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Center for Food Safety, Farmers and Industry Stakeholders File Lawsuit against the USDA for Allowing Hydroponics in Organic

With the postponement of Natural Products Expo West dominating the headlines as of late, a very significant piece of news broke earlier today.

Center for Food Safety, along with a coalition of organic farmers and stakeholders, filed a lawsuit challenging the USDA’s decision to allow hydroponic operations to be certified organic.

Hydroponics is one of the biggest controversies in the organic industry, as it is a complete violation of Section 6513 of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA). Section 6513 b-1 of OFPA says:

An organic plan shall contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic content of the soil through proper tillage, crop rotation and manuring.

Blueberries growing in a plastic bucket of water have absolutely nothing to do with the fostering of soil fertility, but the USDA’s National Organic Program has allowed this practice for many years, putting soil-based organic farmers at a serious operating and financial disadvantage.

According to industry experts who have spoken to Organic Insider, approximately 90% of the organic tomatoes sold at national supermarkets today are grown hydroponically. The companies that have the most to lose if hydroponics were to be ruled illegal are Driscoll’s (berries), Wholesum Harvest (tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers) and NatureSweet’s Brighthouse line (tomatoes).

“Healthy soil is the foundation of organic farming,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of plaintiff Center for Food Safety. “Organic farmers and consumers believe that the ‘Organic’ label means not just growing food in soil, but improving the fertility of that soil. USDA’s loophole for corporate hydroponics to be sold under the ‘Organic’ label guts the very essence of organic.”

As more developments with this lawsuit unfold, we will be sure to keep Organic Insider readers informed.

With gratitude,

Max Goldberg, Founder

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