Media/News Archive

South American Grain Fraud Allegations Draw Industry Scrutiny

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Cornucopia has long called on the USDA to stop fraudulent organic grain imports from crossing U.S. borders.

Cases of fraudulent organic grain imports originating from Eastern Europe are well documented, as is the USDA’s failure to expeditiously investigate and impose penalties on bad actors intent on defrauding American farmers and consumers.

Source: Chesapeake Bay Program, Flickr

Now the article below discloses that South America may also be an origin of concern.

According to a complaint submitted to the USDA, Rivara SA, an Argentinian company, exported millions of pounds of fake organic corn and soybeans to the U.S.

The complaint relies on recorded conversations of a Rivara employee who allegedly admitted that Rivara was engaged in import fraud.

Perdue Agribusiness, a subsidiary of Perdue Farms, is Rivara’s largest customer.  Because Perdue Farms is the largest organic chicken producer in the U.S., the allegations raise serious concerns about the integrity of much of the U.S.’s organic chicken supply.

The article also notes that Tiryaki, the largest supplier of organic grain into the U.S., is transitioning to a new certifier after its former certifier, Control Union, was suspended by the USDA.

Cornucopia previously reported that USDA’s suspension followed the European Union’s action against Control Union for poor performance that facilitated organic fraud.

Cornucopia was the first to publicly call attention to the Tiryaki supply chain and will continue to monitor suspicious imports wherever they originate.


Organic-grain complaint raises questions about major Argentine supplier
Company in Argentina is scrutinized over its practices
by Adam Belz
Associated Press

For years, American farmers’ battle against fake organic-grain imports has centered on Eastern Europe. Now, an organic farm in South America is being scrutinized.

A lengthy complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and obtained by the Star Tribune, alleges fraud at an organic-grain company in Argentina that exports millions of bushels of organic corn and soybeans to the United States each year.

The complaint said that Rivara SA deliberately used prohibited fertilizers and herbicides to produce grain that it then passed off as organic to U.S. customers, including the largest U.S. producer of organic chickens. Read Full Article »

EPA Betrays Public Trust, Refuses to Ban Harmful Pesticide

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Chlorpyrifos is a widely-used pesticide with a trail of evidence of harm to children’s brain development. Prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos is known to reduce gray matter in fetuses and subsequently to lower IQs in children. EPA research has confirmed this danger, and the chemical was slated to be banned by the Obama administration. The decision, a political football, was reached at the conclusion of Obama’s presidency, and the ban was to be enacted by the incoming administration.

Source: Barbara Eckstein, Flickr

The Trump EPA rescinded the ban, leading to a lawsuit filed by public interest groups. In 2018, a federal court ordered the EPA to finalize the ban. Last week, the agency announced its decision not to ban chlorpyrifos. Read the whole story in the article below.

Chlorpyrifos is prohibited for use in organic agriculture, but more than half of all conventional apples and broccoli and a high percentage of conventional walnuts, asparagus, cauliflower, lemons, cherries, pecans, almonds, and peaches are treated with chlorpyrifos. Residues of the toxin remain on these foods even after washing and peeling (where reasonable). A recent study conducted by researchers at Emory University found that 59% of conventional milk samples contained chlorpyrifos.

Unsurprisingly, industry stakeholders present a different view. Phil Jost of Dow AgroSciences said in 2016, “The [EPA] assessment lacks scientific rigor, is contrary to EPA and Administration policies of data access and transparency in scientific decision-making, and falls short of the FIFRA requirement that decisions be based on valid, complete and reliable scientific data.”

To date, Hawaii, California, and New York have passed bans on chlorpyrifos, though these bans may not take effect for several years. Read Full Article »

Economic Justice for Family-Scale Farms

Friday, July 19th, 2019
Cornucopia Director of Domestic Policy
Marie Burcham, JD

While industrial organic operations forsake the synthetic fertilizers and toxic chemicals of conventional agriculture, authentic organic farms provide numerous ecosystem services for the benefit of all.

As the landscape of organic evolves, Cornucopia continues to monitor the industry and its regulation. The best organic farmers offer more than delicious, nutrient-rich food; they heal the soil, provide habitat for wildlife, care for human health, and remind us that we all live together in the soil food web.

Read what our director of domestic policy has to say about Cornucopia’s work in the article below.


The Cornucopia Institute is Working Toward Economic Justice for Family-Scale Organic Farms
badcredit.org
by Matt Walker

Careful with that kale. Step away from those strawberries. They might not be as healthy as you think.

