Saturday, February 23, 2013

A fishy fish story

Salmon is good for you and for your heart and circulation. Doctors recommend you eat salmon twice a week.
But wait one minute. Where does that salmon come from?
It turns out that most of the Salmon we buy is not caught in the ocean but farmed. Most salmon is farmed in tanks in the ocean.
From a purely ecological point of view that is problematic. For every pound the salmon puts on, it eats three pounds of fish meal. A very inefficient way of producing food in a world with food shortages, especially overfished oceans.
This salmon is also not as healthy as advertised. Most salmon are farmed in open pens and cages in coastal waters. Waste from these farms is released directly into the ocean. Parasites and diseases from farmed salmon can spread to wild fish swimming near the farms and escaping farmed salmon can harm wild populations. As a result, all salmon farmed in ocean net pens get an "Avoid" ranking. In addition farmed salmon are significantly higher in PCBs.
But now salmon is not only factory-farmed; it is about to be genetically modified. Salmon growers inserted a gene from an eel into salmon. That insertion makes the salmon grow much faster and thereby saves money to the grower. This tampering with the genes of our food does not benefit the consumers and may harm them in many ways that have not been discovered yet. But it does benefit the producer by lowering production costs. The government is about to permit production and sale of this genetically modified salmon. The salmon need not be labeled as genetically modified.
Monsanto and other agricultural chemical companies have figured out how to implant genes from one plant into another, or now also from one animal to another. Is that safe? The companies producing GMO foods say it is , but they do not, in fact, know any more about that than anyone else.
In what is bound to stoke the debate over the labeling of genetically modified foods, scientists in France have published a controversial study reporting that rats fed corn that was engineered to withstand spraying with the herbicide Roundup developed health problems, including tumors and trouble with their livers and kidneys.” (
"Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food," including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. They conclude, "There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation," as defined by recognized scientific criteria. "The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies." (
These fish are also less healthy than wild Alaskan salmon or even farmed Atlantic salmon. The few studies that have been done on these genetically engineered fish have shown that they contain lower levels of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than either form of regular salmon. These fish are also notably deficient in certain vitamins, O'Neil adds. There's also a great deal of concern that genetically modifying salmon could increase the incidence of seafood allergies among the public.” (,0)
Clearly we do not have anything like proof that GMO foods, vegetable and animal, are bad for consumers. But there is some reason to worry. The consumer has no way of making an informed choice because GMO foods are not labeled as such. If consumers had that information, they could choose to avoid certain foods depending on their anxiety level about its potential harmful effects. If they do not know that the food they buy is genetically modified, they are more likely to buy it and make the cash register ring for the sellers and producers of GMO foods.
Industry does not alert us when we consume genetically modified food. The FDA, having no doubt been lobbied heavily, does not demand that industry tell us when we are eating such foodstuffs. Everyone is consuming genetically modified food, at least in the form of GMO soy beans and corn.
Genetically modified salmon may endanger consumers but promises to enrich producers. It will be more certain to enrich producers if we, the consumers, do not know which is the genetically modified salmon so that we will blithely consume salmon that may make us sick.