No Sludge Allowed in Organic Standards

What is sludge and why is it bad?

by Thomas J. Fox
shoe stuck in sludge

Photo courtesy of USFWS

Sludge, basically solid waste from industrial wastewater and sewage treatment plants, cannot be used as a fertilizer on organic foods.

Excerpt from Urban Farming by Thomas J. Fox with permission from its publisher, Hobby Farm Press, an imprint of BowTie Press. Purchase Urban Farming here

The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program is what regulates standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operations wanting to sell its agricultural products as organically produced.

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The standards for labeling a product “organic” include that the “agricultural product cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge or ionizing radiation.” What is sludge? It is defined as a “solid, semi-solid or liquid residue generated during the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment works.”

Organic farmers use animal manure, so why not human? The reason is that much of our sewage combines residential and industrial waste, resulting in contamination by substances such as mercury, lead and dioxins.

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