The USDA has identified residue from 225 pesticides and pesticide breakdown products — some known as potential carcinogens — on America’s conventionally grown produce. Based on this information, the Environmental Working Group lists strawberries, spinach, and kale as the top three most contaminated produce items atop its annual Dirty Dozen list.

Of course, the most obvious way to avoid those potentially harmful pesticides is to go for the organic option.

Most people understand that organic fruits and vegetables are grown without the use of pesticides and chemicals, and organic dairies and egg farms raise livestock humanely with access to green pastures and sunshine

If only it were that simple. Read Full Article »

Farmer Blows the Whistle on Fraudulent Imports

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

Cornucopia continues to investigate organic grain imports and monitor USDA efforts to stop the flow of fraudulent organic grain into the U.S.

John Bobbe and Cornucopia’s Anne Ross

The article below features the impactful work of John Bobbe, the former executive director of OFARM, the largest organic grain cooperative in the U.S. Bobbe has worked tirelessly to stop fraudulent organic grain from crossing U.S. borders.

Cornucopia, OFARM, and others have collaborated in calling on the USDA to close loopholes, inspect high-risk shipments, and investigate foreign companies and certifiers that engage in questionable certification practices.

The article references Cornucopia’s work, The Turkish Infiltration of the U.S. Organic Grain Market, which chronicles how a small number of multibillion dollar agribusinesses came to dominate the U.S. organic grain industry.

Bobbe, who is also a farmer, points out how fraudulent grain imports depress the market for U.S. farmers, discourage the transition of conventional land to organic, and erode consumer confidence in the authenticity of organic food.

Cornucopia acknowledged Bobbe’s work in our report, Against the Grain, which documents the struggles faced by U.S. farmers as suspicious organic grain imports increased in recent years.

While the USDA continues to cite limited resources and insufficient evidence to conduct routine inspections of incoming shipments, private citizens like Bobbe and organizations like Cornucopia are committed to safeguarding the integrity of organic agriculture.


Organics detective
U.S. farmers stalk fraudulent imports to save their markets
Star Tribune
by Adam Belz

The massive freighter left a port on the coast of Turkey in April, bound for the United States with a cargo of grain for farmers to feed to organic livestock.

From a desk at his farm in rural Wisconsin, John Bobbe was suspicious. Read Full Article »

Impossible Burger Poses as Environmentally Responsible

Friday, June 28th, 2019

The Cornucopia Institute is neutral in terms of people’s dietary choices. Our supporters’ dietary choices range from omnivores, vegetarians who consume dairy and eggs, vegans, to 100% raw.

Source: Jon Fisher, Flickr

But we are not neutral in terms of the quality of the food we recommend. The Impossible Burger is a plant-based and vegan burger alternative, now available in many Burger King chains in the U.S. To meet the volume requirements for such a roll-out, Impossible Foods produces its beef alternative with Roundup Ready soybeans.

GMO and conventional soy is implicated in deforestation and destruction of habitat to a great degree. Soy of this kind is extremely toxic to produce, using large amounts of pesticides.

Perhaps to take the focus off this controversial reformulation, the company’s 2019 Impact Report referred to regenerative grazing as “the ‘clean coal’ of meat.”

As Cornucopia has addressed in other work, one has to look at the whole picture when comparing the total environmental effect of food: land-use, chemical and pharmaceutical use, implications for biodiversity, and so on. The article below offers further considerations regarding the meaning of food.

Monoculture fields have taken over great tracts of land in the U.S., and so-called “efficiencies of scale,” coupled with government crop subsidies, make this kind of agriculture profitable–despite significant health costs to the environment, wildlife, and humans.

Unlike the Impossible Burger, organic, grass-based livestock are raised entirely without the use of synthetic pesticides or GMOs of any kind. Regenerative agriculture is premised on soil health, and livestock are typically only one aspect of a holistic farm system.

It is true that one could not “feed the world” at the current rates of meat consumption using regenerative grazing techniques. What Impossible Foods fails to state is that this is okay: for many individuals, eating less but higher quality meat is a positive choice.

Whatever your dietary choices, it’s important to look beyond marketing schemes. We encourage eaters with a plant-based diet to look into making homemade vegan and vegetarian burgers—they can be delicious, nutritious, and transparent in all their ingredients.


Fake Food, Fake Meat: Big Food’s Desperate Attempt to Further the Industrialisation of Food
Independent Science News
by Dr. Vandana Shiva

Food is not a commodity, it is not “stuff” put together mechanically and artificially in labs and factories. Food is life. Food holds the contributions of all beings that make the food web, and it holds the potential of maintaining and regenerating the web of life. Food also holds the potential for health and disease, depending on how it was grown and processed. Food is therefore the living currency of the web of life. Read Full Article »