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.

The Cultivator – Winter 2018

January 11th, 2019

Winter 2018 Cultivator coverThe Winter 2018 Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter, is now available online. Download the PDF here.

In it you’ll find:

  • Healthy, Nutritious, or Hype?
  • Who Needs the Organic Label?
  • Organic Farmers Improve Ecosystem Services
  • Trust Through Transparency
  • Cornucopia Members Speak Up!
  • “Organic” Restaurant Marketing
  • Faith in Farming

Read Full Article »

The Best Research Money Can Buy

January 10th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Cornucopia seeks to help eaters find research on what is healthy and what is not, and the task is harder than you might think. In the case of carrageenan, a thickener and emulsifier often used in processing plant-based beverages and other foods, we found a great deal of compelling evidence that carrageenan makes many people sick. The industry continues to argue otherwise, assuring customers that carrageenan is safe—it is, after all, approved by the FDA. But the studies they use to “prove” carrageenan is safe are all self-funded industry studies, procured by companies with a vested interest in finding their products healthful. You can learn more about carrageenan and the ongoing regulatory debacle around it in our report, Carrageenan: New Studies Reinforce Link to Inflammation, Cancer and Diabetes.


Sloppy science meets nutrition research
Gulf News
by Jane E. Brody

The unstated goal of most company-sponsored studies is to increase the bottom line

Source: Flickr

Confused about what to eat and drink to protect your health? I’m not surprised. For example, after decades of research-supported dietary advice to reduce saturated fats to minimise the risk of heart disease and stroke, along comes a new observational study of 136,384 people in 21 countries linking consumption of full-fat (read saturated) dairy foods to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

But without dissecting each study included in this meta-analysis, it is not possible to say what might be behind this surprising result and whether you should now resume putting cream in your coffee and whole milk in your cereal bowl. The study may simply mean that consuming the equivalent of three servings of dairy products a day is healthful, not saturated fat per se.

Caution is in order, especially since another new study, this one a randomly assigned clinical trial, found that three weeks on a diet rich in saturated fat caused liver fat and insulin resistance to rise far higher than diets high in sugar or unsaturated fat.

Or maybe you bought into the hype about pomegranate juice as an antioxidant superfood, only to learn from a new book that the health-promoting evidence for this expensive drink derives mainly from $20 million of company-sponsored research. Read Full Article »

USDA’s “GMO Labeling Law” is a Farce

January 10th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: The GMO labeling law crawled out of the swamp in time for Christmas. The USDA will allow QR codes instead of legitimate labeling and, for those who do choose to label clearly, the necessary language is the little-know phrase, “bioengineered food.” Soda and oils made from GMOs are exempt from any labeling. The article below was written by Max Goldberg, the editor/publisher of Organic Insider, a weekly newsletter about the organic industry.


With its New GMO-Labeling Rule, the USDA Has Completely Failed the American Consumer
Living Maxwell
by Max Goldberg

Based on what we have seen from the current administration’s USDA — the scrapping of the organic animal welfare rules, allowing hydroponics in organic even though it is a complete violation of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, and turning a blind eye to ‘organic factory farms’ – should anyone be the least bit surprised that the recently released GMO-labeling rules completely fail the American consumer?

Officially announced right before Christmas, key aspects of the new GMO-labeling rules – also known as the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard – include the following:

– Instead of requiring companies to use the on-package labels “Made with GMOs” or “Made with Genetic Engineering”, which would make it easy for consumers, the USDA has done the polar opposite.

Not only are companies not required to use on-package labels, but they can use QR codes instead. As the Center for Food Safety has long argued, QR codes are inherently discriminatory to the elderly, poor, rural and minorities.

And if companies do use an on-package label, it must use the phrase “bioengineered food,” a term not commonly used or understood by consumers. Read Full Article »

FDA Food Inspections Sharply Curtailed During Shutdown

January 9th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: All routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities have been suspended during the ongoing partial federal government shutdown. A small number of inspectors will likely be called back next week without pay to monitor high-risk facilities to mitigate consumer risk.


Government shutdown stops FDA food safety inspections
NBC News
by Maggie Fox

“There are important things we are not doing,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb says.

FDA microbiologist prepares
seafood samples blended with
an enrichment broth to be
tested for microorganisms.
Source: FDA, Flickr

The ongoing federal government shutdown has stopped most food safety inspections, but the Food and Drug Administration is planning to resume at least some of them. To do it, the agency will have to force furloughed workers to come back without pay.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said he is trying to pinpoint the most essential inspections, while making sure that employees do not suffer too much.

“There’s no question of whether it’s business as usual at FDA,” Gottlieb told NBC News.

“It’s not business as usual, and we are not doing all the things we would do under normal circumstances. There are important things we are not doing.”

This means FDA inspectors are not looking for salmonella in breakfast cerealE. coli in romaine lettuce, or listeria in ice cream. Companies can still make their own checks, of course, and the FDA is still announcing those recalls.

Foreign food inspections are also continuing, almost as normal, because they’re considered so important. But the FDA has virtually stopped inspecting domestic food production facilities, which could mean threats to the public are going undetected. “We’re doing everything we can to try to maintain our basic consumer protection role. That’s our focus,” Gottlieb said in an interview late Tuesday. Read Full Article »

As Bacteria Grow Resistance, New Antibiotics Become More and More Rare

January 4th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Most of us are familiar with the notion that bacteria treated with antibiotics in hospitals, feedlots, and in the course of normal human life are becoming resistant to the antibiotics prescribed to kill them. Why don’t scientists just patent new antibiotics? Unfortunately, the discovery of effective, new, broad-spectrum antibiotics is very difficult and perhaps unlikely. The article below explains the trouble. Cornucopia believes that livestock should never be treated preemptively with antibiotics, a ubiquitous practice in conventional agriculture which is fraught with excessive crowding and potential disease outbreaks.


The hunt for new antibiotics grows harder as resistance builds
Chemical & Engineering News
by Megha Satyanarayana

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
(MRSA) Bacteria
Source: NIAID

Scientists keep fighting the microscopic arms race, even though it’s one we might eventually lose

As the summer of 2016 wound down in Colorado, public health officials in two counties issued alerts: people drinking raw milk from a local dairy were getting sick from bacteria called Campylobacter jejuni.

By the end of the outbreak, about a dozen people had fallen ill with diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. One person was hospitalized. Several were sick for more than 10 days, despite the fact that Campylobacter infections typically resolve quickly. Months later, federal public health officials revealed why the infection might have persisted for so long: bacteria they isolated had developed resistance to the antibiotics normally used to treat them.

It’s a story that has become increasingly common. Infections that were once easily treatable now require extraordinary doses of one or more antibiotics. Meanwhile, intravenous antibiotics with nicknames like “last resort” come off the shelf more and more often. These stories portend a bleak future, one in which small wounds could lead to death, a common occurence of a bygone era, say scientists who spoke to C&EN about the antibiotic crisis. Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
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