Widespread plastic use in organic farming raises tough sustainability questions

| | June 10, 2019
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Plastic is used on organic farms to control weeds. Image: Extension.org
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Plastic is under attack these days for the environmental problems it causes. But sustainability-minded shoppers might not be aware that many organic farmers — like their conventional farming neighbors — also rely on plastic. It’s spread over the ground as a form of mulch to suppress weeds, conserve water and aid plant growth.

Many organic farmers would love to find an alternative to plastic, but they say there isn’t one at the moment. One conceivable solution, biodegradable plastic, isn’t allowed under organic rules in its current form …. because the biodegradable mulches on the market all contain petroleum-based materials. In 2014, the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), which implements and oversees organic regulations, specified that any biodegradable mulch could only be used if it was 100 percent “bio-based” — that is, made entirely from plant materials.

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BASF, the agrochemical giant, has been sending representatives to [National Organic Standards Board] meetings to argue for the use of its product, Ecovio, a popular biodegradable plastic mulch used by farmers around the world, in certified organic farming. It said a study published in 2018 shows that the product fully biodegrades.

Read full, original article: Organic Farming Has A Plastic Problem. One Solution Is Controversial

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