USDA statement on Organic Hydroponics offers glimpse of a common future

6-5-2014 USDA issued a statement on the status of organic “hydroponic production” in regulatory development. It reads: “Currently organic hydroponic production is allowed within USDA NOP as long as the producer can demonstrate compliance with the USDA organic regulations. <…> The National Organic Advisory Board (NOSB) completed their final recommendations on crop production in containers and enclosures (e.g. greenhouses) greenhouses in 2010. The NOSB’s 2010 recommendation included a provision for not allowing organic hydroponic production. <…> In the future, the NOP may provide additional guidance regarding organic hydroponic production and how the regulations apply to such methods”.


The European Commission proposes in 2014/180: “As organic plant production is based on nourishing the plants primarily through the soil ecosystem, hydroponic should not be allowed. In addition, organic plant production should involve the use of production techniques that prevent or minimise any contribution to the contamination of the environment.”


Based on the above PuraNatura Foundation predicts the end of confusion about growing media for greenhouse cultivation with a convergence into the following intertwined EU/NOP regulations:


= Prohibition of hydroponic production, based on clear and actionable definitions.

= Acceptance of container cultivation when using growing media considered to be soil.


Our belief in such a common future was triggered as the Commissions’ wish that “organic plant production should … use production techniques that prevent … the contamination of the environment” can not be met while maintaining the current fertilizer loads of commercially grown organic greenhouse veggies.


Either one accepts lower yields (and higher prices) or one accepts recirculation techniques and soil protection. Lower yields and higher prices cannot be the future of organic greenhouse production.


We hope that in the final regulation the EC inserts additional definitions such as suggested by NOSB:


Greenhouse- Permanent enclosed structure that allows for an actively controlled environment used to grow organic crops, annual seedlings or planting stock used in organic production.

Containers- Any vessel and associated equipment used to house growing media and the complete root structure of terrestrial plants and to prevent the roots from contacting the soil or surface beneath the vessel, such as, but not limited to, pots, troughs, plastic bags,

floor mats. etc.

Growing media- Material which contains sufficient organic matter capable of supporting the plant root system and a natural and diverse soil ecology.


Of course this all can be wishful thinking, but surely the NOSB deliberations can help us all find a way out of a kaleidoscopic regulatory confusion when in practice out-of-soil cultivation is already certified in France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, and Slovenia to produce quality organic vegetables. And in France (again), Great Britain, the Netherlands and Austria to produce organic herbs and aromatic plants. Even hydroponic cultivated vegetables coming from the US or Canada are nowadays graced with the EU Organic Leaf.


“In practice, the organic farmer is not just a tiller of the soil, but a steward of the soil ecology on the farm”.


Read more on USDA statement:

Read more on NOSB recommendations:



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