Posts Tagged organic

Organics’ Relationship to Climate Change

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

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

Introduction

Discussing soil health at Vilicus Farms in MT
Source: USDA, Flickr

People choose organic food over conventional food for many reasons. Organic products are nutrient-dense and have fewer pesticide and other toxic chemical residues than conventional food. Organic farming offers benefits to family farms who focus on holistic practices. Now, more consumers are choosing organic and local food for additional reasons.

The foundational principles of organic farming – such as fostering healthy soil, supporting on-farm biodiversity, and the recycling and healthy use of livestock waste – all combat the biggest challenge of our time: climate change.

A Climate Consensus

Scientists and experts studying climate agree that climate change is a serious problem for current and future populations.

In August 2017, climate scientists leaked a draft report of a climate science breakdown to the New York Times. The authors of the report noted the thousands of studies documenting climate changes on land and in the air. Among the more significant of the study’s findings is that it is possible to attribute some extreme weather directly to climate change.

Climate change is not – and should never have been – a political issue. That being said, we recognize that it has been commonly framed as a political issue. It is a human issue on a global scale, just like the good food movement. We are hopeful the global nature of these issues can bring people of all political leanings together. Read Full Article »

NOP Allows Glyphosate in “Organic” Hydroponic Production

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: The Real Organic Project has brought to light a shocking practice in large-scale, “organic,” hydroponic production. Many of these facilities are being built on land that has been compacted and doused with herbicides, including glyphosate. While the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) uncomfortably insists that this practice is legal because the prohibited substances never touch the plants, most organic producers and eaters would agree that it is antithetical to real organic principles.

Hydroponic Greenhouse

Source: AdobeStock

The regulation found at §205.202, for example, requires that land from which crops are intended to be sold must “have had no prohibited substance… applied to it for a period of 3 years immediately preceding harvest of the crop…” It is unclear how the NOP can work around this regulatory language—and other precepts of organic production—and still maintain these practices are legal. One explanation is that the NOP and their lawyers are willing to bend over backward to accommodate industrial-organic practices.

Cornucopia and our supporters care about organic food for many reasons. We enjoy the quality of real organic food, and we know that healthy soil grows healthy plants, resulting in nutrient-dense crops. Truly organic practices also recognize that the land, nature, and humans can work together to produce a thriving system that also supports local communities economically.

The NOP continues to assert that hydroponic, aquaponic, and aeroponic production is allowed—and always has been. Their assertion shows that organic law is vulnerable to legal arguments and creative corporate loopholes. Real organic farmers continue to lose their markets to industrial-organic producers whose practices compromise the health of the soil, water, and livestock, as well as the quality of our food.

Consumers also have a right to know how their food is produced and how its production impacts the real world. Supporting real organic represents a vote for truth and transparency in a marketplace where regulators seem determined to confuse and muddy the waters.

Our Hydroponic Buyer’s Guide outs some of the major “organic” hydroponic brands. These products are far cheaper than soil-grown organic foods—and you get what you pay for.

Cornucopia will continue to watchdog the NOP and the organic industry, and we will continue to provide information to consumers about what organic really means.


Real Organic Project Weekly Email
by Dave Chapman, Real Organic Project Executive Director

A few weeks ago I got to ask an important question of Jennifer Tucker, the head of the National Organic Program (NOP).

“I have received reports from both Florida and California of hydroponic berry operations that are spraying herbicide, immediately covering the ground with plastic, putting pots down and then getting certified the next week.” Read Full Article »

New Report Puts Farmers Back in Charge of Organic Certification

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

USDA Has “Willfully Failed” on Congressional Mandate to Prevent Fraud

When farmers lobbied Congress to pass the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990, their intention was to create a level playing field in the market and to affirm the credibility of organic labeling in the eyes of consumers. Unfortunately, according to a newly released report by The Cornucopia Institute, the USDA’s poor oversight of federally accredited third-party certifiers has paved the way for illegal output from “factory farms” that now dominate the $50 billion organic market basket.

A Perfect Picture of Corruption
Click here for a larger version of this image

Prior to 2002 when federal regulations kicked in, a hodgepodge of state laws and dozens of independently owned certifiers created their own organic standards. Although Congress intended the enforcement of uniform national regulations, a handful of the largest certifiers have allowed livestock factories producing dubious milk and eggs and hydroponic, soil-less indoor farming to illegally squeeze out legitimate family scale organic farmers and ranchers.

In addition to Cornucopia’s investigative analysis, the nonprofit farm policy research group also released a guide rating all 45 domestic certifiers on their adherence to the “spirit and letter of the organic law” as gauged by the most prominent allegations of malfeasance currently facing the organic industry.

“This might be the most provocative project we have worked on during our 15-year history,” said Mark A. Kastel, a Cornucopia founder and its current Executive Director. “Make no mistake about it, farmers will be empowered to disrupt the revenue streams of some of the largest and most powerful certifiers in the organic industry by switching to truly ethical alternatives.”

Cornucopia alleges that many of the certifiers established by farmers, some in existence since the 1970s and 80s, have morphed from nonprofits dedicated to helping promote environmental animal husbandry and the economic justice benefits of organic farming into multimillion-dollar corporations more interested in pursuing multibillion-dollar corporate agribusinesses. Read Full Article »

Farm Bill Contains Funding Boost for Organic Integrity

Friday, March 8th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: The article by OFARM’s John Bobbe below was originally published in The Milkweed. Bobbe is a strong ally in stopping the flow of fraudulent organic imports into the U.S. He has recently retired from OFARM, but he assures us he will continue to work on these important issues.


2018 Farm Law Boosts Funds to Fight Organic Import Fraud
The Milkweed (Subscribe here)
by John Bobbe

John Bobbe and Cornucopia’s Anne Ross
Congratulations to John on his retirement!

In the 2018 farm legislation, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) along with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who is also an organic farmer himself, successfully got language of the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act of 2018 inserted into the signed bill (S2927).

That law gives USDA more funding for organic programs, and also stipulates what USDA must do to insure organic integrity throughout the supply chain — especially for imports. Liberal use of the word “shall” leaves little to no discretion for USDA to interpret how the provisions are to be implemented.   Implementation will require at least a year, if not more.  The following are some of the specific provisions and language.

The new farm law provides additional funding to the NOP as follows: $15 million for fiscal year 2018, and increases funding through 2023 to $24 million.  It also provides a one-time appropriation of $5 million for modernization of trade tracking and data collection systems. Read Full Article »

Organic Farmers Improve Ecosystem Services

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

Benefiting Communities and the Planet

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

by Marie Burcham, JD
Farm and Food Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute

Source: AdobeStock

The benefits that a healthy, functioning environment provides for humanity are called ecosystem services. For example, forest ecosystems provide the service of oxygen production. These benefits are often taken for granted, although these services are finite in nature and tied directly to the vitality of the ecosystem itself.

In the early 2000s, the United Nations sponsored the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), an effort to understand the impact of human actions on ecosystems and human well-being. The assessment popularized the concept of ecosystem services, discussed in scientific and economic circles for decades prior.

The MA ultimately identified four major categories of ecosystem services: 1.Provisioning (production of food and water); 2.Regulating (controlling climate and disease); 3.Cultural (spiritual and recreational benefits); and, 4.Supporting Services (oxygen production and nutrient cycling). Read Full Article »