Banning aquaponics from organics?

Bad news for aquaponics.

 

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Poorly-informed activists are teaming up to ban hydroponics from organic farming– even when it follows organic practices like no use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and having a thriving, disease-fighting flora on the plants’ roots.

This campaign puts aquaponics in the crosshairs.

Aquaponics is an emerging technology where fish are grown sustainably in tanks, and their wastes are recycled to grow plants instead of dumped into the environment. It uses 95-98% less water than growing in soil (yes, even organic farming in soil); eliminates pollution from aquaculture; and can grow local food anywhere, including deserts and cities where soil farming is impossible. Aquaponics also supports a rich and health-promoting root flora when managed properly, just like farming in soil; and pesticides– including many “organic approved” pesticides– cannot be used because they will harm the fish.

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All this sounds like an organic dream come true. And still, forces are lining up to ban it from being certified organic.

Why?

I’m not a mind-reader, so all I can do is speculate. But what is clear from this article is that a main driver is established organic farmers who are afraid of competition. The article alleges that their main fear is “protecting organic integrity” from “foreign competition”– that somehow, megacorporate greenhouses in other countries are using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and still being certified USDA organic.

Folks, that’s just embarrassing. If these “organic activists” are worth their salt, they know that the USDA organic rules are the same no matter what country you’re in. The only way non-organic greenhouse products like this could be getting USDA certified– in any country– is if the certifying bodies are breaking the law. And if that’s the case, then organic farmers would know that the way to fix it and protect organic integrity is by getting the USDA to enforce the rules it already has on the books. Not by lobbying it to make brand-new ones.

So call me a skeptic, but I don’t think “foreign competition” is what it’s about at all.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this lobbying push is happening right as urban agriculture starts to become economically competitive.

This lobbying effort isn’t about “foreign competition.” And it’s not about “integrity.” It’s about domestic competition from upstart, young, urban farmers. Who– by the way– are a lot more female and a lot less white than the rural ones.

Good ol’ boys and protectionism: 1. Sustainability: 0.

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Want to let lawmakers know you do not approve of this nonsense? Put your name here for a one-way ticket to the USDA’s review desk.

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