Organic Food

Lawsuit Demands USDA Stop Certifying Hydroponic Foods as 'Organic'

Dirt farmers want the feds to stack the deck in their favor.

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Earlier this month, a group of organic farmers and advocates sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over the agency's certification of some hydroponic produce as "organic." The suit seeks to bar the USDA from awarding its organic seal to hydroponically raised foods.

Hydroponics is a type of farming or gardening that uses water (rather than soil) as a growth medium for a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other plants—including cannabis. Hydroponic growth can be accomplished indoors with the addition of commercially available lighting, nutrients, and other materials.

The suit was filed by the Center for Food Safety (CFS)—a "litigious" California-based nonprofit that boasts nearly a million members—along with a handful of organic farmers and the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association. CFS petitioned the USDA early last year, asking the agency to develop rules that would prohibit organic certification of hydroponic operations. The agency denied the petition in June.

The suit alleges that the USDA's actions fly in the face of the 1990 law that established the agency's authority over the labeling of organic foods. That argument hinges in large part on the language around fostering soil fertility in the 1990 law, the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), which gave rise to the USDA's certification program.  Under the law, which refers to "soil" only a handful of times, farmers must have in place an "organic plan [which] shall contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic content of the soil." A farmer raising crops she wishes to market under the USDA's organic seal must submit its organic plan to a certifying body such as Oregon Tilth.

That group, the nation's first organic certifying body, was established in the early 1970s. The word "tilth" refers to soil quality.

"Organic farmers and consumers believe that the Organic label means not just growing food in soil, but improving the fertility of that soil," says Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, in a release announcing the lawsuit. "USDA's loophole for corporate hydroponics to be sold under the Organic label guts the very essence of 'Organic.'"

According to the handful of farmers who are part of the lawsuit—and who grow a host of organic fruits and vegetables, many of them having done so for decades—they're facing stiff competition from (typically) larger hydroponic farmers, who incur lower costs to grow the same food and can therefore offer more value to consumers for the same products.

What exactly is "organic"? For regulatory purposes, the term refers as much to what doesn't go into producing a particular food as what does go into it. As I explained in a 2016 column, under USDA rules the term "organic" refers to foods that are produced 1) "without excluded methods;" 2) " using allowed substances;" and 3) under the oversight of a USDA-authorized organic certifying agent.

The hydroponic-organic fight dates back to at least 2010, according to Food Dive, a news website that has a helpful chronology on the fight.

As I detailed in 2016, the Cornucopia Institute, which promotes organic foods, had recently filed a complaint with the USDA over hydroponic organics.

"It's not hard to make the case that soil is as central to the concept of 'organic' as any other idea or thing," I wrote. "On the other hand, it's also not hard to make the case that soil isn't central to the concept of what is and isn't organic. While most of our food is grown in soil, only a small percentage of that food is 'organic' under USDA rules. In other words, whether or not food is grown in soil tells us little that's useful about whether that food is 'organic' or not."

When I last wrote about this issue, the Boston Globe editorial board had just weighed in on the debate over hydroponics and organics. Step off, the paper told the USDA.

"It would be better for the authorities to focus on ensuring the safety of food and the accuracy of label information about things like nutrition and allergens, while letting consumers figure out for themselves what organic means to them," write the Globe's editors. 

That latter point is so important—and something USDA rules simply don't allow for. It's also just one of the many flaws inherent in the USDA's oversight of organic food. For example, I detail the arguments of several leading supporters of organic foods who are also leading critics of the USDA's organic labeling program in my book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable

If CFS and its fellow plaintiffs lose, then the result will likely be more innovation, more competition, and lower costs for consumers. The USDA's organic seal has very little integrity to begin with. Allowing hydroponic crops to be certified as organic—while not as welcome as would be getting the USDA out of the organic-labeling business altogether—won't damage that integrity any further.

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  1. I can only speak for myself but I really don’t buy organic labeled food because it generally has a poorer appearance. That and I don’t really get the distinction when it comes to fertilizer. I wash the hell of it too to get the pesticide off.

    1. I generally avoid organic food because it’s just an excuse to raise the price and get away with poorer quality.

      1. This guy gets it

        1. USDA certifications are a joke. Examples of corrupt, yet “legal”, certifications abound.
          How about certified Angus beef? 51% black hair! How many mostly black Holstein steers are processed as Angus?
          Water chilled meat? That scandal goes back decades, selling water at meat prices.
          Organic? Gee, I can’t find organic supplies to raise my crop. That’s ok, you tried, so use what you have and we’ll call it good….
          “Hi, I’m from the government, I’m here to help you.”
          USDA: as corrupt as it gets. By law.

  2. “Organic” means “containing the element carbon”. All carbon-containing foods, MeThinks, should deserve the label “organic”.

    THAT would be a LOT more “science based” than the stupid rules we have right now!

    1. [pedant] The chemical definition of “organic” is a bit more complex, having some odd twists to deal with edge-and-corner cases like carbon dioxide, diamond, carbon tetrachloride, etc. [/pedant]

      1. Carbon tetrachloride is considered an organic compound. You’re right that carbonates and oxides are excluded from the definition of organic, as is diamond, which is considered a mineral.

      2. Hhhhmmm …

        Would Equadorian Vegetable Picker Feces be considered “Organic”?

        Asking for a friend … named Squirrely …

    2. That’s like insisting “gay” means “male homosexual” or now apparently just “homosexual” rather than “happy”. The technical sense of “organic” is derived from a broader sense, and turned out to be a misnomer anyway.

      Maybe you’re one of those people who insist that “detergent” can’t be made of soap, when the word “detergent” is much older than the sense you have in mind for it.

      1. Or maybe you think “mainframe” refers to a type or size of computer, rather than to a part of a computer or network.

        1. Maybe most of us think you’re trying to bullshit your way into making a claim.

          1. I claim I take communication seriously, and don’t equivocate. Words have an original intent. You?

            1. “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
              Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
              “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
              “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
              “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
              “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

              Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”

            2. Robert
              March.15.2020 at 8:36 am
              “I claim I take communication seriously, and don’t equivocate. Words have an original intent. You?”

