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NOSB votes to continue to allow hydroponics under US National Organic Program 

The National Organic Standards Board, the industry body that advises the US Secretary of Agriculture on organic standards, has voted to allow some crops grown hydroponically to continue to be labelled organic under the National Organic Program (NOP).

The controversial decision follows two lengthy consultations on the subject and is set against a backdrop of nationwide protests against the inclusion of hydroponics and other non-soil growing techniques in organic standards.

Many organic farmers in America argue that managing soil biology and protecting soil health are founding principles of organic systems, and that hydroponics – which uses mineral nutrient solutions in place of soil – should be entirely excluded from organic systems.

But supporters of hydroponics say that soil-less systems allow for the production of ‘clean foods’ – they exclude the use of pesticides and herbicides – in environmentally sustainable ways. And they say that by embracing innovative technologies hydroponics makes organic food available to more people.

At this week’s highly anticipated NOSB meeting, the board voted to prohibit aeroponic farming – where plants are suspended in the air with their roots exposed – but allow hydroponic and aquaponic systems to continue to labelled organic under the NOP.

There were passionate submissions from both sides of the argument during the 13 hour session, and angry reactions from some farmers – the group Keep The Soil Organic, which recently held a series of nationwide rallies ahead of the meeting, had a strong presence in the room.

One stakeholder said: “We are tricking and deceiving consumers with organic hydroponics, and large corporations are just chasing and riding the coattails of the organic label. Hydroponic is a shortcut, and these methods have been wrongly certified. Container and hydroponics don’t have to wait three years to be certified.” Another noted dryly that “conventional farmers are beginning to talk about soil health and now organic is talking about growing without the soil.”

A report by US industry website recorded that a representative of IFOAM EU had “traveled 20 hours to submit evidence give a three-minute comment to rally against soilless organic production” and “suggested their inclusion could encourage IFOAM to urge renegotiation of the equivalency agreement between the EU and US.”

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About the Author

Jim Manson

Writer & Editor
Jim Manson is editor-in-chief of Diversified Communications UK‘s natural and organic publishing portfolio. He’s written widely on environment and development issues for specialist magazines and national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, and World Bank Urban Age

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3 Responses to NOSB votes to continue to allow hydroponics under US National Organic Program 

  1. Dr Mike Grant November 7, 2017 at 5:05 pm #

    Here are the facts: Each country in the World has different quality controls – there is no one International Certified Organic standard. The UK based Soil Ass. claim their standards are higher than other countries… well they would say that wouldn’t they! Remember, there is NO SUCH THING as ‘ORGANIC RAIN’. Our ancestors drunk rainwater because it was safe. Now rain in most parts of the World contains toxic chemicals which contaminate Organic and non-Organic farms alike! Therefore nearly all food grown out-doors is CONTAMINATED – period! Consumers simply want clean, nutritious food at the lowest price. Hydroponics/Hydroculture generally produces ‘cleaner’ less toxic food than Organic soil grown crops, fruits, root vegetables etc. but soil-less farming is not necessarily more nutritious. The proof is ALWAYS in the printout. Batch analysis of any food in a specialist laboratory will provide detailed evidence of detectable levels of pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals and other toxins plus minerals, fats, sugars, carbs, protein etc. The word ‘organic’ means anything that once was or still is growing or living and contains carbon. Humans are full of carbon, therefore we are ‘organic’! It is a fact of life that Organic Farmers pay more per acre to farm their produce compared to non-organic farmers. Hydroponics is not a word the average consumer is familiar with – and this method of food production will never be promoted by men in grey suits simply because of the inference that hydroponic food is in some way artificial… which it is not. Hydroponic grown food has exactly the same DNA as soil grown food. The focus of concern should be directed at GM food – that is the real enemy.

  2. Robert Redfern November 7, 2017 at 5:36 pm #

    Hydroponics can create better and more accurate use of seaweed nutrients where all of the minerals contained in them are far superior than soil since most of the trace minerals like iodine have been washed to the sea one the centuries. It also is more considerate in its use of water and since it can be used in marginal or even disused buildings that can be repurposed and brought back into life.
    Inside buildings or in tunnels using computer controlled LED lights Hydroponics can deliver vegetables all year around.
    If you want something to complain about what about all the chickens, eggs, salmon and cows fed on GMO corn? That is the real


  1. Indoor Farming In Vietnam: From Shipping Container To Consumer - Vietcetera - November 21, 2017

    […] National Organic Standards Board (which advise the USDA) has voted to allow hydroponic crops to be labeled as organic under the National Organic Program. For us, this is incredible news as we are now officially […]


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