by Marion Nestle
May 31 2008

Organic standards for fish: postponed

As I explain in What to Eat, USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) can’t figure out what to do about certifying fish as organic.  Organics are about production methods.  Wild fish eat whatever, wherever, and their production is uncontrolled.  Farm fish are fed whatever.  According to Food Chemical News (June 2), the NOSB held hearings on the use of fish meal and fish oil in organic aquaculture last month and postponed a decision until fall.  The issue:  is it OK for farmed salmon to “eat meal and oil derived from carcasses, viscera and trimmings from processed wild caught fish certified as ‘organic’ by foreign suppliers,”  when there are no U.S. standards for such certification.   I’d say no.  How about you?

  • Mark

    So wild fish can’t be called organic because they’re not “produced,” but farmed fish can, if they’re fed organic Froot Loops from Whole Foods Market? This whole organic thing is turning into a train wreak.

  • Bix

    I’d say no, too. If you can’t certify the fish meal as organic, then you can’t certify the fish that ate the fish meal as organic.

    But I can see the dilemma.

  • Hi Marion — Thanks for your post. I say definitely no.

    US national standards have not been approved on account of several serious impacts of farming salmon, including that the fishmeal and oil needed to raise these fish results in the use of more wild fish than the amount of farmed fish produced.

    Also, that this dependence on industrial fishmeal means fish farm corporations can’t control the amount of chemicals such as PCBs in their product.

    Furthermore, that the current practice of raising farmed salmon in open pens releases pollution directly into the ocean and allows disease and parasites to spread to wild salmon stocks unchecked.

    There’s nothing organic about that.

    — Tiffany Hilman, Markets Campaigner for the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform