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.

Industrial Farming Alone Cannot Feed the World

February 1st, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Organic farming plays an important role in sequestering carbon, building soil fertility, conserving water, providing high-nutrient food, and mitigating the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Industrial farms pump out billions of bushels of GMO corn and soy to feed sick livestock in massive CAFOs to flood markets with cheap bacon, hamburger, milk, and eggs. Still, 80% of the food in the world is produced on family farms. Feeding the world’s growing population will require the creativity of scientists and local farmers working with the resources available to them regionally. Support the farmers in your foodshed who feed our communities without poisoning them.

Can we ditch intensive farming – and still feed the world?
The Guardian
by Fiona Harvey

From urban farming to drones, innovation can help fill the gap between production and consumption

Why do we need to grow more food?

Source: CJ Oliver, Flickr

Food production around the world must rise by half in the next 30 years to sustain a global population expected to top 10 billion by 2050.

Compared with 2010, an extra 7,400tn calories will be needed a year in 2050. If food production increases along current lines, that would require a landmass twice the area of India.

These are the findings of a report published in December by the World Resources Institute on the “food gap” between current production and growing consumption.

So we need to find more land to cultivate then?

Bringing more land under agricultural production is one answer to filling this gap, but it cannot solve the problem alone. Finding that amount of land in suitable conditions would spell the end for many of the earth’s remaining forests, peatlands and wild areas, and release the carbon stored in them, hastening climate change.

Intensive farming has already had a huge effect on biodiversity and the environment worldwide. Pesticides, which have helped boost cereal and fruit production, have also killed bees and myriad species of insects in large numbers.

Fertilisers that have improved poor soils have also had unintended harmful consequences. The largest ever maritime “dead zone” was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico last year, the result of fertiliser and manure from the meat industry running off the land. Chemical fertilisers also contribute directly to climate change, through the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, and to air pollution through ammonia. Read Full Article »

U.S. Continues to Allow Harmful Food Additives Banned in Europe

January 31st, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Food processors add “value” to baked goods, cereals, packaged snack foods, and other foods often in part by adding preservatives, flavorings, added vitamins and minerals, and food coloring. Some products containing additives allowed by the FDA in the U.S. have been reformulated without them for sale in Europe. The article below details some of these troubling ingredients and their likely health consequences. None of these additives are allowed in USDA certified organic food.

What Foods Are Banned in Europe but Not Banned in the U.S.?
The New York Times
by Roni Caryn Rabin

The European Union prohibits many food additives and various drugs that are widely used in American foods.

Q. What foods are banned in Europe that are not banned in the United States, and what are the implications of eating those foods?

Some drinks contain BVO in the U.S.
Source: Dylan Pech, Flickr

A. The European Union prohibits or severely restricts many food additives that have been linked to cancer that are still used in American-made bread, cookies, soft drinks and other processed foods. Europe also bars the use of several drugs that are used in farm animals in the United States, and many European countries limit the cultivation and import of genetically modified foods.

“In some cases, food-processing companies will reformulate a food product for sale in Europe” but continue to sell the product with the additives in the United States, said Lisa Y. Lefferts, senior scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food safety advocacy organization.

A 1958 amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act prohibits the Food and Drug Administration from approving food additives that are linked to cancer, but an agency spokeswoman said that many substances that were in use before passage of the amendment, known as the Delaney amendment, are considered to have had prior approval and “therefore are not regulated as food additives.”

In October, the F.D.A. agreed to ban six artificial flavoring substances shown to cause cancer in animals, following petitions and a lawsuit filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other organizations. The F.D.A. insists the six artificial flavors “do not pose a risk to public health,” but concedes that the law requires it not approve the food additives. Food companies will have at least two years to remove them from their products. Read Full Article »

Flowers Sweeten Nectar on Demand

January 30th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: If you have ever hand-pollinated a flower, you understand the critical work of bees and other pollinators. Scientists have discovered that the sound vibration of bees’ buzzing causes the evening primrose flower to sweeten its nectar. Findings like this one open the door for more understanding of co-evolution and the complex inter-workings of the natural world—as opposed to the mechanistic and extractive worldview reinforced by industrial agriculture.

Flowers can hear buzzing bees—and it makes their nectar sweeter

National Geographic
by Michelle Z. Donahue

“I’d like people to understand that hearing is not only for ears.”

