriculture bill passed about every five years. Most observers associate the farm bill with food policy, but its conservation section is the single largest source of funding for soil, water and wildlife conservation on private land in the United States.

Farm bill conservation programs provide about US$5.8 billion yearly for activities such as restoring wildlife habitat and using sustainable farming practices. These programs affect about 50 million acres of land nationwide. They conserve millions of acres of wildlife habitat and provide ecological services such as improved water quality, erosion control and enhanced soil health that are worth billions of dollars. Read Full Article »