Legal action taken to force USDA to revoke certification of container, hydroponic, and aquaponic production systems

Industry News

Center for Food Safety Files Petition with USDA to Revoke Existing Organic Certification for Nearly All Microgreens and Significant Volumes of Berries, Tomatoes and Leafy Greens


The Center for Produce Safety delivered a petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for the USDA to

  1. Issue new regulations prohibiting organic certification of hydroponic agricultural production based on the National Organic Standards Board’s April 29, 2010 recommendation on Production Standards for Terrestrial Plants in Containers and Enclosures.
  2. Specifically, amend 7 C.F.R. 205.105, Allowed and prohibited substances, methods, and ingredients in organic production and handling, to prohibit hydroponic systems.
  3. Ensure that ecologically integrated organic production practices are maintained as a requirement for organic certification as defined by the existing OFPA regulations.
  4. Revoke any existing organic certifications previously issued to hydroponic operations.

The petition defines “hydroponics” as “a diverse array of systems which incorporate, to some degree, containers that house plant roots in either a liquid solution or various solid substrates, including coconut coir, soil, compost, vermicompost, peat moss, bark, sawdust, rice hulls, potting soil and a number of other growing media.” In short, any production system that uses a container or tray or soil lining that isolates the roots of a plant from the outer crust of the Earth is targeted for decertification by the petition.

The petition states that the following groups support the decertification effort – The Cornucopia Institute, Food & Water Watch, Cultivate Oregon, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Certification Service, Northwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA), Organic Farmers Association (OFA), Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut (CT NOFA), Northeast Organic Farming Association Interstate Council, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ), Northwest (sic) Organic Farming Association – New York (NOFA-NY), Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), and PCC Community Markets.

Here is a copy of the press release issued by CFS. The CFS did successfully bring legal action to overturn USDA National Organic Program guidance that allowed the use of compost made from materials collected under municipal yard clipping collection programs.

We have not heard any reaction from USDA at this time.


11 thoughts on “Legal action taken to force USDA to revoke certification of container, hydroponic, and aquaponic production systems

  1. It is just much easier to not purchase food with an “Organic,” certification, I general however, I just focus on looking for the GMO labelled food, at least then you know exactly what you are getting, the best food that human science has yet engineered!

  2. This is just an attempt to limit competition from alternative methods of farming. Organic is high profit for farmers. Hydrophonics and aquaponics are a proven and sustainable alternative method to grow food. If the CFS was really concerned about the integrity of the organic label, they would advocate for less chemicals being labeled as safe for organic farming.

  3. It would seem a little far reaching. Urban growers are limited by direct soil growing and should use ‘non-virgin’ containers for growing because the soil environment is largely contaminated. All encompassing ‘container’ disqualification is too broad and certification should be classed rather than removed out right.

  4. This is rediculois. Water is organic. I would understand if chemical fertalizers were being used but fish poop is also organic.

  5. In other words they want to limit competition and create a quasi Monopoly for their benefit not the consumers!

  6. Maybe I’m uninformed but what is wrong with this type of growing? How is it not organic? What is the harm? I’m just a home gardener but I have some aeroponics and I see them as safe and beneficial.

  7. “USDA National Organic Program guidance that allowed the use of compost made from materials collected under municipal yard clipping collection programs.”

    Are they concerned about composition of Municipal items… And rightly so they should.
    The lawsuit seems so broad based, why not just work on the noted Amendment? Am I mistaken in the reading of this article?

  8. Their efforts will have unintended consequences that will actually hurt them in the end. Organic is NOT a better product, in either quality or nutrition, than the best hydroponics techniques. They may not know it yet but Organic hydroponics is keeping their overall numbers looking better than they would without them. More recalls, more heavy metal contamination, more food born illness comes from the techniques they consider “organic” than from even mediocre hydroponic techniques. Hygenic growing techniques is the future of premium quality not ‘in earth’ techniques.

    1. The above comment is all true. I am a master organic grower and the label Organic is often misleading.

  9. Remember – organics is a production philosophy not a science. Organics is a marketing term not a physical property, characteristic or variety. Labels are designed to influence consumers purchasing habits. When we disagree with something we need to speak with our wallets as a consumer or build a better product as a producer. Thank you all for your comments.

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