Thursday, February 23, 2012

Man-Made Fish on Your Plate?

A resounding no to genetically engineered fish from a chef in a CNN editorial makes some really good points.

Perhaps the best point is: it doesn't sound appetizing.  But there's more and it starts with aquaculture.

Aquaculture -- fish farming -- itself is complicated because there are tricky pros and cons.

On the one hand, it can take pressure off wild fish while creating a whole economy as well as food and nutrition for millions.

On the other hand, some farmed species may do more harm than good.  Farmed Atlantic salmon comes to mind as this carnivore eats wild fish feed.  We could find ourselves depleting the wild stocks of the feed fish to feed the farmed salmon.  Avoiding this is clearly the way to ensure that aquaculture is not an ocean issue but a solution.

Enter genetically engineered fish, which holds the potential for great profit while some say, courts catastrophe.

The first genetically engineered animal up for approval in the US by the Food and Drug Administration is a salmon designed to grow twice as fast as normal salmon.  A genetically altered fish with a voracious appetite, one that will eat twice as much wild feed fish as a regular salmon, sounds like the problem doubled rather than solved.  It actually sounds a little like an invasive species.

There's also too much we do not know (see also hubris and greed).

When the altered fish escapes – escapes already occur constantly -- into wild waters, what happens to the natural balance?  Will wild salmon and other species be overwhelmed by the bigger, stronger, and hungrier fish?  The answer is we do not know what will happen.

So how come the FDA has approved the genetically altered fish?  For one, I doubt sustainability was a criteria (the criteria on which they based their decision is confidential).  For two or three, can you really trust these knuckleheads to consider anything but whether or not eating it will kill you?  No.  And sometimes they don't even get that right.

Note: Some farmed species are good, like tilapia, which eats algae, although some environmentalists question the farming practices in some countries. 

See Oceana's excellent infographic on man-made fish.

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