Food Ethics

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 67–84 | Cite as

Recirculation Aquaculture Systems: Sustainable Innovations in Organic Food Production?

  • Simon MeischEmail author
  • Michèle Stark
Research Article


EU regulations explicitly preclude recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) for aquaculture grow-out from organic certification because they are not close enough to nature (Regulation (EEC) No. 710/2009). Meanwhile, according to another EU regulation, one criterion for organic food production is its contribution to sustainable development (Regulation (EEC) No. 834/2007). Against this background, one might argue that in spite of their distance to nature RAS are innovative solutions to sustainability issues in food production. The paper will deal with the claim that RAS for aquaculture could be one innovative solution to sustainability issues. In this respect, the picture is ambivalent. In the past, the organic movement (OM) has searched for innovative alternatives to industrial forms of agriculture and food production that are non-sustainable. Hence, the majority of the OM does not feel fit to support industrial RAS, even though one might argue that these systems comply with many of the European OM’s founding principles. While there are potential positive effects for a sustainable development, we might still regard these systems as techno-scientific solutions to social problems. This paper discusses innovation narratives related to RAS from the perspective of post-normal innovation critique. It first presents potential contribution to a more sustainable food sector. It then contrasts these arguments within critical assessments of innovation narratives for sustainable development. Finally, the paper concludes by discussing moral challenges of RAS for the OM’s self-conception.


Recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) Sustainable development Post-normal science Innovation Food systems EU organic regulation 



This paper builds on the report of the project Stakeholder-Studie ‘Kreislaufanlagen – Positionen des Ökosektors’ (Bergleiter et al. 2017) funded by German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (project no. 2815OE026).


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Advanced Sustainability SciencesPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and HumanitiesUniversity of TuebingenTuebingenGermany
  3. 3.Seafood Advisory Ltd.Büren an der AareSwitzerland

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