Guestpost: Help Save the Wild Salmon

In June, I was able to attend part of UC Davis’ 1st Annual IFAL (Institute for Food and Agriculture Literacy) Symposium.  For me, it was the equivalent of walking into the Academy Awards or other famous award show. People that are celebrities in my world were everywhere!!! I was star stuck the whole time, I mean check out a sample of the speakers: Dr. Pamela Ronald, Dr. Kevin Folta, Yvette d’Entremont, Dr. Cami Ryan, Dr. Anastasia Bodnar, Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam.

aquavantage #3

Watching these experts in their fields talk about our food and the technology that they are developing to better our food and fiber was a game changer for me. I mean, I’ve always been interested in the science and technology that surrounds agriculture, but to see and learn from professionals that are doing it was inspiring. When Dr. Folta got emotional talking about meeting starving people, and when Dr. Van Eenennaam reminded us we can’t save wild fish by eating them, I was inspired to use my media platforms in a way that will help the general public understand how important this work is. 

When I heard there is going to be an orchestrated attack on this technology that will benefit our lives, I wanted to help! Since I’m not a scientist, Dr.Anastasia Bodnar* was kind enough to write a guest post for The Beef Jar. Dr. Bodnar has been one of my biggest mentors for years. I finally met her “in real life” at UC Davis, it was glorious. Please friends, take some time to learn about this issue and the benefits this fish will offer us. I know we all want safe, sustainable food and this is one tool to help us get that. Please support it. Thank you.


On Thursday July 9, an anti-biotechnology group is orchestrating calls to Costco asking that they never carry fast-growing genetically engineered salmon. They’re trying to bully Costco into making a decision on selling GE salmon before it’s even on the market. See below for Costco’s contact information and a sample script.

GE fast-growing salmon can be an environmentally friendly way to meet increasing demand for seafood. These salmon are a healthy, safe source of protein and omega 3s, and will potentially be available at lower cost than non-GE salmon. There simply aren’t enough wild fish stocks to meet demand so we must farm fish. The way these GE salmon will be raised has a lot of advantages over farming fish in ocean pens – namely they won’t spread disease to native fish populations. They’ll also take less feed to get to the same size. If you want to learn more, check out my article Risk assessment and mitigation of AquAdvantage salmon (the article is a few years old but as far as I know, little if anything has changed) or visit the AquaBounty website.

11717169_10207190577701124_1682421722_n

If you have a moment, you could contact Costco (especially if you’re a member) to let them know you support genetically engineered foods and specifically that you would choose this salmon if Costco had it available. While you’re on the phone, you could also express concern that so many Costco-brand foods are only available in organic, increasing costs with little or no benefit to the consumer.

Costco’s Customer Service phone number is 1-800-774-2678 (press “0” to speak with a representative).

Here is a sample script:

I have been a Costco member for __ years and I support biotechnology. I would like Costco to base their decision on fast-growing GMO salmon on the best science, not activist demands. Land-raised, fast-growing GMO salmon is an environmentally friendly way to make healthy, safe fish available for more people. Please consider selling GMO salmon when it becomes available.”

16255999727_7c7e474c12_m

*Dr. Anastasia Bodnar is Director of Policy for Biology Fortified, Inc., an independent non-profit devoted to providing science-based information about biotechnology and other topics in agriculture. Learn more about Anastasia at https://about.me/geneticmaize. Disclaimer: Anastasia’s words are her own and views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of her employer(s).

7 Comments

Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Field Trip, food, fun facts, Guest Post, Know a California Farmer, Media, photos, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized

7 Responses to Guestpost: Help Save the Wild Salmon

  1. Thanks for the informative article. Commenting as, first, your friend, and second, representing California’s aquaculture (fish farming) industry (I am the Executive Director of the California Aquaculture Association and the Operations Manager of the California Fisheries and Seafood Institute), I just want to add a couple points:

    With regard to GMO salmon, it is worth noting that almost all large retailers (currently over 60) are in opposition to the idea. In addition to this, most aquaculture/fish farming associations also oppose GMO salmon and genetic modification in fish farming. (e.g. BC Salmon Farmers Association: http://bcsalmonfarmers.ca/coastfresh/food-safety/.)

    GMO salmon, unlike other GMOs, like corn, can have a much more significant negative impact to wild stocks and our environment. If the fish were to comingle with native wild salmon, the result would be an eventual depletion and possible extinction of wild salmon as we know now. (Naturally, the larger, in this case GMO, fish would eat the smaller non-GMO fish.) Of course, it is argued that we just need to make sure that the GMO salmon do not escape captivity, but this is an unrealistic expectation. (As an example and proof of this, look at the Asian carp epidemic in the Mississippi river system.)

