Feb. 19, 2002 The Ketchikan Daily News supports seafood nation of origin labeling

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2002

Want to know where your shirt was made? Check the label.

Most items we buy at retail stores have labels or other indicators of the country where they were produced. The information is helpful and, in some instances, can influence whether we buy something or leave it on the shelf.

Currently, however, retailers are not required to indicate the nation of origin for all seafood products. That fillet of salmon in the grocer's display case could come from Chile, Norway, Canada, Russia or even Alaska. But the potential buyer won't know its origin unless the retailer chooses to tell him.

We think the customer should know this important detail, and that's why we support Sen. Frank Murkowski's efforts to require retailers to indicate the country of origin for seafood.

The Senate has passed an agricultural assistance bill that includes the Murkowski provision requiring labeling. The legislation goes next to a Senate-House conference committee before heading to the president's desk for the final signature.

While the labeling provision might see opposition from some importers, we hope it becomes law.

The modern marketplace is all about choice. Price is a factor, as is quality. Alaska has worked strenuously to build the reputation of its seafood as the highest quality product in the marketplace. Country of origin labeling will emphasize which products are definitely not from Alaska, thus giving to the consumer more information for making a choice. There's no doubt that Alaska products will benefit.

They also would benefit from another amendment that would allow wild salmon products to be certified as organic by the National Organic Standards Board.

The board has balked at allowing the organic label for wild salmon because there's no way to control what the fish eat. But what could be more natural than fish swimming in the ocean, asks Murkowski. Not much, especially when those fish have been swimming in the clean waters of Alaska.

These amendments are good for Alaska and, more importantly, for consumers. The conference committee should keep the amendments in the final version sent to the president's desk.

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