Organic seafood a step closer in U.S.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture appears to be a step closer in creating standards for organic aquaculture. Current federal rules do not allow any seafood to bear the coveted “USDA Organic” label because there are no finalized standards for the process of raising organic seafood.
In an e-mail to the National Organic Aquaculture Working Group (NOAWG) on 14 September, Gary Jensen, the national program leader for the agency’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, called upon members of the aquaculture industry to submit comments in writing to the agency before Oct. 1.
“I encourage you to take the time now and put some thought and energy into providing input in writing or in-person to ask USDA to take action on organic standards for aquaculture products,” wrote Jensen. “Now more than ever is the time to raise your voices and be heard.”
Jensen goes on to list a few key points about organic aquaculture, including the fact that aquatic food is the last major food group that does not have the USDA national organic standards. Additionally, he states that the National Aquaculture Act of 1980 includes a national policy to encourage the development of aquaculture in the United States.
The U.S. government’s about-face on aquaculture this year has included a National Marine Aquaculture Policy and an initiative aimed at information and technology sharing that encompasses industry and academic work to move fish farming ahead.
Some seafood products are, in fact, labeled as organic on restaurant menus and in retail display cases. However, those products earned that certification from an overseas, third-party outfit, such as Naturland in Germany. The state of California does not allow any such claims for any seafood products until the USDA has completed its regulations.
U.S. government agencies are clearly looking at ways to increase employment opportunities in an effort to reduce the unemployment rate, which has hovered around 9 percent for some time. In the September issue of SeaFood Business magazine, Michael Rubino, the director of aquaculture for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service, said that job creation and economic opportunity was a key aspect of the recent aquaculture policies. Jensen also mentioned job creation as an important factor in his letter to NOAWG constituents.
Seafood suppliers have long wished to gain access to the burgeoning organic foods and beverages market in the United States, which accounted for an estimated USD 23 billion in 2008 sales, according to the Organic Trade Association.
Stakeholders in the Washington, D.C., area are encouraged to attend a public listening session on 20 September. It is free and open to the public at the Jefferson Auditorium, USDA South Building, 1400 Independence Ave. SW.
Click here to e-mail your comments to the USDA.