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.

Impossible Burger Poses as Environmentally Responsible

June 28th, 2019

The Cornucopia Institute is neutral in terms of people’s dietary choices. Our supporters’ dietary choices range from omnivores, vegetarians who consume dairy and eggs, vegans, to 100% raw.

Source: Jon Fisher, Flickr

But we are not neutral in terms of the quality of the food we recommend. The Impossible Burger is a plant-based and vegan burger alternative, now available in many Burger King chains in the U.S. To meet the volume requirements for such a roll-out, Impossible Foods produces its beef alternative with Roundup Ready soybeans.

GMO and conventional soy is implicated in deforestation and destruction of habitat to a great degree. Soy of this kind is extremely toxic to produce, using large amounts of pesticides.

Perhaps to take the focus off this controversial reformulation, the company’s 2019 Impact Report referred to regenerative grazing as “the ‘clean coal’ of meat.”

As Cornucopia has addressed in other work, one has to look at the whole picture when comparing the total environmental effect of food: land-use, chemical and pharmaceutical use, implications for biodiversity, and so on. The article below offers further considerations regarding the meaning of food.

Monoculture fields have taken over great tracts of land in the U.S., and so-called “efficiencies of scale,” coupled with government crop subsidies, make this kind of agriculture profitable–despite significant health costs to the environment, wildlife, and humans.

Unlike the Impossible Burger, organic, grass-based livestock are raised entirely without the use of synthetic pesticides or GMOs of any kind. Regenerative agriculture is premised on soil health, and livestock are typically only one aspect of a holistic farm system.

It is true that one could not “feed the world” at the current rates of meat consumption using regenerative grazing techniques. What Impossible Foods fails to state is that this is okay: for many individuals, eating less but higher quality meat is a positive choice.

Whatever your dietary choices, it’s important to look beyond marketing schemes. We encourage eaters with a plant-based diet to look into making homemade vegan and vegetarian burgers—they can be delicious, nutritious, and transparent in all their ingredients.


Fake Food, Fake Meat: Big Food’s Desperate Attempt to Further the Industrialisation of Food
Independent Science News
by Dr. Vandana Shiva

Food is not a commodity, it is not “stuff” put together mechanically and artificially in labs and factories. Food is life. Food holds the contributions of all beings that make the food web, and it holds the potential of maintaining and regenerating the web of life. Food also holds the potential for health and disease, depending on how it was grown and processed. Food is therefore the living currency of the web of life. Read Full Article »

Avoid That Glass of Pesticides, Antibiotics, and Synthetic Hormones

June 27th, 2019

If you consume dairy, a new study from Emory University suggests you are safest drinking organic milk. In their study of 35 conventional and 34 organic milk samples, 59% of the conventional products contained chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos is a ubiquitous insecticide linked to lower levels of gray matter and IQ in children exposed prenatally. This toxin was nearly banned by an Obama-era decision with the backing of EPA scientists, but the current administration has called for more study. Other pesticides, including diazinon, atrazine, and permethrin, were also found in the conventional milk samples.

Source: Brian Rogers, Flickr

Additionally, 60% of the conventional milk samples contained antibiotics. One sample contained amoxicillin residues exceeding the FDA limit, and more than one-third of the conventional milk samples contained sulfonamides, which are prohibited by law from use in cattle. The World Health Organization has declared that “antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today,” partly due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in livestock.

Organic milk in the study contained no antibiotics, no pesticide residue, and no sign of synthetic growth hormone. Although it is important to know what organic dairy does not contain, the best organic producers go above and beyond organic regulations.

Cornucopia’s Organic Dairy Scorecard identifies the brands that employ superb grazing and animal welfare management and are transparent in their practices. The top-rated brands show outstanding dedication to organic integrity, helping eaters feel confident about what they are putting in their bodies.


What’s in your milk? Choose organic for the cleanest milk, says new study
The Organic Center

Non-organic milk tests positive for illegal antibiotics, high levels of growth hormones and controversial pesticide contaminants

Milk is an important part of the human diet. It provides protein, fat, calcium and vitamin D, and for the youngest members of our population, it is especially critical as a main source of many nutrients. But not all milk is created equal. Read Full Article »

Alchemy by USDA and Certifiers

June 26th, 2019

Conventional Cattle on Organic Dairy Farms

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

by Marie Burcham, JD
Director of Domestic Policy at The Cornucopia Institute

The organic dairy industry is in a state of crisis. A glut of organic milk in the market is putting economic strain on family-scale dairies, forcing some to close their doors after generations of operation.

Source: AdobeStock

A significant cause of the problem is overproduction by industrial-scale organic producers edging their competitors out of business. “Factory” dairies—many milking thousands of cows—have perfected ways to game the system to gain an economic advantage.

One of their insidious methods is to leverage their scale advantage by rotating conventionally raised calves and heifers into organic production.

Cows start lactating around two years of age, when they give birth to their first calves. Organically raised calves usually consume milk, by bottle or bucket—the same quality of organic milk we buy in the grocery store or co-op—from the time they are born until they are weaned.

When a dairy cow “ages out” or otherwise is removed from production, she needs to be replaced if the dairy wants to maintain the same level of production.

The organic regulatory framework allows for the conversion of a distinct herd of dairy cows to certified organic production a single time. In this vein, some operations do not raise their young calves as replacements for their culled cows.

Instead, they purchase cheaper, conventional cattle raised on medicated milk replacer that commonly includes antibiotics and other banned pharmaceuticals and substances. After being weaned, these calves are fed conventional grains (usually GMO) and hay treated with toxic chemicals. Read Full Article »

The Cultivator – Summer 2019

June 26th, 2019

Summer 2019 Cultivator coverThe summer 2019 Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter, is now available online. Download the PDF here.

In it you’ll find:

  • The Crisis in Organic Dairy
  • Cornucopia Finds Its Compass
  • Making Sense of Muckenfuss: A letter from Cornucopia’s Board President
  • National Organic Program Muddies the Waters
  • A Decline in Biodiversity
  • Certifying Small Farms
  • What’s In Your Pantry?
  • Renaissance Family

Read Full Article »

Authentic Organic Farms Are Good for Birds

June 25th, 2019

Wild birds can be extremely beneficial to farms, as many of them feed on pest species and support a vibrant on-farm ecosystem. Unfortunately, agriculture is the leading threat to bird species facing extinction.

Source: Emilie Chen, Flickr

Real organic farmers encourage on-farm biodiversity, including habitat for birds. These kinds of cultural practices have wide-ranging benefits, such as providing habitat for other insect predators and pollinators and even acting as a carbon sink in some instances.

Supporting family-scale organic farmers is a vote for these kinds of holistic practices. Interested eaters can also ask their local farmers what practices they employ to support wild species—including birds—on their farms.


Farming With Wild Birds: Practicing Co-Existence
Rewilding Earth
by Jo Ann Baumgartner

Farming is one of those pursuits that requires creative thinking. So many factors are juggled for a good harvest and a healthy farm, including considerations that support or exclude wild nature. The challenge is balancing the farm’s future sustainability with growing and selling products that do not push the landscape beyond its limits. As Aldo Leopold said, “A good farm must be one where the wild fauna and flora has lost acreage without losing its existence.” Read Full Article »

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