Mammoth farms can illustrate “critical weaknesses in the unorthodox inspection system that the Agriculture Department uses to ensure that ‘organic’ food really is organic,” says a report by the Washington Post.
On a 10-4 vote, the National Organic Standards Board sent back to subcommittee the contentious question whether bioponics, a term covering hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics, are part of organic agriculture, reports Food Safety News. "This means that food grown using hydroponic methods may continue to be certified as organic" if producers meet other criteria for the organic label, said FSN.
The USDA "has quietly allowed a flood of hydroponically produced fruits and vegetables, largely imported, to be illegally labeled and sold as 'organic,'" says Cornucopia Institute in a complaint filed with the Agricultural Marketing Service, which oversees the organic food program. Cornucopia acted ahead of a meeting of the National Organic Standards Board, on Nov. 16-18, where the USDA advisory board may vote on whether hydroponic crops may be labeled as organic.
The Cornucopia Institute—an organic watchdog group—has filed a lawsuit against the USDA, claiming that the agency stacked the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) with agribusiness representatives, instead of farmers.
After years of development, the USDA proposed stronger housing and welfare rules for organic livestock that include group housing for swine and year-round access for poultry to the outdoors.
USDA's organic food label, the gold standard for shopper wanting food free of genetically modified organisms and chemical pesticides, "has come under increasing attack as a handful of consumer groups question the USDA’s handling of the National Organic Standards Board," says Roll Call.