I just threw up in mouth a little bit.
|The ocean pout, an eel-like deep-water dweller that grows|
all year long in very cold water.
The hybridization, according to the company's website, "provides the fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon." The "gene switch" of the ocean pout (interestingly, this "ingredient" isn't mentioned on the AquaBounty website) allows the fish to continue producing growth hormones all year long, and not just during warmer periods of the year (New York Times, Dec. 21). This, according to the company, will enable these laboratory creations to grow to market size in 18 months instead of three or four years, like wild salmon.
OK... that's enough of the "how." I get that science makes amazing things possible, and I'm a fan of science. But this is science on a Michael Crichton scale... it's "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" science.
Now, AquaBounty markets this product as the future of aquaculture--the solution to a growing, hungry population on an overpopulated planet that can be produced without harming the environment or wild salmon.
On the surface, that sounds great. Really great. As a consumer and someone who is passionate about protecting our natural resources--particularly the fishy ones--I honestly like the explanation the company is giving, provided the fish are sterile and can be successfully sequestered from wild salmon and guaranteed to stay where they're supposed to stay.
But the "on-the-surface" explanation is as far as AquaBounty is willing to go. There's no mention of the residual effects this test-tube creation could truly have on wild salmon and the people who make their livings chasing them up and down the Pacific coast from Alaska to northern California. In short, as a fisherman, the notion of plasticized salmon showing up on menus and consumed by unsuspecting patrons who just want something that matches up well with a good riesling is frightening.
We're already dealing with the dead zones created off the northwest coast from captive salmon farms (some of which raise Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Ocean), and we're seeing the impacts of sea lice blooms in areas where farmed salmon are raised in massive net pens. We're seeing dye-added farm-raised salmon on menus and on ice in grocery stores (and I assume AquaBounty would have to add dye to their product, as well). Efforts to farm massive amounts of a resource that, if nurtured responsibly in the wild, would be more than plentiful are failing the environmental sniff test. Yet these efforts continue. AquaBounty's plans are but the next step in answering the call for large amounts of protein that can't be produced naturally because we haven't taken the necessary steps to protect or restore the habitat needed for wild salmon to thrive in their native waters.
In other words, two wrongs don't make a right. Right?
|Will this become a pursuit of the past?|
I can envision a future where my grandchildren won't have the opportunity to cast to wild salmon or trout beneath the canopy of an Alaskan rainforest because that canopy won't be there any longer.
Why? Because wild salmon won't matter.
Sound a bit extreme? Sure... but doesn't a test-tube creation of two different salmon species and a deep-sea eel sound a bit extreme, too?
I propose something different... something easy and attainable. Why do we insist on hastening the demise of our coastal resources when we already know the solution to improving our supply of ready protein for a hungry world? It's simple.
Protect and restore our rivers--remove unneeded and redundant dams and diversions and wisely use our limited water resources. Reconnect watersheds to their headwaters and to the oceans. And don't tell me such ideas are economically unattainable--that's hogwash. If we can make our waters healthy and whole again, we can have our salmon and eat them, too. And that's good for the economy, the environment and the coming generations of anglers who won't get the chance to experience a line stretched tight to a salmon in the coast waters of the Northwest if we don't take care of what we have and restore what we once had.
Let the FDA know that genetically engineered salmon aren't something we're interested in. Let them know that wild salmon from wild water matter today ... and will for generations to come.