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Tag Archive: Cornucopia Institute


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organic

(NaturalNews) Some organic food experts are worried that the term used to describe non-genetically modified crops and produce may soon become nearly meaningless, thanks in large part to undue (read corporate) influence on the Department of Agriculture.

According to Jerome Rigot, PhD, writing in a blog posted at the Cornucopia Institute, which promotes food safety backed by science, it may no longer be accurate to rely on the USDA’s “organic” labeling as remaining “true to its mandate of assuring consumers that food under this label is truly healthy and grown or raised with minimal impact to the environment,” as well as respecting “the health and well-being of the workers and animals involved.”

Rigot notes that, among other concerns, Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, recently downgraded its rating of the Agriculture Department’s organic seal and label. The director of the Consumer Safety and Sustainability Center for the magazine, Dr. Urvashi Rangan, testified to the National Organic Standards Board in late 2014: “Organic is slipping. And as a result, we have downgraded its rating from highly meaningful to meaningful.” He further noted that the rule of the magazine “is to help educate people about what organic means as well as what it doesn’t mean.”

Regarding these concerns, Rigot wrote:

As an example, the Cornucopia Institute filed formal legal complaints with the USDA in December 2014 against 14 giant poultry and dairy CAFOs (read: concentrated animal feeding operations or “factory farms”) for allegedly violating the USDA organic regulations requiring outdoor and pasture access. Each complaint was summarily dismissed, without an investigation, by the enforcement division of the National Organic Program (NOP), which stated, “The NOP has reviewed these complaints and has determined that investigation is unwarranted.”

Inept, corporatists or lobbyists

The determination was odd, says Rigot, because literally hundreds of high-res photos, satellite imagery and state regulatory documents were submitted as evidence to the NOP which, together, should have produced more than enough doubt to motivate someone to launch an investigation.

A former NOSB board member who manages the country’s first certified organic dairy farm, Kevin Englebert, was clearly disappointed by the NOP decision, seeing it as a lapse of the organization’s responsibilities.

“For the NOP to not even investigate these facilities means one of three things: 1) the personnel who made that decision are inept, 2) they are too close and friendly with corporate lobbyists and multimillion-dollar certifiers that are involved in the process, or 3) the most likely scenario, corrupt politicians are preventing them from enforcing the law,” he said, as quoted by Rigot, who intimated that elements of all three reasons might be at play.

He noted that the National Organic Program is a very small part of the Agriculture Department. However, many large corporations have a significant vested interest in organic foods, especially the processed foods industry (including General Mills, Smuckers, Coca-Cola, etc.), and similar to GMO corporations, they’ll do whatever it takes to expand their bottom line.

“Circumstantial evidence makes it reasonable to conclude that the same type of undue industry influence that appears to have prevented Vilsack and the USDA from acting quickly to end the Salmonella outbreak [in 2014] and limit the health toll is behind efforts to dilute the federal organic standards, control the NOP leadership, and limit or obstruct the ability of the congressionally authorized National Organic Standard Board from doing its job efficiently and with integrity,” Rigot wrote.

For more breaking news regarding organic agriculture, check out Organics.news, powered by FETCH.news.

Compromised board members

In September 2014, we reported that the Cornucopia Institute had conducted a study to examine the voting records and backgrounds of the 15 members of the NOSB.

The board is an advisory body created by the secretary of agriculture to make recommendations aimed at preserving and protecting the organic farming industry. What’s more, the board is also required to maintain and update the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances – a list that identifies substances and other compounds that cannot be used in organic crop and livestock production.

The NOSB’s seats are supposed to be filled with members representing farmers, environmentalists, public interest advocates, handlers, retailers, scientists and a USDA certifying agent. However, Cornucopia found in its study that corporate representatives were filling seats intended for farmers and other independent organic industry stakeholders, often leading to decisions that were not beneficial to the organic food and livestock industry.

Details surrounding that study are posted here.

Sources:

Cornucopia.org

NaturalNews.com

AMS.USDA.gov

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The Cornucopia Institute logo and header

 

May 24th, 2013

USDA violates the Organic Foods Production Act

Draft rule on carrageenan, cellulose and “inert” synthetics in pesticides disregards decisions by the National Organic Standards Board

Comment before Monday, June 3, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. ET

Political corruption and power grabs usually happen behind closed doors. The Cornucopia Institute has consistently called for more transparency at the USDA’s National Organic Program, but quite frankly, this power grab, in broad daylight, is unexpected.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the citizen panel charged by Congress to determine which synthetics are allowed in organic food production, voted to prohibit the use of carrageenan in organic infant formula, to prohibit the use of synthetic microcrystalline cellulose as a food ingredient, and set a deadline for reviewing synthetic and potentially harmful ingredients in previously approved pesticide formulations.