              You claim to define communication and the definition of words, with the government as your nanny.
              I point out that:
              You.
              Are.
              Full.
              Of.
              Shit.

    3. Yup. When people suggest I buy “organic”, I tell them I prefer ceramics. Seriously, the only non-organic food out there is salt.

  3. I think if you’re that concerned about “organic” food, you need to be growing all your own food anyway, ya filthy hippy. The Man wants you to believe “organic” food is spiritually pure and holistically balanced nutrition, but it’s not how the food is grown that makes it karmic, it’s whether or not the food is grown for a profit. People first, man, is what creates the healthy healing auras. Mother Earth is, like, the All-Mother and whoring out your Mother for filthy lucre is, like, totally not cool, you dig? Share the wealth, you didn’t create that, our Mother made that for all of us. Corporate greed is what is poisoning us, we need to get back to the Garden, to Nature, to our Essence as a part of the Earth is what I’m saying. Personally, I only eat free food – mostly out of dumpsters – and my conscience is as clean as my consciousness is expansive knowing that that food is untainted by capitalism.

    1. You beat me to it. For woke foodsters (producers and consumers) “organic” is not a technical term with scientific criteria, it is an emotional and political term.

      True organic food must come not only from the desired farm methods, but from the right people–people who truly believe, who wear the right clothing, believe the right (but probably irrational) things, and represent the entire holistic mother-earth fantasy. To get certified will require extensive personal interviews and political screening.

      1. “True organic food must come not only from the desired farm methods, but from the right people–people who truly believe, who wear the right clothing, believe the right (but probably irrational) things, and represent the entire holistic mother-earth fantasy.”

        Nonsense. Organic means the food is grown without recourse to pesticides and fertilizers, typically based on fossil fuels. An acquaintance of mine is an organic rice farmer who sells to baby formula manufacturers. I promise you his buyers don’t care what clothes he wears or what he believes. They want organic rice and they buy it from him. And he makes a profit.

        1. Your friend is welcome to his profits, but he’s trading on the ignorance of his customers.

          1. I’m pretty sure his rice is organic. And I’m pretty sure that his customers know it. You are welcome to share any evidence you have to contrary.

            1. Your reading comprehension sucks.
              I’m absolutely certain he’s a snake-oil peddler, and equally sure you have no problem that that.

              1. Mtrueman is absolutely certain that that ‘that’ that that comment contains is unnecessary.

                1. Thank you, Mr. Pedant.

              2. You’re complaining about his customers’ system of values, while he’s referring to truth. You might as well complain that kosher or halal foods are “snake oil” — or that authentic snake oil is “snake oil”.

                1. I’m pointing out that the claim that ‘organic’ is in someway superior is bullshit.
                  You may prefer snake oil, but don’t bother claiming there is any real advantage to it; simply admit you are not well informed.

                  1. Doesn’t matter whether that’s bullshit or not. If someone’s peddling snake oil, it’d better have authentic oil from snakes in it.

                    1. Virtue signalling is what matters here. It’s important for Sevo to register his disapproval of organic farming, the shriller the better.

                    2. Stupidity is what’s important here. It’s important for trueman to register his support of snake-oil idiots; the more backed by bullshit, the better.

                    3. “Doesn’t matter whether that’s bullshit or not. If someone’s peddling snake oil, it’d better have authentic oil from snakes in it.”

                      And since no one has any idea of what is ‘authentic’ the entire enterprise is bullshit, literally and figuratively.

        2. No fertilizer?? Right….

          No industrially produced nitrogen compounds, or mixtures containing trace minerals that were at one time purified so that they could be included in the fertilizer, perhaps.

          Manure is fertilizer. Salt hay (seagrass) is fertilizer. But they are uncontrolled in what they contain, so what if the manure came from antibiotic treated cows? Or the salt hay from a polluted sound?

          Most of this is feel-good stuff from people who wouldn’t know a safe apple from a contaminated one. (Hint: the one with scab is probably healthier for you than the pretty one which was sprayed with gawdknowswhat. If you don’t like applescab, cut it off. If you’re smart, you’ll know that scab causes the fruit to dessicate and have more concentrated flavors too!

          1. “Manure is fertilizer.”

            True. But manure is not derived from fossil fuels as many other chemical fertilizers used in agriculture are. You can spread manure on organic crops without worry.

            “Most of this is feel-good stuff from people who wouldn’t know a safe apple from a contaminated one.”

            I don’t know about most, but there are definitely knowledgeable farmers who are concerned with the quality of their produce. You might be interested in the writings of Fukuoka Masanobu, a foreigner, to be sure, but he seems to know his stuff, nevertheless.

            1. “You can spread manure on organic crops without worry.”

              “Many people fertilize their gardens with composted cow manure but don’t realize the hidden dangers. Cow manure may harbor diseases such as e. coli O157, listeriosis, salmonellosis, cryptosporidiosis and mad cow disease. These diseases are fecal to oral in transmission and may be passed to humans if vegetables from the garden are not properly washed. Protect your family and yourself by frequent hand washing and proper food preparation to avoid infection.”
              https://www.gardenguides.com/99768-diseases-found-cow-manure.html

              1. “Cow manure may harbor diseases such as e. coli O157, listeriosis, salmonellosis, cryptosporidiosis and mad cow disease.”

                I never promised you a rose garden.

                1. “I never promised you a rose garden.”

                  No, you didn’t. You posted this steaming pile of shit:
                  “You can spread manure on organic crops without worry.”
                  And got called on it, bullshitter.

                  1. “And got called on it, bullshitter.”

                    And still Sevo thrives on a diet of my shit.

                    1. “And still Sevo thrives on a diet of my shit.”

