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USA: prohibition of aquaponics in organic food production rejected by NOSB

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Hydroponic food production

Whether soilless cultivation is organic or not is highly debated in the US for two decades now. (Photo © Pixabay)

At a meeting on the 1st November 2017, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) rejected the proposal to ban hydroponic and aquaponic production methods under the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program. Whether soil is essential to grow organic crops is highly debated in the US since 1995. Hence, the dealings concerning the issue weren’t clear and some agencies have certified hydroponic operations and some haven’t.

Two sides to aquaponics

As the decades of controversy show, both of the sides to hydroponics have valid concerns regarding aquaponics in organic food production. Stakeholders representing aquaponic producers argued that the prohibition of hydroponics in organic productions would result in a removal of important supplies of fresh vegetables and fruit currently certified organic. Further, Rob Verdi, president and CEO of Bella Verdi Farms, expressed his belief that with a look to the origins of the USDA program, which was meant to remove herbicides from organic farming, aquaponics meet the requirements of organic production very well. However, in order to promote the necessity of soil-based organic production, intense lobbying efforts were made, among others, by the National Organic Coalition and the Cornucopia Institute. Many soil-based organic producers are highly concerned that diminished values of organic certification could result in a reduction of soil-based organic output.

At the moment, approximately more than 100 hydroponic operations in the United States are certified as organic. The recent decision by the NOSB is a beneficial result for producers of aquaponically manufactured goods.

Drawback from aeroponics

In addition to the decision about hydroponics, the board also voted about certifying aeroponic growings as being certified as organic. Aeroponic operations grow plants suspended in the air with their roots being provided with nutrients by misting. Contrary to its decision about aquaponics, with 14 yes votes and one abstension, the board voted against aeroponics in organic food productions.


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