Organic_Watchdog_buttonBy law, the USDA cannot allow a synthetic material in organics unless it has been approved by the NOSB. But the agency seems completely uninterested in following the law governing organics, the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. The USDA’s proposed rule, released on May 3, disregards the NOSB’s decisions entirely on these three important topics.

Please send a comment to the USDA—let them know that they are acting outside their legal authority and that we will not stand by quietly while they protect corporate interests rather than the health of consumers and the environment.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUBMITTING COMMENT

To submit your comment electronically:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=AMS-NOP-11-0003-0029

Docket Number: AMS—NOP—11—0003

For the required field “Organization Name,” please enter “Citizen.”

The deadline for submitting comments is Monday, June 3.

SAMPLE LETTER (you may cut and paste, but you are encouraged to personalize)

The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) does not give the USDA the authority to list materials on the National List unless they have been approved by the NOSB.

The USDA disregarded the proposed annotations, adopted by the NOSB, on List 3 inerts, carrageenan and cellulose (prohibiting or restricting their use).

I am especially concerned with the USDA’s decision not to prohibit the use of carrageenan in organic infant formula. Carrageenan is a harmful ingredient that has been linked to gastrointestinal inflammation and even cancer. It should be prohibited in all organic foods.

I would also like to see all ingredients in pesticide formulations used in organics reviewed as soon as possible, and the NOSB’s annotation would facilitate this.

 

Read Full Post Here

Crossroads News : Changes In The World Around Us And Our Place In It

Corporate Assault on Our Lives And Our Health

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

Why Are Some of the Most Popular Organic Brands Trying to Take Down Consumer Labeling Efforts?

You may be surprised by the companies siding with the likes of Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Dow and other behemoths over the right to know what foods are genetically modified.
September 12, 2012  |

Photo Credit: Lightspring/Shuttersock.com

 Inside the battle over California’s ballot initiative for labeling of genetically engineered foods, Prop 37, is another battle for money . It’s no surprise that more than $14 million of the over $26 million raised to defeat the “Right to Know” labeling initiative is from the biotech industry. And it’s not shocking that the nation’s largest food corporations – PepsiCo, Nestle, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, General Mills, Del Monte, Kellogg, Hershey, etc. – have kicked in most of the rest.

But then there are some surprises. Companies with no obvious stake in the GE foods labeling battle like Morton Salt, Ocean Spray Cranberries, and Godiva have contributed thousands of dollars. And conscientious shoppers may not be aware that they are buying organic products from brands owned by the companies fighting to defeat Prop 37.

The Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog organization, recently published an infographic telling which organic brands are owned by major corporations that oppose GE food labeling – as well as which organic companies and brands are supporting the pro-labeling “Right to Know” campaign (full disclosure: I’m on the policy advisory board of the Organic Consumers Association, which supports the Right to Know campaign).

Coca-Cola might not want to label the genetically engineered corn used to make the high fructose corn syrup in its sodas, but it also owns organic and “natural” brands like Honest Tea and Odwalla. Likewise, PepsiCo, owner of Izze and Naked Juice, donated $1.7 million to oppose Prop 37 – more than every other donor except Monsanto and DuPont, and even more than the other four major biotech corporations (Bayer, BASF, Dow, and Syngenta).

Other brands owned by Prop 37-opposing corporations include Lightlife and Alexia (owned by Conagra); Kashi, Gardenburger, Bear Naked, and Morningstar Farms (Kellogg); Cascadian Farm Organic, Muir Glen and Larabar (General Mills); R.W. Knudsen Farms and Santa Cruz Organic (Smucker); and Silk and Horizon Organic (Dean Foods).

By publishing this information, the Cornucopia Institute made quite a wave. “It’s amazing how many emails we’ve gotten from people saying, ‘I never knew that Kellogg owned Kashi!’ They feel betrayed,” said co-founder Mark Kastel. He adds that consumers might have been in the dark because, “You’ll never see General Mills on the label of Glen Muir or Cascadian Farms, you’ll see Small Planet Foods,” a practice he finds deceptive.

