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Whole Foods Fish Farming Standards Show Promise

US - The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) and The Ocean Foundation (TOF) have carried out the first evaluation of the farmed seafood purchasing standards recently released by the Whole Foods Market grocery chain.

The evaluation compared the Whole Foods purchasing standards against the Gold Standard for Aquaculture Ecolabel Design, recently published by ELI and TOF. Both ELI and TOF found that the retailer is taking commendable steps to reduce the environmental and social impacts of fish and shrimp farming, or aquaculture, but also identified some weaknesses and offered several clear steps to improve the standards.


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"Compliance with Food and Agriculture Organization standards would ensure that the standards will produce meaningful improvement at the farm"
Mark J. Spalding, President of TOF.

Whole Foods recently published standards for aquaculture products that determine how it will purchase farmed salmon, other finfish, and shrimp. ELI and TOF found that the standards incorporate positive elements such as the use of the best available science, consideration of a broad array of impacts of production, ranging from treatment of fish wastes to the use of parasiticides (substances used to destroy parasites), and regular supplier audits to ensure compliance.

ELI and TOF specifically recommend that Whole Foods address all impacts of production and ensure that its existing standards are fully sustainable, in compliance with international standards. Compliance with Food and Agriculture Organization standards would ensure that the standards will produce meaningful improvement at the farm, said Mark J. Spalding, President of TOF.

ELI and TOF also suggested that publication of procedures for setting standards, certifying producers and processors, and dispute resolution would increase the credibility of the Whole Foods effort. Without clear procedures, the Whole Foods standards lack the transparency, participation, and accountability necessary to assure credibility, said Dr. Kathryn Mengerink, Director of ELIs Ocean Program. Finally, the groups suggest active incorporation of all interested stakeholders in both developed and developing countries. Consultation with interested parties would ensure that Whole Foods can establish responsible and forward-thinking standards that safeguard the interests of its supply chain partners and customers alike.

Ellen Hardy

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