                      Hint which most humans of average IQ would not require: Being called on your bullshit is not a compliment.
                      He’s pretty fucking stupid that way.
                      Did your blog get an extra hit this week from your bullshitting here? Or are you still looking for one more click?
                      BTW, as a scumbag pimp for your own site, consider yourself flagged.

        3. ‘Organic’ means ‘contains carbon’. The ‘organic food’ people are idiots.

          1. “The ‘organic food’ people are idiots.”

            But you’re the one who thinks ‘organic food’ means food that contains carbon.

            1. But you’re the one who thinks your snake-oil salesman ‘friend’ is worth your support, scumbag.

            2. Badly misusing a word makes a person an idiot. If you think ‘organic food’ is a sensible construction, well, there’s an idiom about shoes that fit.

              Also, it’s pretty clear that ‘organic’ as used in ‘organic food’ doesn’t have any solid definition – it’s entirely arbitrary. It’s not like artificial selection and domestication haven’t resulted in human modification of food organisms. It’s not like using manure as fertilizer isn’t still fertilizer. Anyone who subscribes to their psuedo-mystical claptrap is a Luddite, with all the appropriate negative associations that conjures. I can’t think of a more nonsensical and conservative belief system.

              (For example: genetic techniques are safer and more precise at accomplishing the same ends as artificial selection and domestication. Yet the ‘organic food’ people are happy to consume the results of artificial selection but balk at genetic modification. And from the nonsense stories they make up about GMOs, it’s pretty obvious they don’t understand it, because they talk about it like it’s magic.)

              1. We have a misunderstanding. When you use the term ‘organic food,’ you mean food that contains carbon. When I use the term, I also mean food that contains carbon, but also has been produced without recourse to synthetic chemicals, fossil fuels, etc. The idea is to promote sustainability and biodiversity in agriculture, until recently, it seems, core conservative values.

                1. You realize fossil fuels are, and have alwasy been, organic… right?

                  Also, if the goal is to promote sustainability and biodiversity in agriculture, shouldn’t it rely on science which demonstrates what creates sustainability and/or biodiversity? Because I guarantee there are probably synthetic solutions which are better for either or both than methods without them. (Which isn’t to say such methods are currently in use, just that they almost certainly exist). The restriction is entirely disconnected from the claimed aim.

                  It’s also the case that the sustainability and biodiversity impacts of farming methods vary wildly even without those things. But if you include everything without synthetics, fossil fuels, etc… in ‘organic’, that means you’re including practices both good and bad. “Organic” single crop farming is probably substantially worse than native american-style 3-crop farming with synthetic fertilizer added, for example.

                  For an extended example: Much of the cattle-raising grasslands in the US were planted with a monoculture of Agropyron cristatum from asia, because it has a high shoot:root ratio. It’s substantially worse for soil conservation and biodiversity than native grasses, and its not even properly invasive (it can’t displace native grasses on its own – it requires intentional human planting – but native grasses can’t displace it either). But planting it for cattle feeding is perfectly “organic” – no fertilizer or other synthetic additives needed. That’s a demonstrable failure to properly scope a term to the intended results.

                  The problem isn’t the goal, the problem is the means and label don’t actually have anything to do with the goal. (The secondary problem is, of course, the corruption of a perfectly good word).

                  I suggest this disconnect isn’t an accident. Proponents might talk a good game to lay people about biodiversity, but they aren’t actually interested in the science. They’re Luddites who just don’t like technology because they fear what they don’t understand. They aren’t actually interested in finding out what the best practices for maximizing biodiversity or sustainability are.

                  1. “…They’re Luddites who just don’t like technology because they fear what they don’t understand. They aren’t actually interested in finding out what the best practices for maximizing biodiversity or sustainability are.”

                    They are a post-rationalist religious sect, based on Rousseau’s bullshit claims of ‘the noble savage’ and the myth of a ‘natural balance’. Both are supported only by faith, neither by evidence.

                  2. “You realize fossil fuels are, and have alwasy been, organic… right?”

                    Because it contains carbon. We’ve been through that.

                    “Also, if the goal is to promote sustainability and biodiversity in agriculture,”

                    It’s not the goal. The goal is avoiding fertilizer and pesticides. Some people want food that hasn’t been treated so. The baby food manufacturers who buy from my organic rice farmer friend for example. They don’t necessarily care about sustainability and biodiversity. They have a business to run.

                    “They’re Luddites who just don’t like technology because they fear what they don’t understand.”

                    What’s wrong with Luddites buying food that suits their tastes? Their depth of understanding of science is no concern of yours, and they don’t need your approval.

                    1. But pesticides are allowed, like pyrethrum (sp?). Also copper sulphate is, I believe, allowed. I think my father was on the right course where he composted grass clippings and leaves. He also used plant based pesticides like roentgen (sp?). But he did it on a small scale as I continue to do. However, it is okay on a small scale. But, would be impossible on a world scale.

                    2. Wait, didn’t you just say the goal was to promote sustainability and biodiversity?

                      “The idea is to promote sustainability and biodiversity in agriculture” – that was you, in the post I responded to! Talk about shifting goalposts.

                      Given ‘natural’ fertilizers are allowed, and aren’t necessarily safer than synthetic fertilizers, it’s still not clear even that goal is satisfied.

                      Fossil Fuels/
                      Not just because they contain carbon, but because fossil fuels ultimately came from living organisms.

                      Luddites/
                      Nothing is wrong with luddites making their own decisions with their money, but that also doesn’t stop them from being idiots. There’s a sucker born every minute: luddites are just a sub-category. You have a right to be an idiot.

                      But when they demand the government regulate their magic food fantasies, well, now it’s my (and everyone’s) business.

        4. Organic farmers absolutely use fertilizers and can use pesticides. The fertilizers that are allowed are typically animal manure based, though there are other plant residue products that work very well to grow plants. The word you are looking for is “synthetic” which now has lost almost all meaning. You can make synthetic nitrogen fertilizer using RNG or renewable natural gas. Would that be okay for you, since the fuel source is renewable instead of being fossil? And the USDA now allows the use of KCl or potassium chloride, which used to be disallowed as a “synthetic” product.

