Hydroponically grown vegetables and berries are increasing in popularity. But is hydroponics a healthy, sustainable — and organic — way to grow food? Section 7 CFR 205.205 of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic regulations require that your crop rotation plan maintains or improves soil organic matter. Since hydroponics does not involve the use of soil, it does not qualify for organic certification.

As mentioned, hydroponics does not qualify for the organic designation for the simple fact that organics must improve soil quality, and hydroponics grow plants in a liquid medium without soil. Yet hydroponic operators have been certified organic by USDA accredited certification agencies, and the hydroponics industry wants the organic certification to be open game to the industry at large.

But there’s yet another problem. Hydroponics also use chemicals, which organic producers are barred from using. Worse, commercial hydroponic growers will rarely reveal the fertilizers they use.

Many consumers, prompted by the media, Silicon Valley and futurists, mistakenly believe that hydroponically grown veggies are on par with organic, or at the very least, that they’re better for your health and the environment than conventionally grown vegetables. Alas, while growing food indoors does reduce the need for pesticides, it does not automatically mean hydroponic vegetables are pesticide-free.

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