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Groups voice opposition to Canadian organic fish standard

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 01-Sep-2010

Over 40 US and Canadian organizations have said that a Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) proposal to label farmed salmon as organic does not adhere to the principles of organic food.

The groups, which represent consumers, academics, environmentalists and organic advocates, have submitted a letter expressing their concern to the CGSB, claiming that the standards could threaten the integrity of the organic label.

A comment period on the proposed rule closed on Monday and its publication is expected shortly.

In particular, the signatories are worried that fish could be fed up to 30 percent non-organic wild fish as feed, as opposed to the 100 percent organic feed currently required for livestock; allowances for organic fish to be treated with antibiotics; the possibility that farmed fish could escape and breed with wild fish; and pollution from fish farm waste.

Dr. Urvashi Rangan director of technical policy at Consumers Union, one of the letter’s signatory groups, said: “Consumers deserve clear assurance that their choice of organic products supports a safer and more sustainable environment. Fish labeled as 'organic' that are not fed 100 percent organic feed, come from polluting open net pen systems, or that are contaminated with PCBs fall significantly short of expectations for organic products.”

The draft Canadian organic aquaculture standard for Aquatic Animal Production covers seaweed, shellfish, open net pens and closed containment, but the standard’s opponents said they are particularly concerned about proposals for organic fish.

Shauna MacKinnon of Living Oceans Society said: “The use of antibiotics and chemicals, and the acceptance of conventional practices that we know are harming wild salmon and the marine ecosystem is completely contrary to organic principles and what consumers have come to expect when choosing organic.”

No one at CGSB was available to comment prior to publication.

A copy of the groups’ letter and a list of signatories is available online here .

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