WASHINGTON — The National Organic Standards Board ended three years of debate and approved organic certification standards for seafood, one of the final food categories left without the Certified Organic logo. The recommendations now go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which can approve or modify the guidelines.
As approved by the NOSB, the proposed rules permit organic fish farmers to use up to 25% wild fish in their feed, though wild fish is not considered organic, and open net pens would be allowed.
Environmental and consumer advocate groups including Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, and Food and Water Watch have been opposed to the NOSB decisions. The groups said they believe the standards are not consistent with organic livestock standards already in place and compromise the integrity of the organic label. For example, critics argue that wild fish feed could be contaminated with mercury and PCBs, and that open net pens can cause environmental damage.
“We find [the amendment to allow prohibited material] completely misleading and deceptive, and unfortunately, this is really going to lead to a very confusing organic marketplace for consumers,” said Urvashi Rangan, senior scientist and policy analyst, Consumers Union.
NOSB supporters say the guidelines take into account the limitations facing the still-nascent industry, but provide solid operational boundaries and a framework for growth.