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'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.

EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·


Millions of Americans Lack Adequate Health Coverage, But the Pentagon Has a New Nuclear Bomber to Flaunt

"This ominous death machine, with its price tag of $750 million a pop, brings huge profits to Northrop Grumman but takes our society one more step down the road of spiritual death," peace activist Medea Benjamin said of the new B-21 Raider.

Brett Wilkins ·


Betrayal of Railway Workers Ignites Working-Class Fury Toward Biden and Democrats

"Politicians are happy to voice platitudes and heap praise upon us for our heroism throughout the pandemic," said one rail leader. "Yet when the steel hits the rail, they back the powerful and wealthy Class 1 rail carriers every time."

Jessica Corbett ·


With GOP House Control Looming, Pascrell Calls for Swift Release of Trump Tax Records

"Donald Trump tried to hide his tax returns from our oversight but after 1,329 days we have finally obtained the documents," said the New Jersey Democrat. "We should review and release them."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo