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Can Farmed Fish Be Considered Organic?

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Trendy diets are nothing new, ranging from the Atkins diet to Weight Watchers. But while previous plans seem to focus strictly on losing weight, often at the detriment of the body as a whole, more recent examples place more weight on actual health. And whether you’re trying out the Paleo diet, going Mediterranean, or even cutting out gluten, the chances are that you’re going to include organic food products in your meals. Because of this, news that the United States government plans to label ocean-farmed fish as “organic” likely sounds positive to you; after all, fish is a popular source of omega 3 fatty acids, an essential substance that offer your body a number of benefits. However, a new report from the Center for Food Safety suggests that sea-farmed fish can never meet the qualifications required for organic food, and may even change your views on fish in the process. Titled “Like Oil and Water: Ocean-Based Fish Farming and Organic Don’t Mix,” the Center’s report named four reasons why fish should not be subject to the classification. Their reasoning is summarized below:

The Quality of Ocean-Fed Fish Can’t Be Controlled
You’ve likely heard that some types of fish have high levels of mercury, PCBs and other toxins in their systems. But did you know that farmed fish have been found to have higher levels of these and other toxins, including radionuclides? That observation alone is enough to make you question the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids compared to the safety of your food in general. However, to make matters worse, fish farms decrease water quality, alter marine behaviors and change feeding patterns, running contrary to organic logic.

Farmed Fish Often Escape
While this fact might seem like the plot for a heartwarming children’s cartoon, these fish often carry pathogens and diseases into the open ocean, restructure food webs, and compete with native species. This harms the ecological balance and local biodiversity, further contradicting some of the basic tenets of organic farming. Moreover, eating diseased fish hardly sounds healthy.

Farming Fish Restricts Natural Migratory Patterns
Fish like salmon instinctively travel from the ocean to their birth rivers to spawn and die, a journey that can take years. Farmed salmon, as well as other species, are kept in a singular location their entire lives, making them more likely to be unhealthy and making them logically inorganic.

The New Regulations Would Not Require Farms to Use Organic Feed
Typically, animals must also be fed a 100% natural and organic diet to be considered organic themselves. However, the USDA would allow fish farms to use wild-caught fish and their byproducts, such as fishmeal, as feed. This not only violates a vital requirement of organic food, but would also put pressure on local environments by restricting food available to native species. This means that the good feeling you’ll get from a “healthy” source of omega-3s is likely going to be hampered by your knowledge that your food helped irreparably harm a natural fishery.

While an organic diet sounds like a great idea, the Center for Food Safety’s study makes it clear that farmed fish can hardly be considered organic, and also raises the question of whether seafood is a healthy choice at all. But how can you obtain omega 3 fatty acids without eating fish. The answer is often to take fish oil supplements, a tasteless, purified substance that offers the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids without the health risks.

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