in Extra Matter

Organic hydroponic non-shock

There’s been a lot of fuss recently over the decision of the National Organic Standards Board in the US to allow crops not grown in the ground to be certified organic. The main counterargument is that it somehow contravenes the “spirit” of organic growing, but that got sluiced away almost as soon as organic certification became a thing.

Certification is a substitute for the relationship that once upon a golden time existed between the people who grew food and the people who ate it. It’s a substitute for trust, but if people knew about the myriad exceptions that make most organic certification schemes leakier than a rusty colander, they’d see that their trust is wholly misplaced.

Hydroponics are good for all sorts of reasons, making use of space otherwise unsuitable for growing food and, often, better for the environment. They could promote those virtues with their own PR campaign — which would cost money, take time and require charging more for their products. Instead, the canny hydroponic growers have hitched a ride on the coattails of the organic movement and charge their higher prices that way.

And the public seems none the wiser.

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