There's great debate over the use of organic labeling as it relates to hydroponics. As consumers become more focused on the origins of their food and its impact on their health, they frequently turn to foods labeled as organic. Requirements for organic labeling vary from state to state, with some states considering crops produced without pesticides as organic and other states qualifying the organic label to mean completely natural. In the very strictest standards, natural is defined as plants that are grown in the earth using traditional agricultural methods. Under these standards, no pesticides or chemicals may be used, and the plant nutrients that can be applied are strictly regulated.
Depending on the requirements, some food produced hydroponically can be called organic, as hydroponic systems don't necessarily require the use of pesticides or chemicals. Hydroponics does require the use of nutrient solutions, however, which generally require minerals to be extracted or produced, then altered to be made water-soluble. In this way, hydroponic plants are not organic by the very strictest definitions, but may be considered organic in some areas and by some people.
In deciding whether hydroponically grown crops may be beneficial for your needs, look closely at your state's requirements for organic labeling. Does "all natural" matter to you, or are you simply looking to minimize your exposure to pesticides? If organic labeling is important to you, it may be worth investigating this debate further, as hydroponics can produce crops that are considered organic in some areas, often at a much cheaper price than traditionally grown organic foods.
Interested in setting up a hydroponics system in your home? Read on to the next section for step by step instructions on building your system and what you can grow.