          The truth of the matter is that most organic growers simply grow crops using “conventional” methods using “organic” inputs. There is little thought for the health of the soil or for sustainability. Chicken manure from conventional chicken growing operations is simply recycled synthetic fertilizers that is recaptured from animal waste. Without the conventional farmers the organic farmers wouldn’t have near the availability of “organic” fertilizers.
          Besides all this, we are asking the wrong question. It’s NOT about whether the food is grown using organic inputs or conventional fertilizers.

          The real question is – does the food nourish the body and contain the nutrients the body needs? You can grow food using conventional fertilizers in fully mineralized soil and produce a superior product when compared to “organic” produce grown with organic fertilizer but mineral depleted soils. It’s about nutrient dense food!

        5. Not true. There are organic fertilizers and pesticides. I also believe adding lime is okay and considered organic. Generally, synthetic pesticides are banned. Natural ones are not. However, copper sulphate is allowed and can be very toxic.

          1. What is “not true?” The organic farmers use fertilizer? Of course they do. The legal definition of “fertilizer” is any substance that contains any one or more of the following: nitrogen, phosphorus or potash. All animal manure contains ALL three of these minerals. Plant residues are also allowed with also contain ALL three minerals. Examples would be cottonseed meal, corn gluten meal, molasses, compost etc…

            You appear to be arguing with yourself because nothing that I wrote is opposed by your comments, so what is the deal?

          2. Here in India, the organic farmers use organic fertilisers called panchagavya and jeevamruta to nourish the soil and as pesticides they use neem, among other things.

      2. Again, the Proggie Motto: Principals over Principles.

      3. Mostly, they have to believe the left of things, not the right things – – – – – –

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  5. Organic is kosher for new-agers. The USDA shouldn’t be certifying food as “organic” any more than it should be certifying food as “kosher.”

    1. Ditto ‘non – GMO’.

    2. I may be wrong; however, I don’t believe any government agency is involved in the certification of kosher or halal foods. Those certifications are granted by private agencies, to which food companies pay a fee for the use of the agency’s certification seal, which can be revoked for non-compliance.

      If the pro-organic food hipsters want to set up a similar private-sector system, I say more power to them; however, the pro-organic food crowd should not be using any arm the government to enforce their and certify desired grow practices.

      1. I believe that was the commenter’s point: that the FDA is NOT certifying kosher, and shoudl not be certifying organic.

      2. And when someone has a complaint of being cheated with non-organic product instead of “organic” as it was labeled, do you want them to have no recourse to the courts? And if they can take such a fraud case to court, the court has only 2 options: a regulatory definition of the word, or a common law definition. Either way, it’s government deciding what the word means.

        Same with marriage.

        1. “And when someone has a complaint of being cheated with non-organic product instead of “organic” as it was labeled, do you want them to have no recourse to the courts?”

          You are full of shit, aren’t you?
          You are welcome to sue anyone who misleads you, regardless of whether the government certifies that product in question.
          Lemme guess; you’re terrified of GMO products, right?

          1. No, I’m terrified of PU commenters.

            I’m just pointing out that there’s no escaping the role of government here, unless you go to anomistic (lawless) anarchy. It’s the same thoughtlessness by which people say government can just “get out of questions of marriage”.

            1. “…I’m just pointing out that there’s no escaping the role of government here, unless you go to anomistic (lawless) anarchy….”

              So, you are full of shit.
              You made the claim, now PROVE a need for government involvement.
              Or, as is more likely, STFU.

              1. People have a dispute with $ consequences. Do they shoot it out or take it to court?

                1. You can sue absent any regulation whatsoever.

      3. So you are saying that halal ham I bought on Ebay was …

        1. …so fresh, if it were any fresher the jockey would still be riding it.

          (Did I step on your joke?)

  6. I agree with all the comments above that the government in general and the USDA in specific shouldn’t be in the business of “certifying” organic at all.

    But once you assume that they are, the whole point of the soil clauses in the organic law was to prevent soil depletion. Since hydroponic gardening doesn’t involve soil at all, it does not deplete the soil and clearly meets the intent of the rule.

    1. “But once you assume that they are…”

      You’ve already lost the argument.

  7. farmers must have in place an “organic plan”

    OK, but what is the definition of “organic” in the context of “plan”? Is it “having systematic coordination of parts”, ” forming an integral element of a whole”, or “of, relating to, or constituting the law by which a government or organization exists”?

  8. “It would be better for the authorities to focus on ensuring the safety of food and the accuracy of label information about things like nutrition and allergens, while letting consumers figure out for themselves what organic means to them,” write the Globe’s editors.

    That’s just crazy talk. If we go down that route, next we’ll be letting consumers figure out for themselves what “safe” or “nutritious” means to them.

  9. a “litigious” California-based nonprofit that boasts nearly a million members

    A million? Doubt it. Probably includes everyone they ever put on an email list, every unique web visitor, and every Joe Tourist who wandered into their offices asking directions.

  10. “Organic” used to mean that it was made without using any synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizer, etc. That kind of organic made it too expensive for any but a few small farmers to get that “organic” premium, so “organic” came to mean that it wasn’t made with genetically modified seed–because that meant it wasn’t subjected to Monsanto’s Roundup, etc. Still, the premium consumers will pay for “organic” wasn’t being enjoyed by all, so “organic” came to mean anything that’s made with whatever % of organic ingredients, . . .

    All of this is driven by consumer demand, and hydroponic growers should eventually be able to market “hydroponic” produce to consumers as superior alternative to consumers–much the way Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have differentiated themselves in the marketplace.

