Slippery plans for “organic” certification of farmed fish – Action needed by April 8th


Over the past decade, WILD has become widely recognized as the gold standard for quality salmon and other seafoods, and the fishing industry and consumers have benefited when labels are accurate and can be trusted. Occasional packages of imported farmed salmon labeled “organic” in US markets simply indicated the corruption of some foreign certification standards. This would never be allowed by our Department of Agriculture… or so we thought.
The USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is meeting April 29 – May 2, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas, and is considering various petitions that are part of a concerted effort to certify US farmed salmon and other seafoods as organic. Some NOSB members have said that since farmed fish are here already, setting standards will raise the bar on an industry with notoriously dirty practices. Yet, for years since the Livestock Committee recommended farmed
seafoods for certification, instead of assessing species to be reared, whether ocean or coastal cages should be allowed, composition of feed, impacts of pollution and other problems of marine feedlots, at this meeting, they are considering exemptions for usage of chlorine, vaccines, and synthetic feed additives requested by aquaculture operations hoping to secure organic accreditation in the future. They need to be educated before the process picks up any
more momentum on a very slippery slope.
Comments have to be submitted by April 8, 2014 and can be sent via http://www.regulations.gov/ #submitComment;D=AMS_FRDOC_0001-1155. For additional
information, email Michelle Arsenault (Michelle.Arsenault@ams.usda.gov), NOSB Advisory Board Specialist or call 202-720-0081.
This move towards certifying seafoods reared in feedlots would not only confuse consumers, itcould cause serious economic harm to capture fisheries. Fresh farmed organic fish may trump frozen wild fish in the marketplace, even among very savvy consumers. “If the USDA does decide to allow farm-raised fish into the ranks of USDA-certified organic products, this could open the door to a huge increase in profits for the aquaculture industry as well as give them a huge leg up over the commercial fishing industry.” (The Organic Aquaculture Quandary )
The pressure may also be coming from growers of commodity crops looking for new markets to dump their products. Representatives of the American Soy Growers and Illinois Soybean Association attended NOAA meetings in the Pacific Northwest to describe their industry plans to produce feed for the fish farm industry. “Aquaculture Oceans of Opportunity” states “Marine or offshore aquaculture is fast becoming the focus of aquaculture expansion” and the Illinois Soybean Association has “made considerable investments in furthering offshore aquaculture productions systems and in perfecting feed rations”. http://www.ilsoy.org/documents/aquaculture-oceans-opportunity
Since the inception of the National Organic Program, the standards have been trusted to mean that food with the label have been produced in ways that are compatible with organic principles of adhering to practices that “restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony … and balance natural systems.” These principles require protecting biodiversity, minimizing environmental impacts, controlling inputs, and allowing “natural behaviors.” These are not the practices of
industrial aquaculture.
There are many problems that could be described in comments:
* Marine fish farms replicate some of the worst practices of confined animal feedlot operations, known as CAFOs, which could never receive organic certification.
*Impacts are largely under the waterline and out of sight, so the fish farm industry has escaped scrutiny that would have closed down comparably dirty land-based operations. Marine netpens allow excess feed, pathogens, parasites, and voluminous amounts of pollution to flush into the surrounding waters, putting other aquatic species at risk.
*Farmed fish escape, competing with wild species for food and habitat. More than 613,000 non-native Atlantic salmon escaped from netpens into Washington State waters in 4 years; millions of farmed fish escape world-wide.
*The salmon farming industry uses more antibiotics per pound than any other livestock producer and these pesticides, fungicides, algaecides and other chemicals flush from open cages into the surrounding waters.
*Several studies have concluded that usage of antibiotics in fish farming increases antibiotic resistant bacteria in our marine environment and in our food supply. The industrial aquaculture production system medicates to the weakest animal and sick and treated fish and seafood sometimes end up in the marketplace.
*Neil Frazer, professor at the University of Hawaii, states that large-scale farming of finfish “eventually destroys surrounding wild fish stocks … nature has an effectively inexhaustible supply of diseases.”
*Use of fish meal and fish oil from wild forage fish result in overfishing of wild fish to feed carnivorous farmed fish. One-third of the ocean’s harvest is herring, anchovies, mackerel and other small fish, which are made into fish meal and oil for fattening farmed fish and animals.
The aquaculture industry already uses more than half the world’s fishmeal and more than 80 percent of the fish oil. Rearing salmon, halibut, blackcod and many other marine species is unsustainable because of the net loss of protein.
*Standards for organic livestock requires that their feed is 100% organic feed, yet the proposed aquaculture standard would allow farmed fish feed to be 25% wild fish, claiming the forage fish meal and oil will not be “feed” but instead a “feed supplement. Wild salmon and other food fish were previously denied organic certification by the NOSB.
*Farmed fish have documented higher amounts of environmental contaminants since the feed concentrates mercury, lead, and persistent bioaccumlative toxins. A study by the Environmental Working Group showed farmed salmon often are the most PCB-contaminated protein source in the U.S. food supply, with an average of 16 times the level of PCBs as wild fish.
*“The recommendation acknowledges the human health risks, but would only require them be removed if found to have contaminants in amounts higher than regulatory levels in commercially available fish meal and oil. Thus the proposed “organic” standard would allow the same level of contaminants in fish meal as those permitted by general industrial aquaculture. This provision is a microcosm of the recommendation as a whole: rather than setting a higher bar for organics, and risk losing the ability to label salmon and other predatory fish as “organic,” it merely lowers the organic bar to the existing commercial standards.” Center for Food Safety presentation to the NOSB.
*Organic standards require animals to be able to exhibit their “natural behavior.” Wild salmon and other ocean fish swim for their lifetimes, and confining these fish is a direct violation of one of the core organic principles.
Anne Mosness will attend the Spring 2014 NOSB meeting, representing the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Marketing Association (email: eatwildfish@aol.com).
More info:   “Can farmed salmon be organic”, PCC Sound Consumer:
Center for Food Safety:
e_final_34952_38967.pdf
The Organic Aquaculture Qandary:
Anne Mosness
34 Rocky Ridge Dr.
Bellingham, Wa. 98229

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