Hydroponically-grown organic lettuce and salad leaves are everywhere in America. Every farmers’ market worth its salt offeres a selection of gourmet mixed leaves grown in an organic solution of water and minerals under bright lights. They taste lovely and look the part.
However, hydroponics are completely banned under the organic legal standards throughout Europe.
The Soil Association’s policy manager, Gundula Azeez says:
“The reason why hydroponics are not allowed in EU organic production is that organic farming is a system based on the soil, in particular that plant nutrition is based on the activities of living organisms in the soi. This was discovered by the early organic researchers to be the way plants receive their nutrients in natural ecosystems.”
“The Soil Association is interested in ensuring that farming is both sustainable and also produces healthy food. While you might be able to make a case that certain hydroponic systems are sustainable (would have to use no agro-chemicals, as that involves great use of oil), we believe that you lose out on the health side, and probably in a major way in the long term. Intensive non-organic farming can actually be likened to hydroponics, in that the soil is used simply as a substrate for the receipt of nutrients in solution, and soil biological activity is suppressed in such circumstances.”
So in effect, what the Soil Association believes is that you need soil to grow stuff organically. It’s not enough to grow plants without using chemicals, but dangling in an artificial environment or bright electric lights and a nutrient rich solution. You need micro-organisms and love and the rich smell of earth.
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