    If hydroponic is easier on the environment and contains less in the way of herbicide, pesticide, etc. than certified “organic” produce–and is so kind to the soil that it doesn’t even use it–then knowledgeable consumers will be willing to pay a premium for hydroponic over organic. I suspect the organic farmers behind this are actually shooting themselves in the foot over the long run. Hydroponic makes “organic” look better than it is, and if they drive hydroponic producers to differentiate themselves, the organic producers may find that their “organic” brand doesn’t command the premium it did before hydroponic became a bigger thing.

    1. “If hydroponic is easier on the environment and contains less in the way of herbicide, pesticide, etc. than certified “organic” produce–and is so kind to the soil that it doesn’t even use it….”

      I’m not sure it’s easier on the environment. It is an in-door thing, as I understand, and does nothing to improve or maintain soil quality. Suitable for high end produce like marijuana and strawberries, but not practical for staples like wheat, corn or rice.

      1. “…I’m not sure it’s easier on the environment. It is an in-door thing, as I understand, and does nothing to improve or maintain soil quality.”
        Ignoring the fact it does not cause any harm to the soil quality, as was claimed; why is it we expect such mis-direction from you? Perhaps because it is constant?

        “Suitable for high end produce like marijuana and strawberries, but not practical for staples like wheat, corn or rice.”
        Which, of course, no one claimed.
        I’ll bet your mommy still tolerates you, but it’s a good guess your dad tossed your as out of the house long ago; stupid and smug is a tough combination to accept.

        1. I’m not convinced ‘it’s easier on the environment.’

          1. I’m not convinced you’re a sentient being.
            Fuck off, you pathetic piece of shit.

      2. A great deal of celery and lettuce is grown hydroponically. It is common for food crops directly eaten by consumers. It certainly CAN be easier on the environment as it recovers and recycles all the nutrients rather than having loses due to runoff.

        At this point it does not seem viable for animal feed crops in general, or cereals in general.

  11. “Organic farmers and consumers believe that the Organic label means not just growing food in soil, but improving the fertility of that soil,” says …

    Growing food in soil takes nutrients out of the soil. How ya planning to improve the fertility of the soil without fertilizer? Don’t start waving your jazz hands about composting the leftovers back into the soil, because that’s still a net negative counting the food you took out. You’ll have to add something back in, and that’s usually called fertilization. That hydroponic farmer isn’t touching your precious soil, so he’s obviously leaving it far more intact than you.

    1. Cover crops improve soil.

      The problem is giving bureaucrats the ability to define what should be marketing terms, especially in a pluralistic democracy.

      It’s the same problem with conservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the BLM, and the National Park Service aren’t just there to serve the interests of conservationists. It’s a pluralistic democracy, so they’re also there to protect the interests of the sushi industry, ranchers and tourists. That’s a bad deal for conservationists because conservation requires a lack of compromise–not the juxtaposition of competing interests within a pluralistic democracy so that bureaucrats weigh various competing interests against each other. This is why the Fish and Wildlife Service inadvertently killed half of California’s endangered sea otters to protect the sushi industry, why the BLM sells Mustangs off to become dog food, and the National Park Service slaughters Bison every year to protect the cows of local ranchers from diseases Bison carry when they’re grazing on federal land. Conservation is one of many competing concerns.

      Same thing when you put bureaucrats in charge of terms like “organic”. Sure, they’re concerned about consumers and the environment–among other things, like the interests of industry. By industry, yeah, we’re also talking about the interests of organic farmers. Why shouldn’t they represent the interests of organic farmers, too?

      The problems of conservation are solved by conservationists using private property–not the government and their bureaucrats. Private property does a great job of not compromising with anyone–regardless of competing interests in a pluralistic democracy. The bureaucrats at the BLM might care if you think public lands udner their control would be great for grazing, but if that land is on private property owned by conservationists, the conservationists can tell the ranchers to stay off their property.

      It’s the same with the label “organic”. When you put bureaucrats in charge of the label, they’ll listen to anybody and everybody with an interest in using the term–and if that means refusing to let people use the term even though their produce is better suited for the intent and purpose of consumers and the environment. You simply can’t put bureaucrats in charge of something in a pluralistic democracy and expect the bureaucrats not to take the interests of everyone involved into account. If producers were free to market their products within the context of the organic market without the interference of bureaucrats, I suspect they would have found ways to differentiate themselves to consumers–just like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Right now, the primary purpose of the bureaucrats appears to be to serve the rent seeking interests of established players in the industry. They’re basically killing endangered sea otters, selling Mustangs to the rendering plant, and culling the last herd of truly wild buffalo.

      . . . and that shit won’t stop with “organic” until the authority of the bureaucrats is taken away.

      1. Mother Jones might have missed a great opportunity to become an official certififier of organic produce. “Certified Organic by Mother Jones”. They could have charged for the certification and made the certification by whatever standards they thought best. If their certification standards were insufficient for whatever reason, others could come up with their own standards that reflect their own values.

        The problem of making sense of the market for consumers was real, but the solution was not to facilitate rent seeking with bureaucrats.

      2. “The problems of conservation are solved by conservationists using private property–not the government and their bureaucrats.”

        But outfits like the BLM are not doing conservation, they are doing management, as their name states. Private property owners, even conservative land owners, will probably also be interested in management though the people they hire to do it will be called stewards, not bureaucrats.

        I don’t think there are any truly wild bison/buffalo remaining. They are all mixed stock by now. (Managed, not conserved.)

      3. But there’s a legal system. Which means government ultimately is in charge of the words. The only question is what type of process of government gives the best justice overall in determining the meaning of a word when there’s legal contention over it.

        Common law and regulatory law each have their advantages. Regulatory law has the advantage of being able to arrive fairly quickly at a final answer, making it known to be reliable as the answer; however it has the disadvantage of being susceptible to the winds of politics, and not being scientifically responsive to changes in conditions. Common law has the advantage of best reflecting the practice of the masses, of spontaneous order — but only in the long run — and is not as reliable. When it comes to long-established things like marriage, common law is superior, because it’s had a long time to work it out. When it comes to more recent things like organic farming, I’m not sure whether common or regulatory law is better.

