USDA approves rules organic farmed fish

20-11-2008 | |

The USDA has approved criteria that clear the way for farmed fish to be labeled “organic”. The standards approved by the National Organic Standards Board would allow organic fish farmers to use wild fish as part of their feed mix provided it did not exceed 25 percent of the total and did not come from forage species.

“Finally, maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of defining
what’s organic,” said Wally Stevens, executive director of the Global
Aquaculture Alliance. “The challenge is to figure out how we can produce a
healthy protein product with a proper regard to where the feed comes from.”

George Leonard, a marine ecologist and aquaculture director for the
Ocean Conservancy, said the board sought to accomplish the “extraordinarily
complicated” task of establishing a sustainable farming practice that does not
yet exist. He noted that requiring organic operations to use feed made of
trimmings from sustainable wild-caught fish, such as pollock, or from
organically farmed fish would be better than relying on the small, wild fish
that farmers currently use.

Federal officials and advisers have devoted
enormous time and effort to developing an organic fish standard, reflecting the
dramatic growth of the industry in recent years. U.S. sales of organic food and
beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to an estimated $20 billion in 2007
and are projected to reach nearly $23.6 billion this year, according to the
Organic Trade Association. Fueled at least in part by fears about food safety,
sales of organic meat increased tenfold, from $33 million in 2002 to $364
million in 2007, according to the market research firm Mintel.

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