More than 40 Canadian and US organisations submitted a joint letter opposing the General Standards Board’s (CGSB) proposed organic standards that allow for antibiotic and chemical treatments of fish in aquaculture.
The letter tackles worries that the draft standard is inconsistent with organic standards because it allows for the certification of net pen farmed salmon, a practice that negatively affects marine ecosystems, including wild salmon. The proposed standards deal with seaweed, shellfish, closed containment and net pens.
In terms of aquaculture, the standards give organic certification to net pens that have been minimally altered from conventional methods. Antibiotics and chemical sea lice treatment use are permitted and the basic environmental impacts of net pens ignored.
“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,” said Shauna MacKinnon of Living Oceans Society.
According to Farmed and Dangerous, the proposed organic aquaculture standards would allow for:
• Seafood treated with antibiotics and pesticides to be sold as "organic";
• The spread of disease and parasites lethal to wild fish;
• Unrestrained disposal of fish feces into the ocean;
• A weak definition of what constitutes a sustainable fishery with corresponding unlimited use of "sustainable" wild fish in feed.
• Up to 30 percent of feed from non-organic, unsustainable sources if organic sources are unavailable;
• Escapes of farmed fish that compete or interbreed with their wild counterparts; and
• Deadly interactions with marine mammals.
“Fish labeled as ‘organic’ that are not fed 100 per cent organic feed, come from polluting open net pen systems, or that are contaminated with PCBs fall significantly short of expectations for organic products,” argued Dr Urvashi Rangan, director of technical policy at Consumers Union, one of the signatories.
The proposed Canadian standard lowers the bar for environmental and consumer standards compared to the recommendations for organic aquaculture standards passed by the US National Organic Standards Board in 2008. These prohibit net pens where they could harm the spawning or migratory routes of wild marine life and they ban antibiotic and pesticide use.
Ottawa’s proposed organic certification system is incompatible with US law, as the US National Standards Board’s draft rules would disallow non-native species raised in open net pens to carry the US Government's organic label.
Most of the fish raised in British Columbia’s (BC) salmon farms – the province being the world's fourth-largest farmed salmon producer -- would thus fail the US organic test while complying with the proposed Canadian standards.
- Open net pen salmon could be sold as organic
By Natalia Real