The recent e-coli scare in Europe (the scare, but not the infection, has spread to the USA) has pointed up the question of safety in vegetables.
Over a couple of years, in the States, a comparison between green vegetables purchased in grocery stores, and those grown aquaponically, showed that the latter were pathogen free – in other words, the aquaponically grown vegetables were 100% safe.
However, ironically, again in the USA, aquaponically grown food cannot qualify for a Food Safety Certificate. The reason for this is the book of rules, and specifically two parameters which cannot be complied with. The disqualifications arise because of the presence, first, of animals in the growing area, and second, of untreated manure in the growing area. The book of rules does not take into account the fact that manure from cold blooded animals cannot transmit these diseases.
In the UK we have the Soil Association, and here we come across a similar contradiction – food cannot be considered organic if it is not grown directly in, and harvested from, the soil. And yet most of us are aware of organic farmers who would not eat their own produce, because of the pesticides they are allowed to use, and which would certainly kill the fish!
Is it time to re-evaluate? Well, I guess that’s up to the Soil Association. But I confess to feeling that the current definition of ‘organic’ is out of date and therefore lacks credibility. If you are growing in soil, you can gain organic certification without improving the nutritional value of your produce, depending on how you treat your soil; and of course it does not preclude the possibility that the produce could transmit e-coli. If you are growing aquaponically, you cannot do anything which might damage your fish, and if the fish survive, I reckon I will too!
So I feel enthusiastic about the proposed Aquaponics Association in the USA, whose purpose will be to 'preach the gospel' of aquaponics and perhaps persuade the certification bodies to adjust their criteria. Of course, the US, particularly Hawaii, and Australia, are way ahead of the British in the field of aquaponics - but we must do our best to catch up.