Don't Gut the "Organic" Label for Fish!

There's something fishy going on in Washington.

While you may expect the highest standards for food bearing the organic label, in November bureaucrats at the National Organics Standards Board in Washington decided to gut the organic label for fish.

On November 20, the board issued recommendations to the USDA stating that fish can be labeled 'organic' even if they've been fed wild fish, which come from polluted environments and are high in mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Toxic organic fish? That's outrageous!

And the board recommends fish raised in open ocean net pens be eligible for the organic label. This type of fish farming is highly polluting, as large amounts of toxins, disease and parasites are flushed directly into the ocean – harming the wild fish supply, sustainability and the health of the oceans.

Sign our petition to tell the USDA and the Obama Administration that you're disappointed in this decision to gut the organic label for fish. Let's make sure consumers' voices are heard on organic standards!

I am extremely disappointed in the November 20 decision by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to accept the recommendations for "organic" fish production that will allow fish to carry the USDA organic label -- despite being raised under conditions that fail to meet fundamental USDA organic principles.

As a consumer who puts value and faith in the organic label, I expect fish labeled as organic to meet the same high standards as all other organic products and livestock. Anything less is a disservice to the organic label and American consumers.

These terrible NOSB recommendations allow:
- Fish to be fed food other than 100% organic feed -- the gold standard that must be met by other USDA-certified organic livestock;
- Fishmeal used to feed farmed fish from wild fish -- which has the potential to carry mercury and PCBs; and
- Open net cages to be used -- which flush pollution, disease and parasites from open net fish farms directly into the ocean, adversely impacting wild fish supply, sustainability and the health of the oceans.

It is outrageous to slap an "organic" label on fish that do not meet the high standards I expect from the organic label, and it undermines the entire organic program. If enacted, this gutting of the organic standards will not only allow sub-par organic fish to be sold with a premium, but will undermine my confidence in the entire organic marketplace.

A 2007 Consumers Union poll found that some 74 percent of consumers are concerned about environmental pollution from "organic" fish. The poll also showed that 91 percent of consumers want contaminants in fish to be absent or present only at very low levels.

The same week this decision was made by the NOSB, a Consumers Union Poll revealed that 93 percent of Americans think that fish labeled as "organic" should be produced by 100 percent organic feed, like all other organic animals. Nine in 10 consumers also agreed that "organic" fish farms should be required to recover waste and not pollute the environment and 57 percent are concerned about ocean pollution caused by "organic" fish farms. Nearly 30,000 signatures were collected in favor of maintaining strong standards for the organic label for fish.

I urge you to ensure that the organic label continues to have integrity, and is used only on food produced according to very high environmental standards. Fish labeled as organic should not be raised on non-organic feed or in facilities that release waste into the environment. Please stop this terrible decision from being enacted.

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