Grocery chain fights organic label for AK fish

Posted: Wednesday, August 09, 2000

ANCHORAGE -- A leading natural foods supermarket chain and a trade group are opposing certifying wild fish, including Alaska salmon, as ``organic.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is developing a national standard for organic foods and recently finished taking public comment on the rules.

Whole Foods Market Inc. of Austin, Texas, the nation's biggest natural foods chain by sales with 112 stores, wrote ``due to the uncontrolled conditions that are inherent in wild seafood production, we believe that products from such operations should not be labeled organic or as organically processed.''

The store chain suggests wild fish producers seek alternate certification such as the Marine Stewardship Council's ``Fish Forever'' label for sustainably managed stocks.

The Organic Trade Association of Greenfield, Mass., also has come out against certifying ``aquatic animals'' as organic, whether wild-harvested fish or fish raised in captivity.

The Alaska seafood industry has pushed to get wild salmon included under the new standards as part of its battle against the growing market of farmed fish.

But critics say wild doesn't mean organic.

Organic foods are raised and harvested under strict standards so producers can document exactly what went into the products and whether they contacted any pollutants. Such monitoring is impossible for fish that migrate over thousands of miles of ocean, they say.

Alaska salmon producers want a piece of the growing organic foods market that in 1999 had retail sales of about $6 billion, the USDA estimates. They have been dismayed that farmed fish might stand a better chance of being certified organic than wild fish from the ocean.



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