Published: April 1, 2020

Category: Organic News, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter

The Center for Food Safety (CFS), along with a coalition of organic farms and stakeholders, filed a lawsuit over the United States Department of Agriculture’s decision to allow hydroponic operations to be certified organic.

“Hydroponic operations have their own unique benefits, but they do not enrich the soil, which is the very foundation of organic agriculture,” said plaintiff Larry Jacobs of Jacobs Farm in Pescadero, California. Federal organic law (the Organic Food Productions Act) requires organic production to promote soil fertility; therefore, hydroponically-grown products carrying the organic label violate the law. Hydroponic operations use water-based nutrient solutions without any soil.

Organic certifier OneCert, Inc. holds that validating hydroponics this way is “disingenuous and false”—and until USDA told certifiers they could ignore parts of the law regarding soil, no one was certifying hydroponics as organic.

Jim Cochran, of Swanton Berry (organic strawberry) Farm, says it’s not right for hydroponically-grown strawberries to piggyback onto an organic label that has taken 30 years to develop.

Healthy soil is critical to producing nutrient-dense foods that benefit both people and environment; benefits include climate resiliency, reducing carbon, water retention, and reduced runoff and erosion.

The Trump Administration’s USDA denied a petition last year to prohibit hydroponics from the organic label, based on arbitrary reasoning, CFS says. Earlier CFS sued the USDA for rolling back livestock care standards.

Source: Center for Food Safety

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