        1. I dispute the notion that the government is in charge of words. Consumers were seeking out and paying a premium for “organic” produce before the 1970s. The government wasn’t in charge of the word then, and it isn’t really in charge of the word now.

          “The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) (Title 21 of Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990, codified at 7 U.S.C. ch. 94, 7 U.S.C. § 6501 et seq.) authorizes a National Organic Program (NOP) to be administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The program will be based on federal regulations that define standard organic farming practices and on a National List of acceptable organic production inputs.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_Foods_Production_Act_of_1990

          People use the word “organic” to mean all sorts of things, and just because the USDA was given the authority to say who can and can’t use the word in 1990, that doesn’t mean people aren’t using the word in farmers markets and pick your own operations all over this country with impunity.

          The government has less control over who uses the word “organic” and how than they do over the production, distribution, and use of cocaine–and they have little control over that. They just make using the word “organic” an expensive hassle in labeling and marketing–but people always have and continue to use the word “organic” pretty much however they want otherwise–without the government’s permission.

          The government has no real control over language, and we should take their ability to hassle people away by repealing that part of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

          1. So when they take a case to court, whose definition of “organic” do they use? Sometimes it’ll be easy to figure out, like if the parties both could be shown to have relied on the same certifying organization. But those are the cases less likely to wind up in court. So you either have the court come up with its own meaning, rely on precedent, or rely on a government authority.

            1. I understand that they can find for the plaintiff on the basis of their definition of the word, but consumers will still use the word to mean whatever they want it to mean–and producers will keep selling them produce based on that word anyway. We should definitely get the government off the backs of those unfortunate producers who get caught in the cross-hairs of the rent-seekers, but if we pretend that the government is in control of this situation, we’re playing into their game. The problem is not that the government is wielding its power improperly if this power can’t be wielded properly. The problem is that the government has power in this area.

              If they didn’t, the “problem” of confused consumers would be much less than it is now. Like I said, seeing “organic” on the label used to mean that it was made without synthetic herbicides, pesticides, etc. I know lots of people who garden that way. They do weeding by hand in their gardens. The bugs get their share, and the gardener gets his share. When they have more than they can eat or want to can, they give it away to friends and family. People want to be able to buy produce like that, and when consumers are buying “organic”, what they want hasn’t really changed–no matter what the government says is an okay use of the word.

              If anything, it’s the government that’s confusing consumers by letting people use the word “organic” when consumers are paying a premium to avoid products made with those processes.

              “When packaged products indicate they are “made with organic [specific ingredient or food group],” this means they contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients.”

              —-USDA

              https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means

              I doubt 70% of what they want is what consumers though they were getting when they paid a premium for “organic”. I suspect that’s more a function of rent-seeking producers elbowing their way into the market. Stop letting the government make examples out of producers who don’t use the word the way the government says, and most of that confusion goes away–with competing private standards of “organic”. You’d soon find that one or two certifying organizations would rise to the top of consumer consciousness.

              I suppose the government isn’t allowed to decide what is and isn’t “kosher” or “halal” because of the separation of church and state. My guess it that various local rabbis and Imams probably certify those foods and the ways they’re processed. No, every type of Jewish and Muslim consumer probably isn’t represented in the certification, but your reformed Jews and your Shia Muslims may simply go by whatever the Hasidic or Sunni cleric said was okay. As a matter of fact because so many of their food prohibitions are similar, some Muslim consumers may be fine with buying some types of kosher food, and some reformed Jewish consumers may look at halal certification and think to themselves–okay, well these beans don’t have any pork in them, so that’s okay. They’ve been getting along fine that way for thousands of years all over the world.

              But we need the government to define “organic” for us?

              Plenty of consumers who care enough to pay a premium for organic produce will seek out produce certified as organic by independent non-government certifying bodies, and plenty of consumers who don’t care enough to learn about the differences between competing standards but care enough to buy “organic”, whatever that means to them, will do just fine without the USDA’s input, as well.

              Regardless, the government can make examples out of people, and they can actively confuse consumers with their arbitrary and rent-seeking definitions of words, but they do not and cannot control the definitions of words. Consumers use that word to mean whatever they want, and producers continue to use that word to market to them–all over America. Yeah, for consumers to really get what they want, they may need to go directly to the grower at a farmers’ market or a website and talk to the grower–the government can’t monitor people’s conversations. If the government were regulating the use of “halal” and “kosher”, it would still mean whatever it means to Muslims and Jews anyway.

              Meanwhile, the USDA doesn’t enforce this anywhere near as heavily as the DEA enforces the Drug War–and the DEA’s efforts to stop consumers from buying the products they want are futile. If they can’t stop consumers from buying a product despite threats of long prison terms, why should we assume the USDA is effective in stopping people from buying organic produce regardless of whether the USDA approves of the way the word is being used?

              In short, there is no good reason for a single standard of organic nor is there a good reason for the government to enforce any standard of “organic”. Moreover, their efforts only serve to keep the organic produce consumers want away from mainline retailers–and confuse consumers about what it means for produce to be organic. They certainly don’t control the use of the word.

            2. “So when they take a case to court, whose definition of “organic” do they use?”

              If there is no agreed-upon definition, what in hell are you doing in court?

        2. “But there’s a legal system. Which means government ultimately is in charge of the words.”

          You.
          Are.
          Full.
          Of.
          Shit.
          (not a government approved selection of words)

    2. “That hydroponic farmer isn’t touching your precious soil, so he’s obviously leaving it far more intact than you.”

      My sense is that growing plants in soil exposes them to all sorts of microscopic nutrients and organisms which benefit the plants and those who eat them.

      Soil fertility can be improved by crop rotation and leaving fields fallow. Legumes have long been used as a way to add nitrogen to soil. The first few chapters of Smil’s Energy and Civilization covers this well.

