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Court Rules on the Organic Eligibility of Hydroponic Vegetables

Judge Richard Seeborg, Chief District Judge of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco has ruled that vegetables grown applying hydroponic technology can be certified under the Organic Food Production Act subject to adherence to all applicable regulations.



The Center for Food Safety challenged the USDA Organic certification of products cultivated using hydroponic technology. Purists have maintained for two decades that products should not be certified as Organic unless they were grown in soil. 


The Coalition for Sustainable Organics supporting hydroponic certification commented, “The decision is a major victory for producers and consumers working together to make organics more accessible and the supply more resilient.” Currently hydroponic technology is used to produce berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, leafy greens, sprouts, herbs and microgreens.


The U.S. District Court opinion relating to hydroponics will probably have future relevance as opponents of intensive egg production have campaigned against in-line Organic aviary operations with access to sun porches but no contact with “soil”.  The nebulous concept of ‘soil’ is intended to restrict the scale of organic production with obvious financial benefit to those devising and interpreting rules for Organic certification that will restrict production.


Proponents of organic production should embrace all technologies and systems that fall within the scope of the Organic Food Production Act and should not create barriers to alternative systems that provide advantages in terms of sustainability, volume of production and enhanced food safety.