Resources: Organic

The Debate on Dirt

A hot topic in the organic food world is whether fruits and vegetables grown with bioponics, hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics and containerized growing should be considered organic. Here’s what they are, what’s going on and what shoppers need to know.

Bioponics are soilless farming techniques where plants aren’t grown in the ground.  In hydroponics, plants’ roots are immersed in nutrient-rich water. For aeroponics, roots are suspended in air and sprayed with nutrient-rich mist. Aquaponics combines hydroponics with fish farming. Plants are grown next to fish tanks and utilize nutrients from their waste. Sounds unpleasant, but it’s completely safe. There’s also containerized growing, which does involve soil but in greenhouses or beds, not in the ground. All these methods prohibit toxic pesticides in favor of approved organic fertilizers, are good for the environment, conserve resources like water and land and result in nutritious fruits and vegetables. So, what’s the issue?

No one doubts these methods are valuable, but should they be called organic? Opponents argue organic farming is all about feeding the soil. Proponents claim the U.S. standards for organic don’t make soil a necessity. USDA must decide if they need to expand the definition of organic to require inground soil (as it does in other countries) or if pesticide-free is enough to earn the label.

When you’re shopping for organic fruits and vegetables take note of how they were grown. Right now, the organic label is allowed on these products in the U.S. but that may change in the future. If you’re interested in exactly how the food was grown, ask the produce manager, vendor or farmer or explore the company’s website.

Want to know more? Check out our in-depth industry coverage on bioponics:

The Bioponic Debate

Bioponics 101

Bioponics: Is the End Near for Organic Labeling?

Organic Certification for Bioponics

Overview of National Organic Standards Board Meeting