Media/News Archive

Cornucopia’s Investigative Findings on Import Fraud Confirmed

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Last year, Cornucopia publicized the identity of multi-billion dollar agribusinesses and their affiliates, located in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, which have been connected to grain imports of questionable organic status.

The article from Organic-Market, below, credits Cornucopia with uncovering organic grain fraud and chronicles the ongoing problems related to imports originating from high-risk regions.

Shortly after Cornucopia published its findings, some of the same agribusinesses identified in our report curiously surrendered their organic certifications and engaged Control Union Certifications, a major multi-national certification body.

As reported by Organic-Market, the European Commission has now limited the authority of Control Union to certify organic products originating in Turkey, Russia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, and the United Arab Emirates.

The decision calls into question not only the certification activities of Control Union, but the practices of the operations in those countries that it certified.

Cornucopia has contended that imports from these countries cannot be trusted without verification.  We have again called for the USDA to enhance oversight of imports presented for entry at U.S. ports and border crossings.

EU commission withdraws licence of international organic certifier
by Leo Frühschütz

The EU commissions has withdrawn the organic certification licence for five countries from the international certification body Control Union, as its bad performance facilitated organic fraud.

When organic food produce is imported in the EU from third party countries, a control body or authority must control and confirm the conformity of the product with the EU-Organic-Regulation. The control authorities have to be recognised by the EU commission; currently there are 57 certification bodies approved by the commission, including several that are operating in over 100 countries worldwide. The EU commission has now withdrawn the approval for Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from Control Union Certification (CUC), one of the largest of these international control authorities. Read Full Article »

NOP Allows Glyphosate in “Organic” Hydroponic Production

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: The Real Organic Project has brought to light a shocking practice in large-scale, “organic,” hydroponic production. Many of these facilities are being built on land that has been compacted and doused with herbicides, including glyphosate. While the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) uncomfortably insists that this practice is legal because the prohibited substances never touch the plants, most organic producers and eaters would agree that it is antithetical to real organic principles.

Hydroponic Greenhouse

Source: AdobeStock

The regulation found at §205.202, for example, requires that land from which crops are intended to be sold must “have had no prohibited substance… applied to it for a period of 3 years immediately preceding harvest of the crop…” It is unclear how the NOP can work around this regulatory language—and other precepts of organic production—and still maintain these practices are legal. One explanation is that the NOP and their lawyers are willing to bend over backward to accommodate industrial-organic practices.

Cornucopia and our supporters care about organic food for many reasons. We enjoy the quality of real organic food, and we know that healthy soil grows healthy plants, resulting in nutrient-dense crops. Truly organic practices also recognize that the land, nature, and humans can work together to produce a thriving system that also supports local communities economically.

The NOP continues to assert that hydroponic, aquaponic, and aeroponic production is allowed—and always has been. Their assertion shows that organic law is vulnerable to legal arguments and creative corporate loopholes. Real organic farmers continue to lose their markets to industrial-organic producers whose practices compromise the health of the soil, water, and livestock, as well as the quality of our food.

Consumers also have a right to know how their food is produced and how its production impacts the real world. Supporting real organic represents a vote for truth and transparency in a marketplace where regulators seem determined to confuse and muddy the waters.

Our Hydroponic Buyer’s Guide outs some of the major “organic” hydroponic brands. These products are far cheaper than soil-grown organic foods—and you get what you pay for.

Cornucopia will continue to watchdog the NOP and the organic industry, and we will continue to provide information to consumers about what organic really means.

Real Organic Project Weekly Email
by Dave Chapman, Real Organic Project Executive Director

A few weeks ago I got to ask an important question of Jennifer Tucker, the head of the National Organic Program (NOP).

“I have received reports from both Florida and California of hydroponic berry operations that are spraying herbicide, immediately covering the ground with plastic, putting pots down and then getting certified the next week.” Read Full Article »

Who Certifies Livestock Factories and Hydroponic Operations and What Does It Pay?

