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What has Happened to the US Organic Aquaculture Standard?

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ANALYSIS - Organic fish farming has been successfully established in many countries around the world, but the United States has yet to develop a standard. With a healthy market demand and 15 years of work on its development, it leads to the question; what has happened to the US organic aquaculture standard? Writes Lucy Towers, TheFishSite Editor.

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Organic aquaculture has proved to be a successful niche market in the European Union and Canada.

There is also a big demand for organic products in the US, as people want confidence in what they are buying, said George Lockwood, Chair of the USDA official Aquaculture Working Group.

Big sales of EU organic products have overtaken sales of domestic salmon in some areas and organic production could help the US catfish industry compete with cheaper imports, so having its own organic product range would be very beneficial to the US industry.

Despite this demand and 15 years on, the standard is still in the making, with one delay after another on posting a proposed Final Rule for organic aquaculture.

Speaking to TheFishSite, Mr Lockwood said he is concerned over the delays and thinks the strong voice of anti-aquaculture groups in the US may be to blame.

"In early 2010, after much consideration, the National Organic Standard Board officially recommended a comprehensive set of proposed rules to National Organic Programme (NOP). The next step in 2010 would have been for NOP to officially and immediately go into final rulemaking with these recommendations. However, NOP failed to do anything until early 2013 when they finally assembled a team of four USDA employees to pursue final rule making," said Mr Lockwood.

"We were told that their work would be completed later that year with the official posting of a set of proposed rules well before the end of 2013. The next step after posting would be to seek and receive public comments. We have yet to see a proposed rule from NOP.

"The most recent promised posting date of later in April 2014 is apparently slipping, and we have been unable to learn anything about a new proposed date or why there is one more delay after many early delays," continued Mr Lockwood.

The Aquaculture Working Group also recently petitioned for the inclusion of 10 synthetic substances in the standard. These substances, which include chlorine, vitamins, trace minerals, carbon dioxide and vaccines, are all essential to aquaculture and there can be no organic aquaculture production without them, said Mr Lockwood.

However, the NOP is refusing to allow the Aquaculture Working Group from advising the USDA National Organic Standards Board Livestock Committee on how these materials are actually used in aquaculture, said Mr Lockwood.

Mr Lockwood stated that he therefore fears that the USDA National Organic Standards Board will not adopt the use of these materials in workable and sensible ways.