Opinion/Editorial Archive

Trump Administration Deregulating Environmental Toxins

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Sonny Perdue appears poised to become the next Secretary of Agriculture. The big pesticide purveyors are salivating over the prospect of deregulating and removing science and health-based restrictions on their favorite poisons.

Poisons Are Us
The New York Times
by Timothy Egan

Source: Tracy Ducasse

When you bite into a piece of fruit, it should be a mindless pleasure. Sure, that steroidal-looking strawberry with a toothpaste-white interior doesn’t seem right to begin with. But you shouldn’t have to think about childhood brain development when layering it over your cereal.

The Trump administration, in putting chemical industry toadies between our food and public safety, has forced a fresh appraisal of breakfast and other routines that are not supposed to be frightful.

One of the first things this administration did was to rescind a government proposal to ban a pesticide used on much of the fresh food we eat — a chemical compound, chlorpyrifos, found to be harmful to the brain and nervous system of children. This move didn’t get a lot of attention. But when you’re throwing out a half-dozen major lies and missteps a day, it’s tough to compete for airtime. Read Full Article »

What’s Up with Organics?

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: John Ikerd is a policy advisor to The Cornucopia Institute and a leading figure in the sustainability revolution. The author of six books and a Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri, he contends that soil is the “very foundation of authentic organic production.”

by John Ikerd

John Ikerd

How can crops produced without soil be called “organic”? They can in the United States – but not in Canada, Mexico, Japan, or 24 European countries that prohibit the sale of hydroponic products as organic.[i] How can meat, milk, or eggs produced in “factory farms” be called organic? They can in the United States. USDA organic standards require minimal access to pastures or at least outdoor spaces for livestock and poultry – but there is no assurance the animals actually go outdoors.[ii] These and other symptoms of the “industrialization of organics” are clearly documented by The Cornucopia Institute – a self-proclaimed “watchdog” of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP).

The industrialization of organics was essentially predetermined when organic farmers relinquished the word “organic” to the USDA in the late 1990s. In a paper prepared for an international organic conference in France, I wrote, “Large, specialized food systems will quickly dominate global production and distribution of organic foods, if they are allowed free access to organic markets.”[iii] I pointed out that uniform national standards would allow producers who could meet the minimum standards at the lowest cost to dominate the U.S. organic market. Read Full Article »

The Case for Soil in Organic Agriculture

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Organic soil-based farmer Dave Chapman of Long Wind Farm offers this update on keeping the soil in organic. Public comments to the USDA are due by 11:59PM (ET) this Thursday, March 30.

The Battle for Soil in Organic Agriculture
Long Wind Farm
by Dave Chapman

Dave Chapman testifies
at the spring 2016
NOSB meeting

This letter is to catch up on efforts to keep the soil in organic farming. The fall NOSB meeting was a disappointment, as we had hoped that the recommendation crafted by the Crops Subcommittee would be permitted a vote, and we would finally make some progress in returning the organic standards to their original meaning. But the proposal was sent back to committee for further review. Apparently the 3 months since then still wasn’t enough time to come up with a more detailed recommendation. The Crops subcommittee has been swamped when all five of the new NOSB members were assigned to it.  So instead of a vote, there will be a discussion document at the Denver meeting in April. Delay is the hydro lobby’s best strategy, and it is succeeding. Hopefully there will be a vote on a final recommendation prohibiting hydro in the fall meeting.

The question that so plagues the NOSB is whether hydroponic production should qualify for organic certification. Although this sounds like an obscure question, one NOSB member has described it as the most significant issue the NOSB has ever faced. It goes to the very heart of defining organic. Read Full Article »

Looking Ahead: How Do Small-Scale Farmers Survive?

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Tom Willey is a policy advisor for The Cornucopia Institute. He recently gave a speech on labor issues in farming, and shares it with us here.

by Tom Willey

Tom Willey
Courtesy of T&D Willey Farms

I did not set out forty-some years ago to be a hippy, organic or alternative farmer of any sort. Deeply disillusioned after a few years striving to reform society’s miscreants in the prison and parole system, I ached to produce something of unquestioned value for myself and my community, namely food. Though a jolly good ride, that proved to be not as simple as it looked either. Let me share a “thing or two about a thing or two” that I learned along the “way of the dirt farmer.”

Few are aware that this business of growing our own food we call agriculture is a rather short-lived experiment, the final results of which are yet uncertain. Astonishingly, Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel indicts agriculture as “the worst mistake in the history of the human race,” while at the same time admitting that its invention “enabled us to build the Parthenon and compose [Bach’s] B-minor Mass.” Diamond argues that along with humankind’s abandonment of hunter-gatherer subsistence ways, that characterize 95% of Homo sapiens’ history, to henceforth scratch the soil and grow food crops, “came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence” to this very day. I once believed that California agribusiness originated the sinful practice of exploiting economically desperate immigrants as low-wage farm laborers, until I traveled abroad and witnessed impoverished North Africans and Eastern Europeans living in the hedgerows of Italian farms on which they toiled. Read Full Article »

Pesticide Poisoning Our Children Was Out, Now Maybe Back In

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: After five years of study, the EPA found that the commonly used pesticide chlorpyrifos is likely causing lasting harm to our children, in utero. With President Trump’s planned regulatory cuts, it is unclear whether chlorpyrifos manufacturers, Dow Chemical, may be able to override science and continue to peddle their lucrative toxic chemical.

Protect Our Children’s Brains
The New York Times
by Sharon Lerner

Source: Naomi Pincher

In the fall, I began to research an article that I gave the working title “The Last Days of Chlorpyrifos.” A widely used pesticide, chlorpyrifos affects humans as well as the bugs it kills. Back in the halcyon days before the election, the optimism of the title seemed warranted. After years of study, the Environmental Protection Agency had announced in October 2015 that it could no longer vouch for the safety of chlorpyrifos on food.

The agency had acknowledged for decades that chlorpyrifos can cause acute poisoning and in the early 2000s it had prohibited its use in most home products and reduced the amounts that could be used on some crops. But the 2015 announcement stemmed from the agency’s recognition of mounting evidence that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos could have lasting effects on children’s brains. Read Full Article »