Opinion/Editorial Archive

Dow Likely Greased Wheels for Chlorpyrifos, a Nerve Gas, to Remain in Food Usage

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Chlorpyrifos was originally developed as a nerve gas, meant to cause harm to human beings. It is now used to kill pests on our food, which it does quite well. Although EPA scientists had agreed it should be banned from agricultural production for our safety, particularly that of children experiencing brain damage from its drift, Trump’s EPA management has reversed that decision. Donald Trump also received $1 million contribution from Dow Chemical for his inauguration.


Trump’s Legacy: Damaged Brains
The New York Times
by Nicholas Kristof

This is what a common pesticide does to a child’s brain.

Dow Chemical in Freeport, TX
Source: Roy Luck

The pesticide, which belongs to a class of chemicals developed as a nerve gas made by Nazi Germany, is now found in food, air and drinking water. Human and animal studies show that it damages the brain and reduces I.Q.s while causing tremors among children. It has also been linked to lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease in adults.

The colored parts of the image above, prepared by Columbia University scientists, indicate where a child’s brain is physically altered after exposure to this pesticide.

This chemical, chlorpyrifos, is hard to pronounce, so let’s just call it Dow Chemical Company’s Nerve Gas Pesticide. Even if you haven’t heard of it, it may be inside you: One 2012 study found that it was in the umbilical cord blood of 87 percent of newborn babies tested.

And now the Trump administration is embracing it, overturning a planned ban that had been in the works for many years. Read Full Article »

Closing Comments of Francis Thicke at End of NOSB Term

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Francis Thicke retired from the NOSB yesterday. As a highly respected soil scientist, organic dairy farmer, and former employee of the USDA, he brought a unique perspective to the NOSB in his role as an environmental representative on the board. He was a mentor for many fellow NOSB members. We have shared his closing remarks below.


by Francis Thicke
November 2, 2017

Francis Thicke

There are two important things that I have learned during my five years on the NOSB. First, I learned that the NOSB review process for materials petitioned for inclusion on the National List is quite rigorous, with Technical Reviews of petitioned materials and careful scrutiny by both NOSB subcommittees and the full board.

The second thing I learned, over time, is that industry has an outsized and growing influence on USDA—and on the NOSB (including through NOSB appointments)—compared to the influence of organic farmers, who started this organic farming movement. Perhaps that is not surprising, given the growing value of organic sales. As organic is becoming a $50 billion business, the industry not only wants a bigger piece of the pie, they seem to want the whole pie.

We now have “organic” chicken CAFOs with 200,000 birds crammed into a building with no real access to the outdoors, and a chicken industry working behind the scenes to make sure that the animal welfare standards—weak as they were—never see the light of day, just like their chickens. The image consumers have of organic chickens ranging outside has been relegated to pictures on egg cartoons. Read Full Article »

An Update on Frey Vineyards

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: The Frey family has been a longtime leader in the organic and Biodynamic communities. They were an important voice in responding to powerful elements in the wine industry who wanted to change the federal regulations banning artificial preservatives in organic wine (sulfites).

The family has lost their homes but certainly not their spirit to continue, and we are so happy that none of them were killed or injured in the terrible fires that have burned north of San Francisco.


From Katrina Frey:

We would like to share an update on Frey Vineyards. All of our family members and winery staff are safe.

This vineyard suffered about 10% loss
Source: Travel Nevada

Our beautifully rustic office buildings, tasting room, and bottling line have burned, but the main house and the insulated warehouse holding our case goods are unscathed. Our stainless steel wine tanks and the majority of the crush pad are also fine. Although vineyards typically don’t burn, with the intensity of this firestorm we did lose about 10% of our estate vineyards along the peripheries of the ranch. In addition to the home ranch, we have 300 acres of satellite vineyards scattered throughout Redwood Valley and Potter Valley that are in great shape.

Fortunately, we broke ground two months ago for our new winery site on West Rd in Redwood Valley, and this land is untouched. We are mourning the loss of many of our grand oak trees that provided summer shade and a diverse wildlife habitat, but at the same time we are grateful that healthy stands of oaks are thriving at our new location. Read Full Article »

NODPA’s Ed Maltby: Organics Under Attack

Monday, October 16th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: This article first appeared in the NODPA News, published by the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, and is written by its executive director Ed Maltby. His essay is a comprehensive overview of the current environment in organic agriculture. As Ed notes below, if we work together and educate ourselves, we can more effectively work within the regulatory process to preserve the integrity of the organic label.


Organics Under Attack
NODPA
by Ed Maltby

Ed Maltby

The integrity of the USDA Organic program is currently in a precarious position. It is under attack from Congress, the NOP, and from organic advocates. The organic dairy pay price, and subsequently family farm income, is collapsing under the strain of a surplus brought on by poor supply management by milk buyers, poor implementation of existing regulation by the NOP and certifiers, and the failure of the NOP to pass regulations to uphold the integrity of the organic standards. The unique process of organic certification that has held consumer confidence and allowed organic products to stand out in the marketplace is also under attack and the results could well be more long-term and devastating than a drop in pay price.

The threats come from three distinct areas: the 2018 Farm Bill; from the bureaucratic inertia at the NOP; and by single-issue organic advocates who are looking to bypass the established process and change regulations through Congressional action. This article will explore how and why these areas of threat are so important because the defense of organic integrity and the changes to Federal regulations happen in many different ways and we all need to understand how an action in one area will affect a possible solution in another. Read Full Article »

More Pesticides Build More Resistance in Weeds

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Recent surveys across the nation show that some weeds are showing resistance to dicamba, an older pesticide which has recently been reformulated for use in a supposedly less volatile form. Dicamba is touted as an important weapon for farmers seeking to kill weeds which have become resistant to Monsanto’s flagship herbicide glyphosate. The pesticide treadmill will continue to build pesticide resistance in weeds while poisoning the land and its inhabitants. Dicamba and glyphosate are prohibited in organic agriculture.


Trouble in the fields: Why the superweeds are winning
The Des Moines Register
by Nathan Donley, Center for Biological Diversity

Palmer amaranth in the field
Source: Delaware Agriculture

Across a 1,000-mile long expanse of farm country from the Great Plains to the Midwest, millions of acres of crops have withered, leaving some fields little more than a brown swath of death.

With thousands of complaints of crop damage across more than 3 million acres in 24 states — including some 100 complaints in Iowa — a longtime University of Missouri plant researcher is calling it possibly the greatest pesticide-caused crop damage in U. S. history.

IOWA FARMERS MAKE RECORD NUMBER OF PESTICIDE MISUSE CLAIMS

The culprit is the notoriously drift-prone pesticide dicamba that was supposed to be the answer to weeds’ escalating resistance to the world’s most popular pesticide — Monsanto’s glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Read Full Article »