What makes an “Organic” Fish?

The New York Times hands down an article detailing the difficulties in defining what constitutes an “Organic” Fish. From the article:

The issue comes down largely to what a fish eats, and whether the fish can be fed an organic diet. There is broad agreement that the organic label is no problem for fish that are primarily vegetarians, like catfish and tilapia, because organic feed is available (though expensive).

Fish that are carnivores — salmon, for instance — are a different matter because they eat other fish, which cannot now be labeled organic.

Actually, the issue is far larger than “What does a fish eat?” The basic ideals behind the organic movement included several basic premises.

  • Produce food that allows for future sustainability for the product being raised.
  • Produce food in a manner that leaves as small of an imprint upon the environment as possible.
  • If animals are involved, treat them in a manner which is respectful and is as close to their natural environment as is practical.

To be sure, I’ve oversimplified the premises, and they have since been evolved and codified to a point where these standards can be applied on a larger scale, but I think the basic points are there.

Now when applying the above to typical farm animals such as cows, chickens and pigs, these ideals can work in concert with one another. It is not a stretch to think of raising cattle and yet still be true to the concepts listed above.

But these ideals contradict one another when you apply them to an animal less domesticated than your average cow. Salmon is a great example of this. It could be argued that an interest of an individual salmon is best served if that fish was allowed to be wild. However, for sustainability of the species as a whole, it may be best for the fish if salmon farms were allow to propagate as long as they were run in such a way that it did not adversely affect various eco-systems (always an iffy proposition where fish farms are concerned).

In other words, the basic ideals of the organic movement would seem to be at odds with one another, at least where raising fish is concerned.

I know this would never happen, because greed has now become a variable in what defines ‘organic’, but perhaps it would be best if there were types of food where an ‘organic’ label would simply be inappropriate to use. To me, the idea of ‘organic fish’ is equal to ‘organic venison’. The problem is that no one can tell whether either ‘organic fish’ or ‘organic venison’ is a contradiction or a redundancy.

Thanks Jack

tags technorati : Organic Organic Food Seafood Salmon


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