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 Cornucopia Institute is now seeking an Executive Director.

The Crisis in Organic Dairy

August 18th, 2019

Consumers Unite!

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

by Marie Burcham, JD, Director of Domestic Policy at The Cornucopia Institute and Melody Morrell, Operations Director

Source: AdobeStock

Family-scale organic dairies are struggling to make ends meet. Many have already lost their farms and businesses, some of which have been in the family for generations.

At their biannual meeting in April, the National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) heard from multiple family-scale dairy farmers about how their businesses are failing due to the inconsistent application of organic principles during certification.

For example, a small number of very large “organic” dairies are disregarding the origin of livestock rules by continuously cycling conventional livestock into production. Industrial organic operations, whose cows spend most of their lives in the feedlot, also struggle to meet even the most modest pasture requirements.

Authentic organic dairy farmers easily exceed the pasture requirements for organic livestock: 30% dry matter intake (DMI) and a minimum 120-day grazing season for each individual animal.

What’s more, the grain being fed in industrial operations may not actually be organic. In 2018, Cornucopia Director of International Policy Anne Ross, JD, exposed a network of fraudulent grain importers from overseas.

Available data shows the U.S. is importing more than they can possibly grow. This grain is cheap and abundant compared to real organic grain, making it an attractive choice for livestock factories.

Several dairy farmers shared emotional stories at the spring NOSB meeting in Seattle—about their families losing their homes, about financial ruin, about watching other dairies break or bend the organic rules without consequence, while their own ethical practices put them further and further into debt. Read Full Article »

Sign On: No GMOs in Organic!

August 2nd, 2019

The Cornucopia Institute recently reported on troubling comments made by USDA Under Secretary Ibach at a House Agriculture Subcommittee meeting regarding the possibility of gene editing in organic.

Sign our petition below! If your organization would like to sign on, please contact us.

Read Full Article »

Cornucopia is Seeking an Executive Director

July 31st, 2019

The Cornucopia Institute is is seeking candidates for its Executive Director position.

Cornucopia acts as an organic industry watchdog protecting organics and alternative marketing mechanisms allowing farmers and consumers to connect. We seek to defend the integrity of the organic food label from governmental regulatory indifference as well as from agribusinesses profiteering from unethical and questionable food production and agricultural practices. Our staff are committed to ensuring that organic and local food remain true to the human and environmental health promises that they were founded on.

A heartfelt passion for protecting the environment, the good food movement, human health, humane livestock husbandry, and social/economic justice for family farmers is essential for this position.

The full job descriptions and details for application are available at https://www.cornucopia.org/job-opportunities/.
Please do not send email or call.

Read Full Article »

GMO-Friendly USDA Ogling Organic

July 25th, 2019

Under Secretary’s Testimony Opens Discussion to “Enhance Organic Production”

USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach recently made comments before the House Agriculture Subcommittee suggesting it is time to discuss the possible allowance of gene editing methods within organic production.

USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach
Source: USDA, Flickr

Ibach’s words are in line with the Trump administration’s stance. Organic standards currently prohibit the use of genetic engineering (GE) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but USDA Secretary Perdue has been very friendly toward biotechnology companies and products.

President Trump’s June executive order to streamline approval for new GMO crops was immediately followed by a USDA proposed rule that would allow biotechnology companies to regulate their own GE creations. Ibach’s testimony is not surprising in this environment.

“The allowance of any GE techniques under the organic label raises legitimate ‘slippery slope’ concerns. The USDA would be hard-pressed to find the resources to track allowed GE technologies and products in the organic sector, assuming they could summon the will,” observes Cornucopia’s director of domestic policy Marie Burcham, JD.

We have already seen the playbooks of biotechnology companies. Because GMOs are an expensive investment, both in terms of time and money, only the largest biotechnology companies are positioned to research, develop, and test new crops. They benefit enormously as regulatory hurdles are removed.

The majority of genetically engineered crops currently on the market have been modified to withstand synthetic pesticides, repel pest species, and extend crop shelf-lives to benefit processors and retailers.

Biotechnology companies hold patents on their seeds, which ensure they retain all rights to the engineered traits. As a result, four seed companies now own more than 60% of the global proprietary seed sales. Read Full Article »

EPA Betrays Public Trust, Refuses to Ban Harmful Pesticide

July 23rd, 2019

Chlorpyrifos is a widely-used pesticide with a trail of evidence of harm to children’s brain development. Prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos is known to reduce gray matter in fetuses and subsequently to lower IQs in children. EPA research has confirmed this danger, and the chemical was slated to be banned by the Obama administration. The decision, a political football, was reached at the conclusion of Obama’s presidency, and the ban was to be enacted by the incoming administration.

Source: Barbara Eckstein, Flickr

The Trump EPA rescinded the ban, leading to a lawsuit filed by public interest groups. In 2018, a federal court ordered the EPA to finalize the ban. Last week, the agency announced its decision not to ban chlorpyrifos. Read the whole story in the article below.

Chlorpyrifos is prohibited for use in organic agriculture, but more than half of all conventional apples and broccoli and a high percentage of conventional walnuts, asparagus, cauliflower, lemons, cherries, pecans, almonds, and peaches are treated with chlorpyrifos. Residues of the toxin remain on these foods even after washing and peeling (where reasonable). A recent study conducted by researchers at Emory University found that 59% of conventional milk samples contained chlorpyrifos.

Unsurprisingly, industry stakeholders present a different view. Phil Jost of Dow AgroSciences said in 2016, “The [EPA] assessment lacks scientific rigor, is contrary to EPA and Administration policies of data access and transparency in scientific decision-making, and falls short of the FIFRA requirement that decisions be based on valid, complete and reliable scientific data.”

To date, Hawaii, California, and New York have passed bans on chlorpyrifos, though these bans may not take effect for several years. Read Full Article »

The Cornucopia Institute
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