More Crony Capitalism at USDA

What is really going on in the battle over whether hydroponic produce can call itself certified organic? A lot more than anyone is telling you.

The Organic Standards Board of the USDA is considering whether to allow hydroponic veggie producers to claim they are organic. This is a hotly contested question. I will get to the substance of it in a moment, but first let us note that USDA is not proposing that all hydroponics should be allowed to claim to be organic.

If you look at the fine print, the proposal is that only hydroponic container operations would be allowed to so designate themselves. Of course it is large scale industrial sized produce operators that use this method.

Who would be excluded? Mostly smaller scale hydroponic operators. For example, small operators who are recycling fish poop into water in highly creative ways would be excluded. Importantly, fish can use this nutrition directly, unlike the container operations that have to break down the nutrients from their natural form in order to be used by the plant. The media used are supposed to be inert, but who really knows?

So what we see here are the big food operators using their money to influence USDA. And if they can both get USDA approval for calling their produce organic and also create a monopoly excluding small scale hydroponic operators, what could be better in their eyes? Clearly what stinks here is not the fish poop, but the corruption inside USDA.

Should any hydroponics be allowed to call themselves organic? My view is no. First of all, much of the nutrition in food we get from the activity of friendly bio-organisms in soil. These friendly bio-organisms are analogous to the friendly bacteria in our own guts, which are essential to our digestion of nutrients and also an integral part of our immune systems. Growing food without friendly bio-organisms is not a good idea, and just shows how ignorant we still are about what makes for nutritious and good tasting food.

And don’t think for a moment that you can just make a slurry of friendly bio organisms and add them to the water. Science does not yet understand much at all about these bio-organisms and how they work, although Monsanto of course is trying to study them and get a complete monopoly on their sale or use. Anyway organic agriculture is all about building and using healthy soil, and we should leave it that way. For more on this subject, consult Cornucopia Institute.