      1. “…My sense is that growing plants in soil exposes them to all sorts of microscopic nutrients and organisms which benefit the plants and those who eat them…”

        As is common, your comments are unsupported by evidence; your ‘sense’ = your unsupported opinion = NWS.

        1. “As is common, your comments are unsupported by evidence; your ‘sense’ = your unsupported opinion = NWS.”

          You want evidence? How much are you prepared to pay? I’ve got a sliding scale beginning with $0.

          1. “You want evidence? How much are you prepared to pay? I’ve got a sliding scale beginning with $0.”

            So far, your “evidence” is worth exactly that.
            Want cred? Quit posting unsupported bullshit, bullshitter.
            I’m sure your cred will improve when the sun comes up in the west; scumbags tend to have that rep.

            1. You’re getting all the evidence you’re paying for.

              1. And all you ever have.
                Bullshit from a bullshitter.

  12. You cannot be this clueless:

    While most of our food is grown in soil, only a small percentage of that food is ‘organic’ under USDA rules. In other words, whether or not food is grown in soil tells us little that’s useful about whether that food is ‘organic’ or not.”

    They’re saying soil is a necessary (but not sufficient) criteria for being “organic”. You are being a jerk.

    Given the growers position however, I wonder how organic kelp or wasabi is raised?

    1. Organic kelp is produced much the same way fat-free sugar, sugar-free butter, gluten-free water and free-range pottery is produced.

      1. Not to mention those homeopathic ‘medicines’ which have no side effects!

    2. ‘Organic salt’ is a marketing term. I couldn’t make up something that stupid.

      Not to mention there’s organic salmon, which i’m pretty sure wasn’t grown in soil…

      1. I like the Organic Pink Himalayan Salt Nightlights … from Pakistan.

  13. Food grown in water is cleaner than food grown in dirt and shit.

    -jcr

  14. Duh, what was the whole organic farming movement about? It was a revolt against the use of inorganic fertilizer…and what is hydroponics about if not inorganic fertilizers? Regulators got it wrong in defining the practices solely by exclusion.

    I’m not into organics, but come on, you gonna take away what they’re about when it comes to legal definitions? This is almost as bad as same-sex “marriage”!

    1. Or eggless “mayo” with a picture of a damn egg on the label!

    2. No, scientific terms have nothing to do with religious losers trying to monopolize definitions so that only their imaginary friend gets to determine who loves each other and who gets special protections for loving others. Fuck off.

      1. Got nothing to do with love, and it’s older than religion. Unless you mean mayonnaise.

  15. Organic food is a big scam anyway. Virtually all food is carbon based, and hence organic. That’s what the word means, ffs.

    And no food is ‘natural’ unless you hunt or gather it yourself. Domesticated plants and animals are domesticated. So if they intend to mean ‘natural’ by organic, they’re idiots.

    Of course, then there’s idiot things like: “In marketing, organic salt is a term for table salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) that is without additives like iodine or anti-caking agents” (wikipedia) Pure NaCl, of course, has no carbon in it.

    Just ug.

    1. “Organic” had a meaning before carbon was known as such.

      1. ““Organic” had a meaning before carbon was known as such.”

        Well, that’s just plain stupid in that carbon was ‘known as such’ long before the term “organic” was used in marketing foods.
        You really ought not make such an ass of yourself; you (like truman) get to carry your rep.

      2. And it meant ‘contains carbon’, even if they didn’t know what carbon was yet.

        Gravity was a thing before Newton taught us F=ma, and before Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity. But that doesn’t mean those earlier uses weren’t used to mean what the later science and math elucidated to further our understanding.

        And regardless, ‘organic’ as used before carbon was ‘discovered’ certainly didn’t mean what the ‘organic food’ people want it to mean. It meant something equivalent to ‘is alive or was formerly alive’, as contrasted to ‘inorganic’, ‘was never alive’, ie, mineral. ‘Was formerly alive’ is of course synonymous with ‘contains carbon’.

        1. That’s not what it meant. It meant it was made by a living thing by life processes. That was at a time when there was some property of organic materials that could not be replicated by non-organic ones. “Carbon” meant “charcoal”. The elemental makeup of substances had not been determined, just suspected, and the makeup of organic substances was believed not to be fully specified by elemental construction.

          Even when the composition of some organic and inorganic substances was later determined, this unknown life-essence was believed to distinguish them. So it was a big fucking deal when someone synthesized urea from ammonium carbonate, a substance with the same composition but inorganic.

          Anyway, that old distinction is at least approximately what organic farming fans mean by the word.

          1. Is or was living (ie, ‘was made by a living thing’) is pretty much equivalent to ‘contains carbon’. (There’s a few carbon molecules that aren’t organic – mostly that are pure carbon like diamond or graphite. The distinction isn’t actually that it came from a living thing so much as based on chemical properties).

            And even the old definition is not what ‘organic farming’ means, because GMO foods are pretty obviously ‘organic’ in the old meaning, yet organic farmers would exclude them. (Genetic techniques are no less natural than artificial selection and domestication processes).

            Further, synthesized organic material is still obviously organic material – the synthesized and non-synthesized versions are identical, there’s no basis for discriminating between them. (ie, a molecule of C12H22011 is the same sugar regardless of whether it was produced by an organism or a lab). Saying theyre different requires magical thinking that has nothing to do with reality.

            1. The basis for discriminating between them is their history. Synthetic diamonds, for instance. That is, knowing how they were made.

              1. Except synthetic sugars are still organic. And natural diamonds are still not organic.

                It’s not their history, it’s their chemistry. To a 1st order approximation, if it contains carbon bonded to something that’s not carbon, it’s organic. (I’m sure you can still find some tiny counter-example to that, but again, 1st order approximation).

          2. I am waiting for Robert to describe the silicon based life form that demonstrates how “living thing from living process’ is different from “carbon based”.

