I just read in an article by Michael Ramsingh in Seafood News (GSA agrees with Murkowski that US fisheries do not need third-party sustainability certification)… and I find myself nodding in agreement.
Third party certification has quickly become a mockery. It is no longer Independent. It is no longer objective. The whole process has been hijacked by eNGOs who have built revenue streams around these third party certification frameworks. ENGOs like WWF are busy pushing sustainability standards upward and upward, raising the bar from at the production end, and then at the market access end forming little consultancies that perform ‘lite’ assessments for customers who need help with ‘sustainable’ purchasing…
This mockery of what was once a robust indepedent validation process has resulted in disenchantment from producers and suppliers, and confusion from consumers… This ticket clipping by eNGOs is not what the market wants, it is no longer what customers need! And now one by one the certification frameworks are being deconstructed, and the corrosion of their once shiny allure is being exposed.
The article featured a letter from Darren J. Blue the Assistant Commissioner of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski confirming that the GSA (and indeed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)) had revised their sustainable sourcing policy (The GSA’s revised sustainable sourcing policy can be read here) and had removed third-party seafood sustainability references in its Concession Sustainability Guidelines (CSG) saying US managed fisheries do not require third-party sustainability certification.
The complete letter reads (the original can be read here):
November 22, 2013
The Honorable Lisa Murkowski
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Murkowski:
Thank you for your letter dated July 12, 2013, raising concerns about the Health and Sustainable Good Guidelines (Guidelines) developed by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As I testified before the U.S. Senate Committee Commerce, Science, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, on September 24, 2013, I agree with the concerns outlines in your letter.
GSA’s believes that American managed fisheries do not require third-party certification to demonstrate responsible and sustainable practices. GSA and HHS designed the Guidelines to make healthy choices more accessible and appealing. We intended the Guideline’s citation of third-party certification organizations to serve as helpful examples for potential bidders, not as eliminating factors. Our goal was to broaden choices, not to restrict options.
As soon as GSA became aware of your concerns, we worked with HHS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to revise the Guidelines. The new Guidelines (copy enclosed) continue to reflect the best of Federal fisheries management policy and practices, but they omit any reference to third-party certification systems.
If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Lisa Austin, Associate Administrator, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, at (202) 501-0563.
Darren J. Blue
The bold text is for effect, and done by me…
I love the sentence “Our goal was to broaden choices, not to restrict options...” It says it all really doesn’t it about how restrictive and narrow the definition of ‘sustainability’ is today.
This above letter is a response to months of backlash after the GSA came a under fire from Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski and the Alaska salmon industry after guidelines were adopted by the National Park Service to require seafood options that were “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list; certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council or identified by an equivalent program that has been approved by the NPS.
In September, the GSA’s Assistant Commissioner Darren Blue testified in front of a federal Senate Committee that the GSA would change the language surrounding the use of MSC and other third-party certification bodies. (See Article: Murkowski hails GSA reversal on third-party seafood sustainability certification requirements)
- Federal agencies drop MSC for salmon certification (juneauempire.com)
- Salmon Fishermen Battle Walmart on Certification (nytimes.com)
- Fisheries Law Centre – The Fisheries law update Winter ed. 2013 (foodlawlatest.com)
- Green Globes and LEED Now Equal for Federal Buildings (cleanedge.com)