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USA: Organic Strawberries with Glyphosate

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

The organic certification of strawberries from the USA is partly questionable. symbol picture © Pixabay/PhamDigi

In the USA, some strawberries grow in pots containing nutrient solutions, on soils previously treated with glyphosate. Nevertheless, they are sold as organic products.

The Real Organic Project is an association of quality-oriented organic farmers in the US, who find the national organic program (NOP) standards too lax. A recent example on the cultivation of strawberries and other berries made public by the association, shows just how lax the regulations actually are.

Amongst others, the NOP allows hydroponics, i.e. the soilless cultivation of plants in rock wool, coconut fibres or other materials. This is an approach widely used in conventional greenhouses. Hereby, the plants receive all the necessary in these pots through nutrients dissolved in water.

"This is happening on a grand scale"

The Real Organic Project describes the following practice in their publication: In order to set up the foil greenhouses, the field is first levelled and any newly germinated weeds are sprayed with glyphosate. Then, the fields are covered with black foil, and pots and irrigation systems are installed. A foil tunnel is built over it to protect the plants. Then the organic certifier is called to examine and certify the installation. Following the NOP rules, the fact that the soil underneath the system has formerly been treated with glyphosate is irrelevant for the certification; the ground could as well be made out of concrete.

Organic farmer Dave Chapman writes that this “is happening on a large scale” on the Real Organic Project website. As hydroponic products don’t need to be labelled as such; this cultivation and the use of glyphosate gives an unfair competitive advantages over farmers who grow their organic berries on real soil and control weeds mechanically. “The soil farmers are being pushed out of the market by a tidal wave of cheap products”, so Chapman. Additionally, consumers are being misled – with approval of the US Department of Agriculture.

Not only US consumers affected

The Cornucopia Insitute has published a report and buyer’s guide on hydroponics. It lists over 50 organic brands that grow organic vegetables in nutrient solution in US states and Mexico. These are not only berries, but primarily peppers, tomatoes, courgettes, salads and other vegetables. Not only US consumers are affected by this, but also consumers in the EU. The US organic standard NOP is recognised by the EU as equivalent to EU organic standards. This means that all these products could be sold as organic in the EU – although soi-lless organic farming is not allowed in the EU.

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