Can Farmed Fish Really Be Considered Organic?

  When food is labeled “organic,” you expect that it was produced in a way that is good for both the environment and your health. Unfortunately it seems that up in Canada, that accountability might not be the case for much longer.

The Canadian General Standards Board is considering certifying some net cage-raised salmon (aka farmed salmon) as organic. But here’s the problem: The net-cage method of raising salmon oftentimes harms marine life and aquatic ecosystems. Other animals can get caught in the nets, farm-raised salmon can escape and mate with wild salmon (messing up their genetics), and the nets allow waste from the farm back out into the ocean, which pollutes the water.

There are other issues with certifying farmed salmon as organic, too. Under the proposed guidelines, cage-raised salmon could still be labeled organic even if producers use synthetic pesticides in the fish’s water. These harmful pesticides would inevitably spread out into the ocean, threatening wild animals like lobsters. “Organic” farms would also be allowed to feed the salmon non-organic feed consisting of wild fish, which could deplete the ocean of wild fish populations, further exacerbating already-struggling wild fisheries.  Non-organic wild feed can also contain toxins, which may pose a threat to consumers. Under traditional standards, none of these practices would be allowed on a certified organic farm — they fly in the face of the organic movement’s core principles.

There’s still time to save the future of organics, though: These standards need to be amended before they’re approved and slapped on that nice fillet you’re looking to buy at the grocery store. A public comment period is open until May 31st, and that gives us time to take action.

The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) is asking for your help in convincing the Canadian General Standards Board that organic should mean the same thing for salmon as it does for everything else. CAAR is a coalition with 10,000 supporters on four continents working to protect wild salmon, coastal ecosystems, coastal communities, and human health from destructive fish-farming practices.

The alliance recently started a petition a so that you can write directly to board members and let them know that organic standards need to mean something. The proposal “to certify net-cage farmed salmon is not only illogical when you consider the principles of organics, but it also creates the illusion that use of net cages for salmon aquaculture is somehow sustainable,” says Bronwen Barnett, Communications Coordinator at CAAR. “Basically, a Canadian organic label would greenwash net-cage farmed salmon.”

That greenwashing would not only impact Canadia consumers, it would affect U.S. diners. America is currently the largest market for Canadian farmed fish. Until the U.S. passes its own organic aquaculture standards, supermarkets could sell this greenwashed salmon as organic in Canada and America.

You can help stop that from happening. Sign CAAR’s petition, and let the Canadian General Standards Board know that you want organic labels to reflect organic values. These proposed rules for farmed fish just don’t cut it.

Photo credit: Lori_NY via Flickr

Article excerpted from


About minesgreencircle

Founded in 2008, the Mines Green Circle is the special Green Environmental Unit of Palace of the Golden Horses and Mines Wellness Hotel for “Better Environment, Better Health”. It advocates green practices amongst the personnel of the Palace of the Golden Horses and Mines Wellness Hotels as well as its guests.

Posted on May 24, 2011, in Organic Life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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