DISCLAIMER: The following blog post does not represent the particular or general views of any farming companies in Canada. The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, which represents salmon farmers and other aquaculture producers across Canada, has made it clear its members do not support farming genetically-modified salmon.
A company hoping to market the world’s first genetically-modified fish is struggling to stay afloat, the Associated Press reported today.
AquaBounty has been trying to get approval to grow and market genetically-modified salmon for nearly 20 years, and the glacial pace of the approval process has the company scrambling to find enough cash to stay in business in the new year, company CEO Ron Stotish told AP.
That’s too bad, and we hope this idea doesn’t die because of lack of funding. However, we do understand why so many people are against this idea, calling it “Frankenfish” and expressing their concerns about the potential threat to wild stocks.
But from a scientific perspective, the GMO salmon makes sense, providing a fish to farm which could actually make land-based salmon farms cost-effective.
The genetically-modified AquaBounty salmon, which includes a fast-growing gene from Chinook salmon and a cold-resistant gene from the ocean pout, would look and taste identical to conventional farmed salmon.
AquaBounty unfortunately promotes itself by bashing conventional ocean farms, particularly suggesting that escapes are a problem and threat to wild stocks (they aren’t in B.C., where there haven’t been escapes for several years; where any escapees are vastly outnumbered by well-established wild Pacific salmon; and where farmed Atlantic salmon cannot interbreed with wild Pacific salmon).
But aside from that strawman, the company does make good points about why GMO salmon is a good idea. Genetically-modified fish in a land-based RAS (recirculating aquaculture system) would make growing fish on land much more economical.
The fish would grow faster and cost less in feed. The quicker harvest time would mean more harvests, and coupled with the lower feed costs, could compensate for the much higher costs RAS systems pose when it comes to water, electricity, equipment maintenance and land costs. Because despite all the pie-in-the-sky about how wonderful land-raised salmon could be, if it’s too expensive in the store people ain’t gonna buy it.
If salmon farming opponents really are interested in protecting wild fish by removing farmed fish from the ocean completely, they should be taking a serious look at GMO salmon coupled with land-based recirculation systems, instead of opposing one and praising the other.