“People aren’t just buying the organic cereal, the organic frozen vegetables,” he continues. “They are buying the story behind the food, and organics has always had this romantic story about stewarding the environment and humane animal husbandry, and one of the reasons consumers assume organic food is more expensive is because economic justice for the farmer is built into the price.” He accuses large corporations with disingenuous organic brands of “farming by press release,” adding that, “It’s a lot easier to build a fancy press release and tell how much of your power comes from wind power than it is to deal with many small, family farmers.”

But Cornucopia doesn’t identify itself as “anti-corporate.” Kastel says, “These issues aren’t about corporate scale, they are about corporate ethics.” The infographic supports this by identifying a number of organic companies and brands that have donated to the Right to Know campaign, supporting Prop 37 and the labeling of GE foods. These include: Nature’s Path, Amy’s, Annie’s, Dr. Bronners, Nutiva, and more. In fact, since the infographic was initially released, he says some companies have donated to support Prop 37 and then asked Cornucopia to add them to the infographic.

Honest Tea, which was acquired by Coca Cola in 2011, assures customers that it retains 100 percent autonomy, even though its owner is one of the biggest funders of No on Prop 37. Honest Tea points to its own organic certification, its voluntary labeling of its products as free of genetically engineered ingredients, and even its funding of the federal labeling effort, the Just Label It campaign, as evidence of its commitment to the labeling of genetically engineered foods and its independence from its parent company.

You may be surprised by the companies siding with the likes of Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Dow and other behemoths over the right to know what foods are genetically modified.

The Just Label It campaign, funded by Honest Tea, Horizon Organic, Annie’s, Amy’s, Organic Valley, Stonyfield, and others, focuses its efforts on convincing the FDA to require labeling on all GE foods nationally. Honest Tea says it funds Just Label It but not the pro-Prop 37 Right to Know campaign because it feels the best use of its limited funds is focusing on the national campaign. According to the company, it does not have the funds to devote to smaller, more limited, statewide efforts around the country.

The Right to Know campaign’s co-chair, Dave Murphy, disagrees with this logic. “California is the eighth largest economy in the world,” he says, noting the impact that requiring labeling in this one state will have. Additionally, he lacks faith that the FDA, which has opposed requiring labels of GE foods to date, will be swayed in the near future. On the other hand, a majority of California voters (and a majority of Americans) support GE food labeling, and the ballot measure has a real chance of passing. That said, Murphy is adamant that he does not wish for anyone to boycott any organic products, no matter what their parent company is up to. “That will only hurt the farmers,” he says.

Kastel – a man not known for mincing his words – uses stronger language, calling Just Label It a “damage control scheme” that organic giants set up during a time when they were criticized for agreeing with the USDA’s call for “coexistence” between organics and GE crops. “Their kneejerk response was to thump their chest about how anti-GMO they are.” He adds, “Just Label It accomplished nothing and it never will. As long as we have the campaign finance system we have, it never will.”

The Cornucopia Institute hopes to add a “Missing in Action” section to its infographic, calling out the enormous corporations that have not donated to either side of Prop 37. That list will include Hain Celestial, Stonyfield and Whole Foods. “We’re hoping there will be some level of embarrassment,” he says.

Stonyfield’s director of organic and sustainable agriculture, Britt Lundgren, ensures customers that it has endorsed Prop 37 . “Although our financial donations have been solely to Just Label It, we support all efforts to require labeling of genetically engineered foods,” she said. “We believe that consumers have a right to know what’s in their food and that genetically engineered ingredients are fundamentally different from their non-genetically engineered counterparts and people have a right to make a decision about whether or not they want to consume those foods.”

So why the choice to fund one and not the other? “Stonyfield invested in supporting Just Label It long before the idea of having a California ballot initiative came to our attention so we made that decision and we invested our funds there,” Lundgren explains. “We only have so much money that we could put toward these things, unfortunately.”

Unfortunately, even though Prop 37 is now polling at 65 percent support, its passage is by no means a slam dunk. So far the campaign in support of labeling has raised $4.5 million, but needs $6 million to $10 million just to try and compete with other side’s deep pockets. And money counts, as illustrated by a failed California ballot initiative to tax cigarettes and use the proceeds to fund cancer research that the state voted on in June. It received 67 percent support in March 2012 – before tobacco companies spent nearly $50 million to fight it. By Election Day, June 5, the measure lost narrowly.

You may be surprised by the companies siding with the likes of Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Dow and other behemoths over the right to know what foods are genetically modified.

It is certain that the food and biotech industries will bury the Prop 37 campaign in a flood of corporate cash. But what is not yet known is whether the Right to Know campaign will receive the resources to counter that cash in time for the election on November 6.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It..