The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute, through research and investigations on agricultural and food issues, provides needed information to family farmers, consumers and other stakeholders in the good food movement and to the media. We support economic justice for the family-scale farming community – partnered with consumers – backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.

Chemical Merchant of Doubt Endorsed for EPA Safety Chief

October 12th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Michael Dourson was grilled at his Senate confirmation hearing last week. It remains to be seen whether he will be confirmed in a high position at the EPA, but his track record is absolutely clear: Dourson has spent his career determining toxic chemicals are safe and collecting a paycheck from chemical manufacturers.

The Intercept
by Sharon Lerner

Source: Carolina Biological Supply Co

Michael Dourson, the toxicologist who will be the subject of a confirmation hearing on Wednesday for what many consider the second most powerful post at the Environmental Protection Agency, has been hired by industry to consult on at least 30 of the chemicals he may be responsible for reviewing if he assumes office.

Dourson’s consulting company, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, or TERA, was paid by Dow Chemical, CropLife America, the American Chemistry Council, the American Petroleum Institute, Koch Industries, and other companies and industry groups to study dozens of chemicals. The evaluations TERA produced consistently failed to recognize threats that were clear to scientists and regulators not on the companies’ payrolls.

If confirmed as director of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Dourson will be in a position to set safety levels for many of the same chemicals his company was paid to defend, including nine pesticides scheduled for scrutiny and 20 industrial compounds that may be evaluated under the recently updated chemical safety law. Read Full Article »

San Francisco Tells Meat Producers to Disclose Antibiotic Use

October 11th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: The city of San Francisco is poised to require grocery stores to publish antibiotic use in the meat and poultry brands they sell to the city’s consumers. Critics claim this places an unfair burden on groceries and producers. It has also been suggested that the threat of forced transparency may cause some brands to refuse to sell their products in San Francisco, raising the price of meat and poultry there.

Most meat producers use antibiotics. Now consumers can see how much.
The Washington Post
by Caitlin Dewey

Source: Michael Winkler

U.S. consumers are about to gain a rare window into the use of antibiotics in the food system, an issue of skyrocketing concern among public health groups, shoppers and physicians.

Critics have argued that the agricultural industry abuses these medicines, administering antibiotics to animals which do not need them and contributing to the rise of  “super bugs.” Consumer groups have complained that the public knows too little about how their food is raised — an issue compounded by a range of confusing labels.

But thanks to a new San Francisco city ordinance, due to be signed into law later this month, a number of the country’s top meat and poultry brands will soon have to share far more details about their antibiotic use. Under the rule, which passed the city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously on Tuesday, grocery stores will be required to document antibiotic use in the meat and poultry brands they sell and make the information available, via a city website, to consumers. Read Full Article »

Letter to the Editor: Organic Coffee Grower Colehour Bondera Addresses Coffee Labeling

October 11th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: One of Cornucopia’s respected farmer members, and past NOSB member, Colehour Bondera, recently wrote to us in response to our Cultivator article on coffee labeling. You will find his letter to us, printed in totality, below.

Letter to the Editor
by Colehour Bondera

This is a communication in reply to the recent (Fall 2017) article by Linley Dixon, titled, “Considering Coffee.”

The Bondera family processing coffee
Source: Kanalani Ohana Farm

Let us all recognize that coffee has been moved from tropical to temperate regions for well over 500 years. There does not seem to be any shift in said demand. As one of the primary-level, “global drugs” (chocolate and alcohol being the others), coffee is something which must be seen as a foundational product to learn from.

For that reason, we must learn about coffee, and as a long-term farmer of organic Kona coffee, it is important to remind of the fact that coffee is grown in Puerto Rico and Hawaii, both directly parts of the United States. Therefore, it is encouraged that you recognize what is already (and has been for hundreds of years) US crops that are available to even those far away!

As an organic coffee farmer, it is not necessary to use any of the synthetic chemicals that are used so widely in the coffee industry (including not only in production and processing, but also with shipping and storage.) In fact, as said before, remember that coffee has been exported many miles from production for hundreds of years successfully – well before any of these unnecessary inputs were available. Read Full Article »

Considering Coffee

October 10th, 2017

Grounds for Labeling

[This article was previously published in the fall issue of The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

by Linley Dixon, PhD
Senior Scientist at The Cornucopia Institute

Source: Adobe Stock

Straight, with sugar, milk, or honey. Regardless of how you take it, Americans love their coffee. At an average of two cups a day, the U.S. is only 22nd in terms of world consumption, with Scandinavian countries topping the chart at 2-3 times this amount.

As avid coffee consumers, how should we be sourcing our beans to minimize environmental impact and pesticides and support ecologically diverse farms?

Considering coffee is a tropical crop, our usual recommendation to “know your farmer” is largely unworkable. Instead, we must depend on the many certifications that decorate coffee packages, including organic, fair-trade, Rainforest Alliance, shade-grown, and even certified bird friendly! But with so many labels to choose from, how do we know which is best?

Many harmful chemicals that are banned in the U.S. are still widely used in developing countries on coffee plants. In addition to easing consumer concerns over chemical residues, buying USDA certified organic coffee mitigates exposure of farm workers who might not be trained for pesticide applications or have access to protective wear.

Some of the most common pesticides used on coffee include chlorpyrifos, disulfoton, and methyl parathion, all highly toxic organophosphate insecticides used to control cherry borers and leaf miners, among other insects. Read Full Article »

NCAT’s Organic Grower Survey: Help Level the Crop Insurance Playing Field

October 10th, 2017

Cornucopia’s Take: Crop insurance rules can disadvantage organic farmers. The National Center for Appropriate Technology is offering a survey for commercial growers and ranchers to help create recommendations to the USDA on crop insurance improvements. The deadline is October 31.

NCAT survey seeks grower feedback on crop insurance
Take Survey by October 31

Nash’s Organic Produce
Source: NCAT Facebook Page

Calling all growers: Help create a more level crop insurance playing field by taking a 20-minute survey.

Background: Crop insurance not only helps farms and ranches survive weather-related losses, but is required for many loans. The 2014 Farm Bill required the USDA to create new insurance products tailored to the needs of organic, diversified, and specialty crop growers. The USDA responded by creating organic premium price elections for many commodities—reflecting the generally-higher value of organic crops. The USDA also  launched a new insurance product—Whole-Farm Revenue Protection—allowing farms to insure virtually any combination of commodities (including livestock) under a single policy.

Why we are doing this survey: So far, few growers have taken advantage of these new opportunities. NCAT is conducting a national survey of needs and attitudes. Based on the results, we will make recommendations to the USDA on further improvements to crop insurance for organic, diversified, and specialty crop growers.

Who is eligible: Confidential and anonymous, the survey takes just 20 minutes—on any computer, smart phone, or other mobile device. It is open to anyone who is farming or ranching commercially in the United States.

We are offering a $20 honorarium to early responders. (Honorarium funds are limited.) Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827
Ph: 608-625-2000