Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release

Contact

Sylvia Wu, 510-434-4871, swu@centerforfoodsafety.org

Press Release

Public Oral Argument in Lawsuit Challenging the Labeling of Hydroponically-Grown Foods as Organic

WASHINGTON -

On Thursday, January 21st, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California will hear arguments in Center for Food Safety’s (CFS) ongoing lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “soil-less” loophole that permits the labeling of hydroponically-grown foods as USDA Certified Organic, even though the Organic statute and regulations clearly mandate all organic crop producers foster soil fertility in order to obtain organic certification. 

WHAT: Oral Argument in Center for Food Safety’s Lawsuit Challenging the Labeling of Hydroponically-Grown Foods as Organic

WHEN: Thursday, January 21, 2021, at 1:30 PM PST  
(Note: the Court’s afternoon session starts at 1:30 PM, and is currently listed as the first of the two cases scheduled for hearing that afternoon, but the Court can hear the cases in any order it wishes)

WHERE: District Judge Richard Seeborg’s Virtual Courtroom via Zoom. Join here >>

CFS filed a petition requesting USDA to prohibit organic certification of hydroponic operations that do not work with or build soil in 2019. After USDA denied the petition, CFS, along with a coalition of organic farms and stakeholders, filed a lawsuit challenging USDA’s decision to allow hydroponic operations to continue to be certified organic in March 2020. The lawsuit claims that hydroponic operations violate organic standards for failing to build healthy soils, and asks the Court to stop USDA from allowing hydroponically-produced crops to be sold under the USDA Organic label.

Hydroponic operations, or "hydroponics," describes methods of growing crops using water-based nutrient solutions without any soil. CFS's lawsuit cites the federal Organic Foods Production Act, which requires farms to build soil fertility in order to be certified organic. Hydroponics cannot comply with federal organic standards because hydroponic crops are not grown in soil. Allowing hydroponics to be certified organic is another attempt to weaken the integrity of the Organic label, and has resulted in market confusion and inconsistent organic certifications.

Thursday’s hearing on summary judgment will be the only time the Court will hear oral arguments on whether hydroponic operations that do not work with soil meet the mandatory requirements to be sold under the USDA Organic label, and whether USDA violated the federal Organic Foods Production Act when it decided to exempt hydroponic operations from the Organic Label’s soil-building requirements. 

The plaintiff coalition in the lawsuit includes some of the longest-standing organic farms in the United States, including Swanton Berry Farm, Full Belly Farm, Durst Organic Growers, Terra Firma Farm, Jacobs Farm del Cabo, and Long Wind Farm, in addition to organic stakeholder organizations, such as organic certifier OneCert and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

###

Center for Food Safety logo

Center for Food Safety's mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. CFS's successful legal cases collectively represent a landmark body of case law on food and agricultural issues.

Progressives, Big Tech Critics Celebrate Confirmation of Lina Khan as FTC Chair

"Her presence on the FTC marks the beginning of the end of an era of lawlessness for powerful corporations that they've enjoyed at the expense of workers, smaller businesses, and democracy."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


'Our Democracy Hangs in the Balance': Calls Grow for Justice Breyer to Retire

"Democrats could lose our razor-thin majority in the Senate at any moment," warns Rep. Mondaire Jones. "It would be irresponsible to leave the future of our democracy up to chance."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Share of Fossil Fuels in Global Energy Mix 'Has Not Moved by an Inch' in a Decade

"We are waking up to the bitter reality that the climate policy promises over the past 10 years have mostly been empty words," said the executive director of REN21, which released the new report.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


Latest Nina Turner Ad in Ohio Highlights Working-Class Need for Medicare for All

"Wealth should never dictate whether you are able to see a doctor or live a healthy life."

Jenna McGuire, staff writer ·


Biden Admin Urged to 'Prevent a Historic Wave of Evictions' by Extending CDC Moratorium, Speeding Up Aid

"Far too many renters are struggling to access emergency rental assistance programs and are at risk of losing their homes when the moratorium expires," said the president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·