US ORGANIC aquaculture standards slowly being considered: Rulemaking by 2013-2014….? (May 2012)

First published 24.05.2012

Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s National Organic Program (NOP), wrote last week that NOP was “preparing a proposed rule for production and certification of organic animal aquaculture products.We expect this rulemaking process to take place over the next two years” [i.e. by end 2013-2014?].

There is currently no organic standards for aquaculture/farmed fish/seafood in the USA. The USDA says that the legal status of using the organic label in the U.S. for aquatic species, and the future of developing USDA certification are “under review.”

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan was quoted this month as saying that the agency has been ‘under pressure’ to come forward with standards for aquaculture: “Maybe we will have a proposal at the end of 2013,” she said. “It’s in the queue”… Indeed, the USDA task force was set up in… 2000, and has moved very slowly since; notably due to strong lobbying from the wild-catch sector (incl. Alaska) which cannot avail of the coveted ‘USDA organic’ logo for farmed products, and presumably fears the competition (notably re. salmon).

This helps explain the successive US Administrations’ snail’s pace… Some ‘organic’ seafood is however sold in the US, certified under European standards. This US “organic aquaculture quandary” has shielded US consumers/producers from an ‘organic seafood’ offering. These were buzzwords at the 2005 Boston Seafood Show, but were incrementally replaced (in parallel with the MSC’s rise) by the ‘sustainable seafood’ concept, better suited to the marketing needs of the US wild-catch sector.

Now that Canada has (this month) published its first such standard, it is only a matter of time before US producers are left behind and loose market shares if they do not jump on the ‘organic’ bandwagon. But shrimp will likely come first, and salmon last…

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