    Protecting our oceans and our wild salmon (and other wild fish) stocks is certainly of paramount concern. Fish farmers around the world are aware of this and are taking strides to sustain and build wild stocks by way of replenishment. As an example, a fish farm in southern California has developed a successful program in which striped bass are spawned in a closed system and then later released to the wild to help replenish wild striped bass stocks. Of course, the fish spawned at the farm are of identical genetic makeup as those in the wild.

    It is one of my personal goals to bring fish farmers and wild fisherman to the table to work together to replenish our oceans, protect and promote industry job growth (in both farming and fishing), and continually educate the public about the health benefits of eating fish.

    I hope this adds a bit of information. If ever you need an opinion or reference with regard to fish, please feel free to contact me. Also, especially with regard to GMO salmon, I would certainly encourage folks to contact fish-related associations for their stance on the issue and for additional information.

    Also, just to mention, in California, salmon are only raised by the state and not by private growers. So for those looking to support California and its farmers, I would encourage looking for other fish on your local restaurant’s menu such as sturgeon, striped bass, black bass, catfish, carp, trout, etc. A good guide for sustainable seafood can be found at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website: http://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/seafood-a-z

  2. Thanks so much for letting me guest post, Megan! I have to say I was just as if not more excited to finally meet you in person as you were to meet me 🙂
    You’ve taught me so much about agriculture, and about being a strong woman in the face of a male dominated industry. I had a whole conversation about heritage hogs this week, you would have been proud! My only regret from that trip is not arriving sooner so I could try to visit your ranch. Definitely looking forward to doing that sometime.

    Here is a bit more information about the fast growing GMO salmon for your readers…

    Many people have an idea in their mind about these fish and they end up worried about giant salmon taking over the oceans and outcompeting wild salmon. I’m an environmentalist and I agree that would be terrible. Fish escaping from aquaculture is certainly an issue but in the case of these particular GMO salmon there are many methods of containment in place to ensure the salmon do not escape. I discussed the containment methods in detail in my 2010 article that I referred to in my blog post above.

    These GMO salmon are fast growing, but in simulated natural environment experiments, they don’t get much bigger than wild salmon. There’s no reason why predators would choose wild over the fast growing fish, and no reason the fast growers would be more successful than wild. That’s all a moot point though, because it’s extremely unlikely that the fast growth gene would ever establish in the wild.

    AquaBounty, the company that developed these GMO salmon (called AquaAdvantage) has pledged to only raise eggs and adults in specific locations in land based facilities. Now if they planned to raise fertile fish in sea pens then I would certainly be against them, too! But thankfully they’re not planning to do that.

    AquaBounty will raise only sterile female triploid fish. So if a fish did escape it’s very unlikely that she could breed. Just in case, there’s other containment methods.

    The facilities have filters and nets to prevent escape plus lethal amounts of chlorine in the drains just in case a filter failed. There’s also security to prevent any theft or human caused damage.

    The facilities are in carefully selected locations such that even if a fertile fish over came the odds and managed to escape, they wouldn’t find an environment where they could spawn, they wouldn’t find a compatible male to breed with, and they wouldn’t be able to migrate to the ocean. If they did manage to breed, they’ll have a reduced survival rate and only 50% of the spawn will have the transgene. I explain in much greater detail in the post.

    Keep in mind that all these containment methods are in AquaBounty’s application to the FDA. The company can’t do anything else without getting approval – they can’t reduce the containment methods, and they can’t start a new facility elsewhere.

    Long story short, while we know nothing is perfect, this company has so many redundant containment methods – biological, physical, chemical, geographical, and environmental – that they’ve mitigated any risk there might be to wild fish.

    I get the feeling that most people opposed to these fish haven’t looked into these details. I’d love to hear what experts think about the containment methods. Anyone who wants to discuss this further can comment here or can reach me directly on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/geneticmaize or on Twitter @geneticmaize.

  3. Max

    Just an FYI for these idiots but not only does Costco not carry this same – since it hasn’t been released for human consumption – but they do not intend to carry it. Stop with the hype!

  4. (Submitted this yesterday but it looks like it didn’t go through.)

