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Tricia Sheldon

Organic Seafood: Fact or Fiction

Who Decides?

USDA Organic LabelThe United States Department of Agriculture or USDA decides which foods can be considered organic. This means that food products, whether meat, vegetable, fruit or dairy, are not organic unless they have been certified by the USDA and bear the USDA stamp of approval.

Organic Standards for Seafood?

Have you seen seafood labeled “organic” on restaurant menus, in stores and markets? Buyer beware — this “organic” probably doesn’t mean what you expect. Currently, there is no U.S. government-approved organic seafood. These products are often labeled as “organic” based on criteria set by a private certification company, or in accord with European standards. Neither of these usually equate to U.S. organic standards for other foods.

Fact Sheet: European Organic Aquaculture Certification

The Debate

USDA is currently considering standards for organic seafood. Unfortunately, the proposed standards are not on par with similar criteria for other organic animals. Industry is arguing that they are unable to meet the usual requirements for organic – but a USDA organic label should only be used for those products that live up to organic principles, not just given to products from operations that are a little bit better than the status quo. Consumers expect more from USDA organic. As a result of active public participation (thank you!), the proposal for USDA organic finfish has not yet been approved, but the debate is not over. We still face a tough battle against those who are pushing to lower the standards for a USDA organic seafood label!

What’s the Difference Between Wild and Organic?

Organic is a term traditionally used to classify agricultural products. In other words, the designation “organic” is directly related to whether the feed an animal has been reared on is organic, whether it has been exposed to chemicals or pesticides and whether it has been genetically altered. Because the food sources and environment of wild fish are completely uncontrolled, they should not be considered organic.

Learn more about our concerns regarding the development of organic standards, and stay tuned for an opportunity to submit your own comments to the NOSB.

Read our comments to the National Organics Standards Board.