    2. You (or whoever you’re mocking) remind me of those who point out that gender has nothing to do with sex, and then once that point’s established, try to make out as sexes the genders they distinguish.

      Equivocation works only on those who confuse the map with the territory.

      1. The “organic food” people ignore both the map and the territory. The term is nonsense both because it ignores well-established meaning, and because it *doesn’t actually map to anything*. There’s no objective criterion that separates what they want to call ‘organic’ from other foods.

        Example: Most of the food we eat has been *modified by humans* for millenia. But for some reason only modern modifications are suspect.

        The real meaning of ‘organic’ at least maps *to* something.

  16. Let’s clear out some of the underbrush here:
    “Organic” is a marketing term, flexible as they all are, with the intent by the seller to suggest ‘healthier’ or perhaps ‘more flavorful’. Or ‘better’, somehow.
    None of those claims are supported by anything like independent tests; these are food-stuffs sold as snake oil, no more, no less.
    Asking the government to lend credence to such claims by regulation is equal to a request that the government regulate ‘snake oil’; an equally ambiguous term. Further, it is asking the government to use coercion where contract law applies; you want “organic” to mean something specific? Good; write up that contract, get the seller to agree, and don’t waste my money providing you with a government watchdog, snowflake.
    And Robert, you probably ought not to make your obsession with gay people as obvious as it is; did you end up in bed with someone who had a dick by mistake?
    TMI.

  17. Some respected certifying organization, call it the Happy Hippie Corporation, could authorize its symbol to be used on any product which meets its specifications.

    The government would come in if a company lied and claimed the Happy Hippie Corporation had endorsed its product when it actually had not.

    1. “The government would come in if a company lied and claimed the Happy Hippie Corporation had endorsed its product when it actually had not.”

      IOWs, a matter of civil law.

  18. Further, let’s look at this from an A1 view: “Congress shall make no law…”
    If Robert, here, had his way, congress would indeed make a law requiring a label on a food container stating that the foodstuffs involved were, indeed, “organic”; which term is vaguely defined by various rent-seekers.
    Requiring speech = prohibiting speech; both are laws regarding speech.

    1. Clearly the word is contentious. Do you want there to be no legal way to resolve the meanings of contractual terms? Every contract comes with an invisible bundle of meanings of the words, as determined by common law, Universal Commercial Code, regulatory law, or other governmental means. You can define technical terms in a definitions section of the contract, but you’re still using words to write those definitions. At some point a court is going to have to pick from possible meanings of the words.

      1. “…You can define technical terms in a definitions section of the contract, but you’re still using words to write those definitions. At some point a court is going to have to pick from possible meanings of the words.”

        The court is welcome to do so without the state acting as your nanny.

  19. Thanks for giving the valuable n formation Shayarish

  20. For nearly 7 years I’ve devoted my life to advancing the plant nutrient and fertilizer industry growing methods. Through my research and testing, including hydroponic trials and small plot (soil) trials, and large field trials (farms), there are now breakthroughs available that can allow hydroponic and organic soil growers to use 1/6 to 1/40 less nutrients and liquid fertilizers with equal or better results. Plus, hydro growers can now give their plants the full spectrum of macro and micro nutrients and trace elements found in soil allowing greater produce flavor and nutrient value. With this research in mind, let’s give organic growers back their certification with hydroponics excluded — as hydroponic produce without pesticides, pesticide drift, soil disease, ground water pollution, and excessive water use is “better than organic” — a term hydro growers may want to adopt in order to put themselves out in front of organic growers at a lower cost to the consumer with exponentially lower environmental impact. Reach me at growrequest-at-gm*** for more detail. Lee Roberts

  21. “The suit alleges that the USDA’s actions fly in the face of the 1990 law that established the agency’s authority over the labeling of organic foods.”

    Clearly they don’t agree with the agency having authority over the labeling of foods; they just agree with the agency acting on their behalf.,

  22. This is merely a lawsuit over the agency to mislead people. The propaganda is worth billions.

    People expect “organic” to adhere to the scientific definition, it doesn’t.

    Chemical fertilizers are not “natural”, like soil. By the same token, find a patch of soil that has not at some time received chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

    It’s merely a fight over the rights to bullshit propaganda for billions in revenue. Fuck off dipshits.

    1. Agriculture isn’t natural. Domestication isn’t natural. Artificial selection isn’t natural. The only ‘natural’ food production method is hunting and gathering.

      1. Exactly.

        As soon as we manipulate things, we set natural out of balance, then there’s constant unnatural maintenance.

        So then, what is “organic”?

        1. “As soon as we manipulate things, we set natural out of balance, then there’s constant unnatural maintenance.”

          There is no balance in nature; it is in constant flux.
          Further, humans are part of ‘nature’ and therefore everything we do is natural.
          Not surprisingly, you are using ‘natural’ as a religious term.

          1. Humans defined the term natural and that ain’t it. Everything we do is artificial.

            The definition of artificial is : made by human skill; produced by humans (opposed to natural)

            The definition of natural is: existing in or formed by nature (opposed to artificial):

            1. “The definition of artificial is : made by human skill; produced by humans (opposed to natural)
              The definition of natural is: existing in or formed by nature (opposed to artificial):”

              You, in your ignorance, may ‘define’ any word you please any way you please.
              None of such bullshit affects the fact that man is of nature, hence what ever man does is natural.
              Keep your superstitions to yourself.

              1. What are you babbling about bigot?

                Examples of bigotry in a Sentence
                “ a deeply ingrained bigotry prevented her from even considering the counterarguments”

                http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bigotry

                1. Rob Misek
                  March.17.2020 at 6:02 am
                  “What are you babbling about bigot?”

                  Stuff it up your ass, scumbag bigot.
                  I’m dealing with facts, and scumbag bigots like you have a really hard time with them.

  23. Stay At Home  Mom From New York Shared Her Secret On How She Was Able To Rake In $1500 Weekly From Online Work Just 3 Weeks After Losing Her Old Job…….. Read more  

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