Grounding Organics

The focus of organic agriculture must remain rooted on the nature of the ground. By allowing hydroponic farmers to certifiy their crops as “organic” the USDA is undercutting the core priciples behind the certification as well as the livelihood of thousands of small, soil-based organic farmers. Broadening the definition of organic to include hydronically-grown produce provides a huge economic incentive and advantage to large-scale farmers who may also engage in ecologically destructive practices.

While hydroponic agriculture can certainly help us to boost the availability of healthy food in dispersed and distressed communities, it cannot by definition take the soil-stewardship and biodiversity-conservation measures that USDA Organic standards demand of organic farms.

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.

When the USDA permitted hydroponic producers to use of the organic label it was doing the work of agribusiness interests. Expressing the collective outrage of the entire organic community, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a legal action demanding that the USDA reverse its decision and prohibit hydroponic farmers from displaying the organic label on their produce.

The filing has now been endorsed by over a dozen organic certifying organizations, including the Organic Farmers Association, Northwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA), PCC Community Markets, and the Cornucopia Institute.