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Canada Moves Forward with New Organic Standards for Farmed Seafood

Organic Trade Association

With the release of the Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard on May 10, Canadian consumers will now have the opportunity to choose certified organic farmed seafood including finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants.

Aquaculture, the farming of aquatic plants and animals, is the fastest growing food production system in the world, producing about 50 percent of the seafood consumed today. Because aquatic farming relies on plant and animal husbandry, it is possible to apply organic growing and rearing principles to this system of food production. Like its organic terrestrial counterpart, the organic aquatic sector uses specific farming protocols which minimize the input of synthetic substances and maximize local environmental quality.

Specifically, the organic aquaculture standard prohibits the use of antibiotics, herbicides and genetically modified organisms, and severely restricts the use parasiticides, allowed only under veterinary supervision as a last course of treatment. The standard sets measurable requirements for practices that minimize the impact of waste. These include defining stocking rates, cleaning procedures and the cleaning and feed materials that must be used.

The new standard was developed with the Canadian General Standards Board and a stakeholder committee of industry members, consumer advocates, regulators and environmental organizations. The draft standard went through two extensive public reviews and countless changes before being published this week.

“The industry works hard to maintain its high standards,” said Ruth Salmon, executive director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA), “and organic certification will provide an opportunity for some of our farmers to apply organic standards to their methods of production.”

To qualify for organic certification, Canadian aquaculture products must have been grown on farms operating in accordance with organic aquatic farming methods established by the new standards. Farms are inspected by third-party certifying bodies to ensure that the standard has been followed. The new national standard does not currently fall under the scope of Canada’s Organic Products Regulations or Canada’s trade equivalencies for organic products with the U.S. or European Union. “Until now, organic claims could show up on aquaculture products from outside the country and consumers wouldn’t know whether the claims were trustworthy or what standards they met,” said Matthew Holmes, executive director of the Canada Organic Trade Association. “Now we have a made-in-Canada standard that clearly and verifiably defines the environmental and husbandry requirements, and meets consumers’ expectations for a high-water mark for this quickly-growing Canadian sector.”

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