For many farmers, an organic label on their product is a highly prized designation. It signifies that the products under that label have been created and processed according to a specific set of standards. At the beginning of this century, in an attempt to make a unified U.S. benchmark, the USDA came up with its own set of regulations.
This has not prevented groups that traditionally would not have received an organic label from attempting to hitch a ride on the bandwagon. For a time, foods grown in sewage sludge or made with genetically modified ingredients were slated to receive the nod. In the end they were denied the USDA shield. But there are still some food producers who are attempting to get on the organic bandwagon but are meeting resistance from traditional organic advocacy groups.
Near the end of last year, the battle was joined again when attempts were made by the fishing industry to give, by Congressional fiat, fish caught in the wild the specialized organic moniker. The first move was a petition to the National Organic Standards Board in October. This sparked a campaign by the Organic Trade Association and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture to deny the fishing industry's request. In the end, fishing interests went away empty handed.
More recently, both Senators from Alaska put their combined legislative power behind an amendment to give the wild catch an organic label previously denied by the USDA.
The move again brought out the big guns of the high-powered organic outfits. Their concern centers around the contention that there is no way to determine what the wild catch have eaten hence there would be no way to quantify how they were raised.
Ironically, the same groups shun both farm raised and genetically modified fish while advocating consumption of the wild catch. However, they remain opposed to extending the organic designation the open water catch because the fish would come to the consumers plate with out documentation.
In the "broader view", both industry watchdog groups fear giving the organic label to the wild catch because they believe it would open the door to a series of foods previously ineligible to receive the organic stamp of approval.