Nov 18, 2016

Mark Kastel


The National Organics Standards Board is scheduled to consider hydroponic farming and carrageenan as an ingredient in organic foods at their upcoming meeting. These issues have aroused the ire of the Cornucopia Institute. It appears that the Institute is intent on unilaterally redefining the rules relating to organic certification from the standpoint of their supporters who represent small-scale and frequently unprofitable enterprises.

Mark Kastel co-Director of the Institute considers that hydroponic production is an anathema to the fundamental principles on which organic production is based.  The Organization appears to favor mixing bacteria-laden fecal material with soil in some mystical concept relating to soil structure and integrity which deviates from established knowledge of soils science and agronomy.

Carrageenan is natural product derived from seaweed.  It is a valuable emulsifier and additive in many foods and should be retained as an organic ingredient.  The position of Cornucopia’s “lead scientist” Dr. Linley Dixon who maintains that food-grade carrageenan may be carcinogenic is based on questionable studies on animal models and is not supported by the preponderance of available evidence in peer-reviewed journals.



Given the results of the 2016 Presidential election, Kastel and his organization do not have much more opportunity to demonize Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Deputy Director Miles McEvoy or the Organic Standards Board. It is predicted that in 2017 the Cornucopia Institute and its membership will face a far tougher USDA, less sensitive to the needs of “small-scale family farms” which represented the mantra of the appointees during the Obama Administration.

 The policies and position of the Cornucopia Institute, which fails to acknowledge the success of organic farming on a commercial scale will marginalize the Institute. The organization will, in the future, be even less relevant in their ability to defend a constituency which is strongly dependent on financial support and benefits provided by the present Administration.