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Editor's Note: Fishmeal the X factor in GM salmon saga

Fiona Robinson, Associate Publisher/Editor
Fiona Robinson, Associate Publisher/Editor
December 05, 2010

After having been put on the spot several times in the past few months about where I stand on genetically modified (GM) salmon, I realized it's not the time to be indecisive. After 
careful consideration, I can now say I support the practice, if for only one reason: less 
reliance on fishmeal.

You could debate ad nauseam about whether the practice is ethical or not. Indeed, that was one of the main questions when SeaFood Business first wrote about AquaBounty's work (then working under the name A/F Protein) in 1999. However, if you carefully read this issue's Top Story, "Super salmon?," Contributing Editor Stuart Hirsch explains both sides of the transgenic salmon debacle.

While there are many aspects to debate on the topic, the one point I keep returning to is fishmeal. GM salmon can be raised in almost half the time than traditional salmon, therefore greatly reducing the amount of fishmeal necessary. Over the past decade, the fishmeal industry has investigated alternative fish feeds to decrease reliance on reduction fisheries such as anchovies and menhaden, thereby increasing sustainability. Soy, vegetable oil and algae-based replacements work for some species. But salmon are carnivores; they cannot be fed solely plant-based feeds.

With the global aquaculture industry increasing production by 6.9 percent annually, the pressure on the fishmeal industry is only going to grow. And with supply and demand forcing fishmeal prices skyward, producing increasing amounts of farmed fish with less fishmeal has to be an option on the table to keep the products affordable.

I urge you to read the Top Story to understand the other angles and challenges related to transgenic salmon. Many people have already taken an anti-GMO stance and will likely never change their minds on the subject. It would be akin to trying to get a fur trapper to join PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) - it's unlikely to happen. But if the ultimate goal of the seafood industry is to make seafood more plentiful, affordable to more consumers and traceable from source to store, then GM salmon raised in a closed-containment system has to be considered. If AquAdvantage salmon can trim the amount of fishmeal necessary to raise salmon, then bring on the super salmon.

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