Protect Organic


The “Organic” label has been trusted to stand for clean, nutritious food grown sustainably. It is valuable to farmers and eaters. But big corporations have been working to change the definition so they can label their food “Organic” that isn’t really organic. They have succeeded in getting fruits and vegetables not grown in the soil — the foundation of organic agriculture — to be called organic.

The organic label has been watered down so much that it now can include hydroponically-grown produce: food grown not in soil but fed by artificial plastic feeding tubes with artificial lighting. Also, due to lack of regulatory oversight by the USDA’s National Organic Program, cows that are raised in CAFOS (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) for dairy production are allowed to be called organic. This is fraud.

Allowing hydroponics to exist under the same label as organic food robs consumers of their right to know how their food is grown – and hurts organic farmers. Hydroponics relies on growing practices often potentially using toxic materials like Styrofoam and plastic that contain harmful chemicals, flame-retardants and phthalates.

Additionally, the National Organic Program director recently told a roomful of organic farmers in her office in DC that there was nothing in the organic standards (after hydroponics was approved as production method in Nov. 2017) that disallowed herbicides, such as glyphosate, to be used in hydroponic/”container” systems! This is not what consumers have come to expect from organic.

Organic means food that is grown in a way that is good for the eater, good for the farmer, good for the earth and good for future generations. You can’t change that definition. A fundamental part of organic is that the food regenerates and builds the soil it is grown in (as opposed to industrial farming that depletes the soil of its nutrients without putting anything back). Only by growing food in this way can we make farming regenerative for future generations. The latest science is becoming clearer and clearer that organic farming is key to the health of the soil microbiome and ecosystem – and well as our own. It is vital for a thriving future for us and for our planet. It is now time for us to expand regenerative organic practices and not make it harder for our organic farmers by allowing cheaply grown food by hydroponic practices to be labeled organic. The consumer has a right to know what they are eating. There is currently no way to know as much hydroponic produce is now labeled as organic – using the same label as soil grown produce. The power of the “Organic” label is transparency and trust – let’s keep it that way.
Thanks to the pioneering work of organic farmers to create a movement around organic food, the label is highly valued by consumers. Large corporations want to cash in on this, by growing food cheaply and calling it organic, so they can access the growing market of eaters who care about the methods by which their food is grown. Put simply, they want to take industrial agriculture and call it organic. Amazon, who has recently bought Whole Foods, now wants to scale their investment by mass-producing food they can call organic. Driscolls, MiracleGro, Scott’s — companies whose profit come from conventionally-grown produce, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and genetically-engineered grass seed — all these corporations are behind the push to call their cheap produce “organic”. These corporations are trying to change the definition to fit how they grow food, rather than changing the way they grow food to meet the certification determined by the National Organic Standards Board and the National Organic Program.
Simply: your organic food and the future of organic farming is at risk. The organic farmers that we rely upon daily to grow our food are the stewards of the soil, seeds, water and food – their agricultural practices regenerate the earth and also sequester carbon that mitigates the effects of climate change. The food they provide nourishes us and our families. They have pioneered a modern revolution we call organic farming. The assurance that we have when we go to the supermarket is that we know we can choose to support organic farming by purchasing food that, by its label, has been grown by organic farmers and the regenerative practices that we want to support. Organic farmers will struggle to compete with mass produced industrial hydroponically grown foods. If these large corporations are allowed to call what they grow “organic”, it will not only make it impossible for you to know which practices you are supporting but what you are actually eating. Even worse, organic farmers will be forced out of business, or forced to abandon the sustainable farming practices that nourish us and the earth. People who eat food responsibly will no longer be armed with the knowledge they rely on to protect their families. The “Organic” label will no longer represent organic food, and the value of having that label will be cheapened. Consumers will have no idea how their food is produced, and what they are supporting with their dollars
Right now, the National Organic Standards Board is deciding whether or not to recommend that organic must mean grown in the soil. They will meet in Jacksonville, FL to vote October 31st – November 2. Their recommendation will (in theory) be used by the USDA to make a decision on whether to allow food not grown in the soil to be labeled “Organic”. Now is the time to make your voice heard!


The organic farmers that have championed this effort to protect the integrity of organic farming and certification are listed here. This is by no means an exhaustive list as they are a solid community that grows food for consumers every single day. Please join us and stand behind them today!

Dave Chapman

Organic farmer for 37 years, Long Wind Farm, Vermont

David “Davey” Miskell

Organic farmer, Miskell’s Premium Organics, Vermont

Tom Beddard

Organic farmer, Lady Moon Farms, Chambersburg, PA

Anais Beddard

Lady Moon Farms, Chambersburg, PA

Eliot Coleman & Barbara Damrosch

Organic farmers and authors, Four Season Farm, Maine

Fred Kirschenmann

Organic farmer for 41 years, President of Stone Barns, Distinguished Fellow at Leopold Center; Kirschenmann Family Farms, N. Dakota

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