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Board to Decide if Organic Fish Can Come from "Down on the Farm"

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November 29, 2007

Iowa City, IA - Can organic fish come from "down on the farm" -- when the farm is the aquatic version of a feedlot? The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is meeting this week to decide whether to apply its organic label to farmed salmon raised in open net pens. The decision could affect all fish labeled "organic" that is sold in Iowa supermarkets.

Robynn Shrader with the National Cooperative Grocers Association in Iowa City says there are a lot of considerations that go into classifying a fish "organic."

"When you are out in the open water, there's give and take in terms of what you can actually guarantee as an end result to the consumer, who is looking at paying a premium for something labeled organic."

In Shrader's view, the NOSB has to "get this decision right," in order to prevent weakening the entire organic standard in consumers' minds.

"The point is to do it correctly the first time and not have a loophole or a watered down standard that opens up the market and dilutes consumer trust."

The farmed fish industry believes the organic label would encourage improved operations and competition with foreign producers that U.S. fish-farmers say use less stringent standards. Shrader argues the way many fish farms operate goes against organic principles. She feels consumers deserve the full benefit of the "organic" claim.

To learn more about organic farmed salmon, go to www.puresalmon.org.

Dick Layman/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - IA