Media/News Archive

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 »

Avoid That Glass of Pesticides, Antibiotics, and Synthetic Hormones

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

If you consume dairy, a new study from Emory University suggests you are safest drinking organic milk. In their study of 35 conventional and 34 organic milk samples, 59% of the conventional products contained chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos is a ubiquitous insecticide linked to lower levels of gray matter and IQ in children exposed prenatally. This toxin was nearly banned by an Obama-era decision with the backing of EPA scientists, but the current administration has called for more study. Other pesticides, including diazinon, atrazine, and permethrin, were also found in the conventional milk samples.

Source: Brian Rogers, Flickr

Additionally, 60% of the conventional milk samples contained antibiotics. One sample contained amoxicillin residues exceeding the FDA limit, and more than one-third of the conventional milk samples contained sulfonamides, which are prohibited by law from use in cattle. The World Health Organization has declared that “antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today,” partly due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in livestock.

Organic milk in the study contained no antibiotics, no pesticide residue, and no sign of synthetic growth hormone. Although it is important to know what organic dairy does not contain, the best organic producers go above and beyond organic regulations.

Cornucopia’s Organic Dairy Scorecard identifies the brands that employ superb grazing and animal welfare management and are transparent in their practices. The top-rated brands show outstanding dedication to organic integrity, helping eaters feel confident about what they are putting in their bodies.

What’s in your milk? Choose organic for the cleanest milk, says new study
The Organic Center

Non-organic milk tests positive for illegal antibiotics, high levels of growth hormones and controversial pesticide contaminants

Milk is an important part of the human diet. It provides protein, fat, calcium and vitamin D, and for the youngest members of our population, it is especially critical as a main source of many nutrients. But not all milk is created equal. Read Full Article »

Authentic Organic Farms Are Good for Birds

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

Wild birds can be extremely beneficial to farms, as many of them feed on pest species and support a vibrant on-farm ecosystem. Unfortunately, agriculture is the leading threat to bird species facing extinction.

Source: Emilie Chen, Flickr

Real organic farmers encourage on-farm biodiversity, including habitat for birds. These kinds of cultural practices have wide-ranging benefits, such as providing habitat for other insect predators and pollinators and even acting as a carbon sink in some instances.

Supporting family-scale organic farmers is a vote for these kinds of holistic practices. Interested eaters can also ask their local farmers what practices they employ to support wild species—including birds—on their farms.

Farming With Wild Birds: Practicing Co-Existence
Rewilding Earth
by Jo Ann Baumgartner

Farming is one of those pursuits that requires creative thinking. So many factors are juggled for a good harvest and a healthy farm, including considerations that support or exclude wild nature. The challenge is balancing the farm’s future sustainability with growing and selling products that do not push the landscape beyond its limits. As Aldo Leopold said, “A good farm must be one where the wild fauna and flora has lost acreage without losing its existence.” Read Full Article »

Genetically Engineered Chestnut Forests Proposed

Monday, June 24th, 2019

After the American chestnut was essentially wiped out by a fungus and other diseases, researchers have created a genetically engineered (GE) chestnut that they claim is resistant to the fungus in question. They hope to release this GE tree into the wild to restore “native” chestnut populations to help the forests, wildlife, and local economies that utilized seasonal nut harvests for sale and food.

Source: Rachid H, Flickr

Unlike the familiar crops genetically modified to survive the overuse of pesticides, such as Roundup Ready corn, this work is intended to restore a lost species. But concerns abound about a GE tree being released into the wild. First, chestnut trees can live up to 200 years and there is no way to test the environmental effects of GE trees on that kind of time scale. Releasing the tree into the wild will make it very difficult to control if there are negative effects, and there is a high likelihood that the offending fungus may mutate to overcome genetically engineered resistance.

Traditional breeding also works to help plants be resistant to diseases like the fungus that plague the chestnut tree. The American Chestnut Foundation is already working on selective breeding of chestnut trees for the same fungus the GE tree has been developed for. Though slower, these traditional breeding techniques offer consistent results and do not pose the same risks inherent in splicing together genes from dissimilar species.

Some experts wonder whether this apparently well-intentioned GE creation is a public relations stunt to sway public opinion of GMOs.

The GE American Chestnut – Restoration of a Beloved Species or Trojan Horse for Tree Biotechnology?
Independent Science News
by by Rachel Smolker, Ph.D. (Biofuelwatch) and Anne Petermann (Global Justice Ecology Project)

About a century ago the American chestnut tree was attacked by the introduced fungal pathogen (Cryphonectria parasitica). This fungus drove the chestnut to functional extinction. Now, scientists at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) claim to have created, through biotechnology, a resistant American chestnut variety. They aim to petition the required regulatory agencies (USDA, FDA, EPA) for deregulation of their genetically engineered chestnut in the near future, with the stated goal of “restoring” the species to nature.

If it is deregulated, the GE chestnut would be the first GE forest tree species to be planted out in forests with the deliberate intention of spreading freely. Monitoring or reversing their spread, once released, would likely be impossible. Performing valid risk assessments of the potential impacts of GE American chestnut on forests, wildlife, water, soils, pollinators or people, is hampered by our lack of knowledge about both the ecology of the American chestnut and forest ecosystems. Furthermore, since American chestnuts can live for more than 200 years, risk factors may change over the tree’s lifetime in unpredictable ways. Read Full Article »