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Salmon Farming Doesn’t Need Genetic Modification (NY Times)


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In response to the FDA's approval of genetically altered salmon, Barton Seaver, Director of our Sustainable Seafood and Health program, wrote an Op-Ed that appeared in the New York Times on December 2, 2015. 

"One often overlooked public health need in the U.S. is to get Americans to eat more seafood. Unfortunately, the F.D.A.'s approval of genetically engineered salmon without labels may frustrate this goal by fueling consumer mistrust of aquaculture, or marine and freshwater farming."

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The United States faces a critical public health need that is often overlooked: increasing the consumption of seafood among Americans. Unfortunately, the approval of genetically engineered salmon without labeling by the FDA may thwart this objective by exacerbating consumer mistrust of aquaculture - the farming of marine and freshwater organisms.

Even with the substantial harvest of wild fish in the U.S., the recommended weekly consumption of two servings of seafood per person cannot be met. To address this issue sustainably, it is imperative to increase the production of farmed seafood.

While farmed salmon has received a bad reputation for causing environmental damage, this industry has advanced significantly over its four decades of existence. Some producers have made progress toward achieving the sustainability improvements that chefs, consumers, and NGOs have long advocated for, through better farming practices, breeding innovations, integration of symbiotic species into ecosystems, and nutritional developments. Farmed salmon has become more sustainable and boasts better nutritional benefits than meat.

The market has demonstrated little interest in genetically modified farmed salmon, and influential retailers, restaurants, NGOs, politicians, chefs, consumers, and the International Salmon Farmers Association have either opposed or rejected it. Thus, it is unlikely that Americans will see AquaBounty fish on their plates in the near future.

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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