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Cornucopia has heard from organic farmers and businesses who have asked their certifiers for a moratorium on hydroponics and to identify fraudulent dairies and egg operations. Cornucopia’s infographic, A Perfect Picture of Corruption, shows an example of the some of these conflicts of interest.

The organic food industry is booming, and that may be bad for consumers
The Washington Post
by Laura Reiley

As organic food shifts from utopian movement to lucrative industry, a war is being waged for its soul.

Record organic sales in the United States totaled nearly $50 billion in 2017 according to the Organic Trade Association. Although organic food still represents only 5.5 percent of food sold, its year-over-year growth has been meteoric — taking a cue from conventional agriculture’s mantra: “Get big or get out.”

This has resulted in organic growers and food companies that, although technically adhering to the definition of organic — no chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics or pesticides — are a far cry from the idealism and high standards with which the movement began.

Now the Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group best known as an organic industry watchdog, is trying to promote higher standards among the accredited certifying agents hired by organic farmers, processors and handlers to ensure that their practices comply with regulations established when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. Organic farmers’ original intent was to create a level playing field in the market and to provide consumers assurance about a minimum uniform standard for organic production.

In a scorecard set to be released this week, the Cornucopia Institute ranked all 45 domestic certifiers on their adherence to the spirit and letter of the organic law. The institute found significant variation in how certifiers interpret regulations, variation that frequently benefits huge corporate farms and competitively disadvantages those comporting themselves ethically. Read Full Article »

One Organic Dairy Diversifies to Remain Afloat

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Creativity and diversification may help some organic dairy farmers keep their doors open. The farm in the story below has been able to take advantage of its proximity to major cities. While urban sprawl has meant the death of many farm operations, it seems to be saving this one.

Pinke: A grass-fed organic dairy farm stays viable just outside the Twin Cities
by Katie Pinke
Twenty minutes south of Minneapolis-St. Paul, tucked into what is now the sprawling suburbs, is a family farm, Zweber Farms of Elko, Minn.

“The farm has been here since 1906 but actually the Zwebers have been farming in this area for over eight generations. We are currently grass-fed, organic. Today we have not only our dairy farm, which is about 60 percent of our operation. But we also have a grass-fed beef operation. We have a natural pork operation. We also do pasture chickens and free-range laying hens,” Emily Zweber said to me when I recently visited with AgweekTV colleague Trevor Peterson.

You may have never thought of how a family farm stays viable in the midst of urban sprawl.

Emily shared, “For us it’s really been about how do we stay and farm in the area that we’re in, being so surrounded by the urban development? For example, because of where we are, we’re not zoned agriculture anymore. And so that puts a lot of limits on how we can expand our operation or change our operation. For example, buildings. And so we’re not allowed to put on big agriculture structures to grow our operation. So we really have to think outside the box.” Read Full Article »

Farm Bill Contains Funding Boost for Organic Integrity

Friday, March 8th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: The article by OFARM’s John Bobbe below was originally published in The Milkweed. Bobbe is a strong ally in stopping the flow of fraudulent organic imports into the U.S. He has recently retired from OFARM, but he assures us he will continue to work on these important issues.

2018 Farm Law Boosts Funds to Fight Organic Import Fraud
The Milkweed (Subscribe here)
by John Bobbe

John Bobbe and Cornucopia’s Anne Ross
Congratulations to John on his retirement!

In the 2018 farm legislation, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) along with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who is also an organic farmer himself, successfully got language of the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act of 2018 inserted into the signed bill (S2927).

That law gives USDA more funding for organic programs, and also stipulates what USDA must do to insure organic integrity throughout the supply chain — especially for imports. Liberal use of the word “shall” leaves little to no discretion for USDA to interpret how the provisions are to be implemented.   Implementation will require at least a year, if not more.  The following are some of the specific provisions and language.

The new farm law provides additional funding to the NOP as follows: $15 million for fiscal year 2018, and increases funding through 2023 to $24 million.  It also provides a one-time appropriation of $5 million for modernization of trade tracking and data collection systems. Read Full Article »