Center for Food Safety Files Legal Action to Prohibit Hydroponics from Organic

Mon. February 11th, 2019
- by Jessica Donnel     

WASHINGTON, DC - The Center for Food Safety (CFS) has filed a new legal action asking the USDA to prohibit hydroponic operations from the Organic label. CFS says that “Hydroponic production systems”—or food production methods that do not use soil—do not meet federal organic standards and violate organic law.

George Kimbrall, Legal Director, Center for Food Safety“Mislabeling mega-hydroponic operations as ‘organic’ is contrary to the text and basic principles of the organic standard,” said George Kimbrell, CFS’ Legal Director, in a press release. “Right now there is a pitched battle for the future of organic, and we stand with organic farmers and consumers who believe the label must retain its integrity.”

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) has filed a new legal action asking the USDA to prohibit hydroponic operations from the Organic label

In a statement, CFS contends that organic agriculture is tied inextricably with soil, fostering soil fertility, improving soil quality, and using proper tillage and crop rotation within the soil. CFS also pointed out that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a body assigned by Congress to advise USDA on organic matters, recommended that the agency prohibit certification of hydroponic systems. Canada and Mexico also prohibit hydroponics from organic, and the European Parliament voted to end the organic certification of hydroponic products in April 2018.

Kate Mendenhall, Director, Organic Farmers Association“Allowing hydroponic systems to be certified as organic undercuts the livelihood of organic farmers that take great lengths to support healthy soil as the bedrock of their farms,” added Kate Mendenhall, Director of the Organic Farmers Association. “Hydroponic producers getting the benefit of the organic label without actually doing anything to benefit the soil undermines the standard and put all soil-based organic farmers at an untenable economic disadvantage.”

Mark Kastel, Executive Director, Cornucopia InstituteMark Kastel, Executive Director for the Cornucopia Institute, also commented, explaining that the effort to “water down the organic standards” has been a focus of corporate agribusiness lobbyists for decades.

“In this case, the careful stewardship of soil fertility is not only a philosophical precept, it's codified in federal law,” Kastel added.

Will this legal action sway the tides of the USDA’s ruling on hydroponics? AndNowUKnow will be monitoring this as the conversation progresses.