Nationwide rallies have been held across America by organic farming groups opposed to hydroponic growers being able to label their produce organic.
A series of 16 rallies culminated with the largest event in Jacksonville, Florida, on 31 October, timed to coincide with a major vote by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) on the status of hydroponics under the National Organic Program (NOP).
Earlier this year a letter calling for a moratorium on further certification of hydroponic production, signed by over 40 organisations representing the US organic community, was presented to the US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.
Despite the Moratorium Letter and protests, the NOSB voted to continue to allow hydroponic and aquaponic systems as part of the NOP.
In hydroponic and aquaponic systems crops are grown in mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil. Because their production doesn’t contribute to the development of healthier soil – the foundation of organic methods – many organic farmers say these systems shouldn’t be allowed to share the certified organic label.
Supporters of hydroponics say that by embracing innovative technologies hydroponics makes ‘organic’ food available to more people.
“It’s pretty telling that they want to steal our word. We’ve worked really hard for this word, and it means something, and they want it, and it’s not theirs. Let them build it for 30 years, like the organic farmers did.”
With the NOSB decision going agains them, anger among organic farming groups on this issue seems likely to intensify. Speaking ahead of the vote, veteran organic farmer, Eliot Coleman, said: “We are in danger of losing 50 years of hard fought gains in the healthy soil movement. Organic has always meant grown in the soil. We refuse to let the promise of organic agriculture be compromised by profiteers.”
“It’s pretty telling that they want to steal our word,” Linley Dixon, soil scientist at organic campaign group the Cornucopia Institute, told US trade magazine Modern Farmer. “We’ve worked really hard for this word, and it means something, and they want it, and it’s not theirs. Let them build it for 30 years, like the organic farmers did.”
The Washington Post has reported that some organic pioneers are considering walking away from the NOP, which they believe has been gravely undermined by the status given to hydroponics.
Main photo: One of the recent rallies in America (Keep The Soil In Organic)