This post is the second in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.
What does it mean to be organic, and what role does organic agriculture play in a sustainable food system? These are the questions in my mind as I travel out of the Netherlands and into the rolling hills surrounding Nuremburg, Germany, for the 2017 Biofach Organic Food Trade Fair, an international exposition and conference featuring organic businesses and producers from all corners of the globe. Upon arrival, it’s hard to believe that the organic industry comprises only 2 percent Read More >
Recirculating aquaculture is expanding in many parts of the United States and the stories below give a taste of where, how, and why this growth is taking place. In Iowa, a third-generation farming family stopped raising pigs commercially due to low market prices and converted their barn to raise barramundi, a high-value fish that has its roots in Australia. Read more at Mother Jones. In New York, a shuttered tilapia farm is being reopened under new ownership as a salmon farm. Read More >
Skepticism over the business potential for offshore aquaculture comes amid NOAA’s push to develop a permitting system for these industrial operations in the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Islands. Read more at Bloomberg News and Politico.
The debate over the benefits and risks of offshore aquaculture continues, from Op-Eds to influential political blogs. Marianne Cufone, Executive Director of Recirculating Farms Coalition, writes in The Hill about a concern that offshore aquaculture will stress aquatic ecosystems, including concerns over fish escapes, and economic harm to local fishing communities. Read more at The Hill. Read More >
The National Organic Program is reviewing whether food crops grown in soilless hydroponic and aquaponic systems should be considered for certification and labeling as USDA Organic. If you would like to submit a public comment, the written deadline is October 26th, oral comments via webinar can be made November 3rd, and in-person comments can be made at the meeting Nov 18th. Read the full Hydroponic and Aquaponic Task Force report.
Hurricane Matthew has inundated and submerged dozens of industrial animal production sites in Eastern North Carolina. Swine lagoons burst following Hurricane Floyd that hit the region in 1999, which led to influx of phosphorus, nitrogen, algal blooms in coastal estuaries and large fish kills. Stay tuned in the coming weeks to months to track the impact Hurricane Mathew will have on downstream industries including recreational and commercial fisheries and aquaculture. Read more at the Washington Post. Read More >
A shocking discovery of forced labor was discovered among the Hawaiian fishing fleet. The results of an AP investigation calls into question the ethics of the fishing industry. Wholesalers and retailers on the West Coast are scrambling to identify whether their products were caught with forced labor. Read more at the AP.
The third annual Our Ocean conference, hosted by the U.S. State Department, is scheduled for September 15 – 16 in Washington D.C. Foci for the conference will be marine protected areas, ocean pollution, climate change, and sustainable fisheries including traceability. Read more at the Our Ocean conference website. Read More >
And the survey says… seafood consumers care about sustainability. Nearly three quarters (72%) of respondents agree that shoppers should only purchase from sustainable sources. Sustainability was ranked as more important than price or brand, but only 54% of respondents were willing to pay more for certified sustainable products, such as Marine Stewardship Council approved products. The study findings were drawn from a population of 16,000 consumers from 21 countries including the U.S. Read more at World Fish and Aquaculture. Read More >
In past issues we have reported on labor abuses in overseas seafood harvesting and in processing plants. A new report from the National Guestworker Alliance now points to problems in domestic seafood processing plants. The report included two states, Louisiana and Massachusetts, where workers face substandard housing, a lack of overtime pay, workplace injuries, and sexual harassment. Read more at Mother Jones and our blogpost on forced labor and workers rights at the Livable Future Blog. Read More >
Larger oyster farms may be coming soon to the Chesapeake Bay, as the Army Corps of Engineers aims to overhaul the permitting process. That’s a good thing for aquaculturists, local halfshell lovers, and the environment, because oysters are filter feeders that clean up the Bay. Read more at the Bay Journal.
In more Chesapeake Bay news, Virginia leads the nation in hard clam sales and leads the East Coast in oyster sales. Congratulations Karen Hudson and Thomas Murray on the 10th anniversary of the Virginia hatchery-based shellfish aquaculture assessment! Read more at VIMS. Read More >
The USDA Organic aquaculture standards are grinding slowly through government agency approvals, and are currently in review at the Office of Management and Budget, as reported by the Global Aquaculture Alliance. Read more at their website.
Until the U.S. sorts out organic aquaculture standards and labeling, consumers must rely on third-party labels. One such group, GLOBAL GAP, just released a new consumer label for certified farmed seafood. Read more at The Fish Site. Read More >
I was first introduced to labor rights in the food industry after watching the documentary Food Chain$. The film, which was screened in Baltimore, exposes the plight of Immokalee tomato pickers, organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), and their goal of raising wages by a penny a pound for tomatoes picked in Florida. They were successful in convincing most retailers and wholesalers to meet their demands, and CIW received national attention when the Obama Administration issued them a Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. These high-profile campaigns are raising awareness among consumers and challenging food companies to discuss labor rights. Read More >