There’s organic produce, organic meat and dairy and organic poultry… but organic fish? There are reasons why you have not seen an organic sticker on a fish fillet – its virtually impossible to make fish truly organic. However, the USDA is planning to try.
In a planned move that will likely shake many consumers’ confidence in the organic label, the USDA is working on developing a new set or organic rules and guidelines for both wild and ocean-farmed fish.
While this seems like a great idea on the face of it, many experts agree that the environment that these fish are raised in, as well as the food they eat, cannot be thoroughly regulated. If you’re confused reading this article, because you’ve seen “organic salmon” at your local grocery store, we’re sorry to say you’ve been duped. Selling “organic” fish in the US is illegal, because of this lack of regulation.
So, why can’t fish be organic? Well as far as wild fish, they go where the please and eat what they please – it is impossible to ensure that these fish do not take in contaminants, and only eat an organic diet. Ocean fish farms cause marine pollution, and also pose risks to wild fish species, so they therefore cannot be organic.
One of the fish that the National Organic Program (NOP) is working on organic guidelines for is freshwater farmed fish. However, the guidelines are proving tricky, and may be quite lax, especially to start. For example, feeding guidelines would initially allow up to one quarter of the fishmeal to be conventionally-grown – though they do plan to scale back the number over the years.
Strangely, guidelines are also being discussed for wild and ocean-farmed fish – despite the counterintuitive nature of this discussion. According to the Center for Food Safety (CFS), “to allow either to be called organic puts the entire organics industry in jeopardy by weakening the integrity of the USDA label.”
The CFS is currently circulating a petition specifically opposed to the “organic” labeling of ocean-farmed fish.
Urvashi Rangan of the Consumers Union told NPR’s The Salt, “they’re totally compromising the current United states standards [on organic certification].” We will keep you posted.