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Matthew Abbott says allowing the use of any pesticides discredits the organic label. (Courtesy of CCNB)

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick is warning consumers that a new organic labeling standard for Canadian seafood products is misleading.

The new standard, passed earlier this month by the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, allows open net-penned fish farms that use pesticides to have their products certified as organic.

"I know for myself, as a consumer, when I pick up an organic apple or anything else, my basic assumption is that there hasn't been synthetic pesticides used on that product," said Matthew Abbott, Fundy Baykeeper and Marine Co-ordinator for the conservation council.

"And often I'm choosing that product because it hasn't had pesticide use."

Allowing the use of any pesticides discredits the so-called Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard label, said Abbott.

"They'll see an organic label and it could be from one of the most innovative, sustainable operations in the country, or it could be from an open-net pen with some mitigation measures applied to it," he said.

Pesticide use regulated

The Conservation Council, Living Oceans Society and some organic associations voted against the new standard, as members of the standard committee.

But the committee also includes industry representatives and government officials and the standard passed the Canadian General Standards Board’s requirement of 50 per cent plus one vote.

Stephanie Wells, a senior advisor with the Canada Organic Trade Association, said the the standard tightly regulates the use of pesticides and will be used only when recommended by a veterinarian.

"We did the same thing with organic agriculture with dairy animals," she said. "Unlike the United States, but like the European Union, the Canadian organic sector decided that it's an animal welfare issue."

The seafood industry will look to the federal government to regulate the new standard, which takes effect next year, said Wells.

Meanwhile, the Conservation Council, the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform and Ecology Action Centre have launched a website to provide information about their concerns with the new standard.