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PROMOTING ECONOMIC JUSTICE FOR FAMILY-SCALE FARMING
NEWS FROM THE CORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE
NEWS FROM THE CORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE
NOVEMBER 4, 2017 Cornucopia on Facebook Cornucopia on Twitter Cornucopia on Youtube Cornucopia on LinkedIn Cornucopia on Pinterest Donate

NOSB Divided on the Allowance of the Certification of Hydroponic Production in Organic Agriculture

ImageSource: USDA

The National Organic Standards Board’s (NOSB) inability to make a definitive statement on hydroponic practices this week will allow the USDA to continue permitting hydroponic vegetable and fruit production to be certified organic. The USDA has quietly allowed hydroponics to bear the organic seal without NOSB standards for some time. Since some certifiers allow hydroponic production to be certified, and others do not, the crops subcommittee put forward a compromise proposal that would require some amount of soil or compost in containers used to grow crops. This vote failed 8:7.

Several NOSB members used the language of “inclusion” to justify voting down the prohibition of hydroponics in organic production. Many organic farmers testified in person to the NOSB, and at a rally outside the meeting, that organic integrity is compromised by “including” systems that do not comply with the soil nutrient cycling requirements of the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA). Ironically, aeroponics was unanimously voted to be prohibited as organic at this meeting. NOSB farmer-member Emily Oakley questioned the logic behind some members voting to allow one soil-less production method (hydroponics) while shunning another (aeroponics), given both systems rely on liquid fertility. Since soil is a prerequisite for organic certification under OFPA, Cornucopia will take steps toward the filing of a lawsuit on the allowance of hydroponic systems by the National Organic Program.

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OIG Audit Critical of NOP’s Organic Import Controls

In September, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) released their audit determining that the National Organic Program’s (NOP) controls over U.S. ports of entry are inadequate and equivalency agreements with other countries lack transparency. Cornucopia has filed a rulemaking petition with the USDA to strengthen import oversight. John Bobbe of OFARM testified at the NOSB meeting this week that, three weeks before The Washington Post article came out, the NOP still denied there was a problem. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) adopted a proposal to improve oversight of imports and pressed the NOP for answers on enforcement, reacting to the highly critical OIG audit.
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Dicamba Ban to be Challenged in Court

Image: Penn State

The Arkansas Plant Board recently banned the use of dicambain the state because of the damage being done to farm fields from the toxic pesticide’s drift. The ban extends through October 2018, and Monsanto is challenging the ban in court. While Monsanto continues to blame farmers for spraying incorrectly, scientists are troubled by testing showing dicamba’s volatility leading to its uncontrollable drift. The EPA has struck a deal with the chemical manufacturers requiring that dicamba products must be labeled with “restricted use,” along with more training, restrictions based on wind speed, and more documentation for users. This pesticide is prohibited from use in organic agriculture.
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Glyphosate Use as Desiccant Doubles Human Contamination

Source: Rachel Hathaway

Researchers measured glyphosate residue, and its most toxic metabolite AMPA, in the urine of 100 long-term study participants over five testing periods, beginning in 1993. They found detectable levels of glyphosate in the urine of 12 individuals early in testing, increasing to 70 individuals by 2016. Worse, the average level of glyphosate in each individual’s urine more than doubled from 1993 to 2016.

A sharp increase in tested glyphosate levels was seen beginning in 2004 and cannot be accounted for by the spraying of Roundup-Ready crops, which did not see an attendant rise in planting during that time. However, glyphosate is used as a desiccant to enable grain crops to dry and be harvested efficiently at once, resulting in high residues of the herbicide on crops used in staple foods. The practice gained popularity around 2004. Glyphosate is prohibited in organic agriculture.

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Golden Rice Is a Flop

Image: Josep Folta

Setting aside criticisms that cultivation of rice, and other monocrops, often destroys the native plants that have been historically eaten to provide far more vitamin A than Golden Rice can offer, Golden Rice was a rare promise of genetically engineered food that would have added nutrition for eaters. As it turns out, the genetic modifications to add beta carotene to rice have produced a plant that is stunted and does not grow as expected. Crop yields are abysmal. It appears that the changes to Golden Rice’s genetics disrupt the biochemical pathways in the plant and, in turn, the ability of the plant to thrive.
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