Organic agriculture is not just about feeding people, it is also about feeding the soil. Crops absorb CO2 during their growth and release it again once they are harvested. In regenerative organic agriculture the farm is also seen as a “carbon sink”, a dynamic part of the natural cycle that sequesters carbon within the soil.
While hydroponic farming can be a valuable practice to provide food in climate-prohibitive conditions. It cannot, by its very definition, meet the organic soil-stewardship practices that are so vital to sustaining soil biodiversity and encouraging carbon sequestration.
By allowing hydroponically-grown produce to be certified as organic we only undercut the basic connection between agriculture and soil-stewardship. We also threaten the livelihoods of thousands of small, soil-based organic farmers by eroding the value of their label while providing a monetary windfall to mega-farmers with no demands og their regenerative practices.
The National Organic Standards Board itself has recommended that organic certification be denied to hydroponic products. Similarly, Canada, Mexico, and the European Union currently restrict organic certification to soil-based produce.
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) has now filed a legal action demanding that the USDA reverse its decision and again prohibit hydroponic farmers from displaying the organic label. The filing has been endorsed by over a dozen other organic certifying organizations, including the Organic Farmers Association, the Northwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA), PCC Community Markets, and the Cornucopia Institute.