This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
In the United States, the term "organic" has a legal meaning set by the
Department of Agriculture. The department has an official label to mark products
that have met the requirements of its National Organic Program.
products usually cost more, but their sales are growing. As a result, so is
competition to label more products organic because many people believe they are
Now Agriculture Department officials are trying to decide whether fish can be
called organic. There are rules for organic produce, organic dairy products,
organic meat and chicken -- but nothing about fish.
Many operators of fish farms believe they could sell more fish if they could
label them organic.
The industry that sells wild-caught fish is already under pressure from
farm-raised seafood. That pressure could increase if the Agriculture Department
approves proposed requirements for labeling fish organic.
Earning the organic label requires controlled conditions. The question is
whether fish that swim wild and free -- like Alaskan salmon -- could meet the
Yet fish farms might not all be able to meet them either. Some operations are
criticized for their treatment of fish and the risk of pollution to waterways.
Fish farmers and the wild-caught industry also argue about the possible presence
of harmful chemicals in each other's products.
In 2000, an advisory committee considered requests by fish farmers to call
their products organic. The experts said farm-raised fish should be labeled
organic only if they were fed almost completely organic plant food. Farmed fish
often have little or no fish in their diet. But those proposed guidelines were
In two thousand five, the Agriculture Department formed another group to
examine possible requirements. This time, the committee suggested several kinds
of food that farmed fish could eat and still be called organic.
A decision about whether fish can be sold with the organic label may still
take two years or more.
For now, the American fishing industry has to deal with growing competition
from imported seafood. Some foreign companies already call their fish "organic"
because, they say, it meets the requirements of their own countries.
And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn
Watson. You can read and listen to our reports online at www.unsv.com. I'm Bob