The Justice Department is seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to allow hydroponic operations to be certified organic.
The lawsuit was filed in March by the Center for Food Safety and several organic growers.
On May 11, the Justice Department responded, asking the U.S. District Court Northern District of California to dismiss the lawsuit, stating that the court lacks jurisdiction and that the Administrative Procedure Act does not entitle the Center for Food Safety and the other grower plaintiffs to a dismissal.
The Coalition for Sustainable Organics, a group advocating for hydroponic organic agriculture, said in a news release that the group was pleased with the Department of Justice response to the legal challenge.
“The lawsuit takes aim at all container systems,” Lee Frankel, executive director of the Coalition for Sustainable Organics, said in a news release. “The requested decertification of organic growers would include everything from microgreens grown in a tray using soil to tomatoes grown with plastic lining under the planting bed to berries grown in a pot to leafy greens grown in a circulating water system.”
The issue of whether hydroponic operations should be certified as organic has been debated for years.
Last November, by a vote of 8 to 7, the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board rejected proposals to make hydroponic and aquaponic production methods prohibited under the National Organic Program.
Frankel said USDA acknowledges in its response to the complaint that “certifiers have certified organic hydroponics operations since the beginning of the program and continue to certify organic hydroponics operations.”
“If producers, marketers, and retailers truly support bringing healthy food to more consumers, especially in light of the pressures many households are facing as a result of the recent economic contraction, they must speak out against these efforts to restrict supplies,” Frankel said in the release.