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Ask EWG: Is hydroponic produce organic?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This is our first Ask EWG video! We're pretty excited about it, but as a small nonprofit that focuses on research we're just getting the hang of this YouTube thing. If you've got any comments, suggestions, or original music we could use in our videos, please let us know by leaving a comment or sending an email.

Question: I bought hydroponic tomatoes at the store yesterday thinking they were organic, but when I looked again I realized that they weren't labeled "certified organic". Is hydroponic produce organic? How does it rate compared to conventional produce?

Answer: Hydroponic crops are grown in greenhouses, in solutions of chemicals and minerals, not in soil.

Just as with conventionally grown crops, growers often use synthetic pesticidies on crops grown hydroponically. But some of these crops can meet the organic standards using organic nutrient mixtures and no synthetic pesticides – when this is the case, you’ll see “organic” on the label.

Hydroponic does have some advantages. These fruits and veggies may contain fewer pesticides, since the need for chemicals to kill weeds and insects is reduced in greenhouses compared to fields. And they need less water to grow. On the other hand, certain diseases can spread quickly in greenhouses, and growing these crops is often energy intensive.

As with conventional crops, making the best choices for families, farmers, and the environment involves considering nutrition, pesticides and more. It’s important to pick produce low in pesticide residues - buy organic, or use our shoppers guide to find the fruits and veggies with the lowest amount of pesticides.

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