Source: Harry Rose, Flickr

Even on the quietest days, the world is full of sounds: birds chirping, wind rustling through trees, and insects humming about their business. The ears of both predator and prey are attuned to one another’s presence.

Sound is so elemental to life and survival that it prompted Tel Aviv University researcher Lilach Hadany to ask: What if it wasn’t just animals that could sense sound—what if plants could, too? The first experiments to test this hypothesis, published recently on the pre-print server bioRxiv, suggest that in at least one case, plants can hear, and it confers a real evolutionary advantage.

Hadany’s team looked at evening primroses (Oenothera drummondii) and found that within minutes of sensing vibrations from pollinators’ wings, the plants temporarily increased the concentration of sugar in their flowers’ nectar. In effect, the flowers themselves served as ears, picking up the specific frequencies of bees’ wings while tuning out irrelevant sounds like wind. Read Full Article »

USDA Back to Work with the Shutdown Over

January 29th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: As spring planting decisions begin for farmers, 62 USDA reports have been delayed by the federal government shutdown. With USDA personnel back in their offices this week, reports will be released, farmer loans can again be originated, and tariff payments will be disbursed. The agency’s WASDE report, a monthly crop report for the world, will be canceled for only the second time in over 150 years. Farmers hope the government remains open to provide continued support for the upcoming growing season.

After the shutdown, a deluge of major USDA reports on crops, ag outlook
FERN’s Ag Insider
by Chuck Abbott

USDA Chief Economist
Robert Johansson
Source: USDA, Flickr

With the shutdown behind it, the USDA will begin today to clear out a month’s worth of backlogged data, including major reports that could jolt commodity markets and color farmers’ decisions on crops to plant this spring. Chief economist Robert Johansson said there will be one exception — the globe-spanning WASDE report that serves as a monthly crop report for the world.

“We will quickly and smoothly get back to full speed,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on social media. Most of USDA’s workforce of around 95,000 were furloughed during the five-week partial federal government shutdown. On Friday, President Trump announced a three-week truce for negotiations over border security, creating the possibility of another lapse in funding on Feb. 15.

A USDA spokesman was not immediately available to say if SNAP benefits for March might be affected. The USDA used a budgeting loophole to pay February benefits in advance.

With funding restored, USDA offices serving farm and rural development programs will be back in full operation. Last week, USDA opened half of its Farm Service Agency offices to provide limited services that did not include new loans to farmers or paperwork for farm supports and Trump tariff payments. An estimated 2,500 retailers were unable to make SNAP transactions during the shutdown because they could not renew their licenses. As well, the USDA was blocked from implementing the 2018 farm policy law, which modestly strengthened the farm safety net. Read Full Article »

2018 E. Coli Outbreaks May Have Been Due to Water Contamination

January 28th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: Officials now suspect the bacterial outbreaks last year occurred because a California irrigation canal carried E. coli from a 100,000 head cattle feedlot to the irrigation ponds used to water romaine lettuce. Officials are draining the canal early this season for repairs, testing, and removal of any E. coli-contaminated sediment. Feedlots promote dangerous bacterial growth because animals stand in very close quarters in their own waste and a high corn diet fosters more virulent E. coli bacteria. Authentic organic livestock operations ensure that cattle remain on grass in smaller herds, a practice that promotes animal health and greatly reduces the risk of outbreaks like these.

Draining canal may reveal answers about romaine contamination
Food Safety News
by Dan Flynn

Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and
Drainage District pumping plant
Source: Mark Holloway, Flickr

Arizona’s Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District plans an early drawdown this year of water in a canal suspected of contaminating romaine lettuce that was grown in the Yuma region and linked to a deadly E. coli outbreak in 2018.

After the drawdown, district officials say the canal will be allowed to dry out so crews can remove sediment where E. coli might have colonized. The plan also includes concrete repairs. Colonized E. coli in the sediment is “one theory of many,” according to district General Manager Eiston Grubaugh. But, he said, it’s “something we can try.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the deadly, 36-state E. coli outbreak linked to romaine grown in the Yuma region was over as of June 28, 2018. Five people among 210 confirmed with infections died. Ninety-six of the outbreak victims required hospitalization.

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation turned up water samples from the eastern Yuma County canal that tested positive for the same genetic type of E. coli that was associated with the outbreak. FDA officials have suggested that a nearby cattle feedlot was the possible source of the contamination. The feedlot has a capacity of more than 100,000 head. Read Full Article »

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