An Atlantic salmon escape in summer 2017 in Washington state was worse than previously thought, reports Lynda Vapes. An investigation by the Washington State’s departments of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, and Natural Resources found that Cooke Aquaculture underreported the number of escaped fish: 263,000 fish, not 130,000 as first reported. The company reported the reason for the escape was strong tides associated with the solar eclipse, but the state investigation found that poor maintenance and cleaning of net pens was to blame. State regulators then fined Cooke Aquaculture $332,000 for violating their permit. Read more at Seattle Times. Read More >
A massive farmed Atlantic salmon escape occurred last month in Washington State at a farm owned by Cooke Aquaculture, a global salmon producer. Immediately after the escape regulators urged anglers to go fishing, but this gesture was unlikely to make a dent in the problem. Reports indicate that 160,000 fish escaped the net-pen enclosure. After further review, the state issued a moratorium on new net-pen fish farms. Cooke Aquaculture blamed the escape on a ripped net caused by high tides associated with the solar eclipse. Some media outlets cite evidence that questions the validity of that claim. Read more at the Seattle Times, The Globe and Mail, CBC News, and NPR’s The Salt. Read More >
Reporter Aaron Orlowski covered our recent paper in which we argued for new priorities in seafood policy that recognize the food system and public health. There is a need for better communication and collaboration between the public health/medical community and the fisheries communities and policymakers to bridge the gap between production and consumption. Co-author Patricia Pinto Da Silva says “You have to look beyond the landing dock and see how the fish we catch is connected to our markets, communities, local economies and public health.” Read more at Seafood Source. Read More >
GE salmon is the same as non-GE salmon? When genetically engineered (GE) Atlantic salmon was approved for human consumption by the FDA, consumer groups responded by clamoring for a new process that would review GE food animals and require the products be labeled as GE. But FDA has decided that GE salmon is equivalent to non-GE farmed Atlantic salmon. Read the article at the New York Times and FDA’s response to Read More >
FDA hosted a hearing on Tuesday, September 21 to discuss the hypothetical labeling of genetically engineered (GE) salmon. Just fifteen hours earlier the FDA finished hearing the debate on GE salmon approval, which gave the impression that FDA was moving faster on the issue than it actually is. This compressed schedule caused frustration among experts, leading George Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety to say “it is inappropriate to hold hearings on labeling before [GE salmon] are approved.”
In oral statements made before the FDA panel, Food and Water Watch (FWW) speaker Patty Lovera and the Alexis Baden-Mayer of Organic Consumers Association were not in favor of GE salmon, although if approved, Lovera recommended mandatory labeling of GE salmon. When pushed by the FDA panel on the material reasons for labeling, pro-labeling advocates often cited a lack of data on allergenicity of GE salmon or consumer preference. In a major break with other consumer advocacy groups, Gregory Jaffe from the Center for Science in the Public Interest indicated a preference for no GE labeling.
If GE salmon is approved, the FDA has indicated that labeling will be based only on material differences in GE salmon compared to non-GE salmon, and not based on consumer preferences for GE labeling. These views may not be consistent with surveys that show 70% of American consumers want GE food to be labeled, from data reported by Jaffe.
Industry groups, including Richard Carnevale of Animal Health Institute, stood in line to argue that there were no material reasons why GE salmon should be labeled. The CEO of AquaBounty, Richard Clothier gave a series of other arguments against mandatory labeling, including the “slippery slope” that may lead to labeling of all GE foods and if labeling “complicated the process it would be a pity.” It appears that all stakeholders, including the FDA, realize this is a complicated process, and are willing to work through the difficult decisions.
If GE salmon is approved, consumers will have the ultimate say in its success. Salmon is the 3rd most consumed seafood product in the US and its popularity and high market price will likely continue,whether or not consumers know what kind of salmon they are eating. It remains to be seen if the aquaculture industry realizes that the rising interest in communicating where and how our food is raised may be a benefit as opposed to a liability. Elliot Entis, the founder of AquaBounty, indicated he would be in favor of voluntary labeling as a type of product branding. Entis was in favor of calling their salmon “Panama Reds,” although one can only wonder if this is just a red herring.
– Dave Love