Letter from the Editor:  For all those with a fondness for big salmon

Letter from the Editor: For all those with a fondness for big salmon

by Sue Jones
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North of Seattle In Snohomish County, WA, growth was enormous during the past three decades. Please don’t ask me to re-trace our steps, but back in the day, we’d travel the backroads of Snohomish County along the Pilchuck River and its tributaries to find someone selling fresh salmon out of a car or pickup truck.

Our backroads salmon shopping came after the infamous “Boldt decision”  that ended state regulation of tribal fishing  for being  in violation of treaty rights. The federal government sued the state in 1974 and federal Judge George Boldt restored the Tribal rights to allow native people to continue fishing in their accustomed places using their customary practices.

The salmon was fresh and big enough to feed several friends when grilled over a barecue pit in a public park. I think that memory keeps me interested in AquaBounty, the genetically-engineered Atlantic salmon that’s entered the retail market with the FDA’s blessing.

Sylvia Wulf, president and CEO of AquaBounty Technologies Inc., wrote her shareholders a letter to kick off 2022. It’s an interesting read.

For example, AquaBounty’s challenges during the past year were not what you are likely thinking, but rather labor shortages and global supply chain disruptions — the pandemic problems plaguing the entire economy.

It’s found market acceptance for “proprietary, genetically engineered (GE) Atlantic salmon” with a new 10,000 metric ton farm at Pioneer, OH, — a $290 million to $320 million investment. That’s going to be a step up from 2021 when it delivered 84 tons to the market during the third quarter.

“To prove market acceptance for our GE salmon, we completed the setup of our commercial framework and prepared for our first commercial harvest,” Wulf said in recapping 2021.

“After successful sampling efforts with widely respected seafood distributors and other interested customers, we began long-awaited first retail sales of our GE salmon from both our Indiana and Prince Edward Island farms — receiving orders for the entire output from our first customers, all eager to introduce this locally produced salmon in their respective markets.”

Wulf says since those sales, demand for AquaBounty salmon ” has consistently grown — proving its market acceptance.”

There was a promised retail boycott of GE salmon, but that may have gone bust. Or, with the laboratory being the source of so many future food products, maybe consumers are getting confused or maybe just lacking interest in so many details.

Wulf does a pretty good job explaining why the GE salmon is needed — demand for protein is expected to double by 2050. More than 90 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully fished out or overfished. Wulf says, “we need creative solutions to feed the world.”

The GE salmon gained market approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2020 after a lengthy review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The FDA evaluated the potential effects on the environment of the United States from an approval of the application related to AquAdvantage Salmon.

Based on the multiple forms of physical and biological containment proposed by AquaBounty Technologies in the application and supplemental applications, the FDA found that an approval of the applications related to AquAdvantage Salmon would not cause a significant impact on the environment of the United States.

The agency’s  findings are based on the extremely low likelihood that AquAdvantage Salmon could escape into the environs surrounding AquaBounty’s facilities and survive in an ocean or waterway and interbreed with wild Atlantic salmon due, in part, to the physical and biological containment measures specified in the approved applications, and thus affect the environment of the United States.

Based on the final Environmental Assessment, the agency issued a final Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).

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