    Thanks for the informative article. Commenting as, first, your friend, and second, representing California’s aquaculture (fish farming) industry (I am the Executive Director of the California Aquaculture Association and the Operations Manager of the California Fisheries and Seafood Institute), I just want to add a couple points:

    With regard to GMO salmon, it is worth noting that almost all large retailers (currently over 60) are in opposition to the idea. In addition to this, most aquaculture/fish farming associations also oppose GMO salmon and genetic modification in fish farming. (e.g. BC Salmon Farmers Association: http://bcsalmonfarmers.ca/coastfresh/food-safety/.)

    GMO salmon, unlike other GMOs, like corn, can have a much more significant negative impact to wild stocks and our environment. If the fish were to comingle with native wild salmon, the result would be an eventual depletion and possible extinction of wild salmon as we know now. (Naturally, the larger, in this case GMO, fish would eat the smaller non-GMO fish.) Of course, it is argued that we just need to make sure that the GMO salmon do not escape captivity, but this is an unrealistic expectation. (As an example and proof of this, look at the Asian carp epidemic in the Mississippi river system.)

    Protecting our oceans and our wild salmon (and other wild fish) stocks is certainly of paramount concern. Fish farmers around the world are aware of this and are taking strides to sustain and build wild stocks by way of replenishment. As an example, a fish farm in southern California has developed a successful program in which striped bass are spawned in a closed system and then later released to the wild to help replenish wild striped bass stocks. Of course, the fish spawned at the farm are of identical genetic makeup as those in the wild.

    It is one of my personal goals to bring fish farmers and wild fisherman to the table to work together to replenish our oceans, protect and promote industry job growth (in both farming and fishing), and continually educate the public about the health benefits of eating fish.

    I hope this adds a bit of information. If ever you need an opinion or reference with regard to fish, please feel free to contact me. Also, especially with regard to GMO salmon, I would certainly encourage folks to contact fish-related associations for their stance on the issue and for additional information.

    Also, just to mention, in California, salmon are only raised by the state and not by private growers. So for those looking to support California and its farmers, I would encourage looking for other fish on your local restaurant’s menu such as sturgeon, striped bass, black bass, catfish, carp, trout, etc. A good guide for sustainable seafood can be found at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website: http://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood…/seafood-a-z

  5. Thank you for the informative reply.

    A mitigation of risk is not an elimination of risk. “Unlikely” does not mean “impossible”. What can happen, therefore, will happen. And when the risk we are speaking of is the commingling of genetically modified wildlife with native wildlife and the potentially significant adverse effects of this, I hope that we truly consider this risk, mitigated or otherwise.

    Also, it is concerning that some are looking to genetically modify fish to help “save” wild stocks (I’m not sure where the “Save the Wild Salmon” campaign originated but it’s a bit misguided). With my concerns of GMO salmon’s effect on current wild stocks aside, I (along with the aquaculture industry) strongly believe that the solution in protecting our oceans and saving wild fish stocks is not in genetic modification but rather in replenishment by way of spawning native fish in a controlled environment and releasing these fish into the wild after cultivation. This, of course, is a similar solution to that used by the lumber industry, who replant what they harvest. And this solution of replanting fish to replenish stocks has been in practice by state departments and private growers for years in freshwater areas in California. This practice is now being used in our oceans to help preserve and replenish wild stocks there. The public should be aware of this and support these efforts along with the aquaculture industry’s efforts to relieve strain on wild stocks by supplementing wild fish with (non-GMO) farmed fish at restaurants and grocery stores.

    Another concern that readers should be aware of is the potential result of an FDA approval of GMO salmon paired with continued opposition and refusal of implementation from American fish growers. Though perhaps not an immediate risk, this could eventually leave the door open for foreign growers and investors (whose standards of practice and mitigations of risk may not be at the level expected of American growers) to undercut growers here in the states. Yes, this is a hypothetical, but the protection of our fishermen’s and farmers’ jobs in our country should be of paramount concern. If supporting our local/state’s/county’s farmers is of importance to readers, GMO salmon should be viewed with a very critical eye.

    Anastasia, with regard to containment practices, potential risks, etc., I think we will simply have to agree to disagree. But I certainly appreciate your insight.

    As a representative of fish farmers in California, I just wish to encourage any readers to research the stances of academia, retailers, and related associations nationwide. Most are in opposition of GMO salmon.

  6. ………VERY GREAT SHARING…THANKS.

  7. Pingback: GMO Salmon: Saving or Endangering Wild Salmon? • Epsilon | Epsilon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.