Farming the Genetically Modified Seas: The Perils and Promise of Transgenic Salmon
THE INTERNATIONAL GOVERNANCE OF FISHERIES ECOSYSTEMS: LEARNING FROM THE PAST, FINDING SOLUTIONS FOR THE FUTURE, B. Taylor, M. Schechter and N. Leonard, eds., 2008
24 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2010
Date Written: 2008
Fisheries are in crisis. Most experts agree that capture fisheries around the world have reached or exceeded sustainable limits. In 2002, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 75% of the world’s fisheries were overfished, threatened or fully exploited. By 2006, research suggested that overfishing might drive ocean ecosystems into collapse within the next few decades.
Aquaculture has been proposed as the solution to this Gordian knot - a means for increasing seafood production while conserving wild fish stocks. By replacing capture fisheries with fish farming, aquaculture would mirror the land-based, historical shift from animal capture regimes (hunting) to animal husbandry. Developing fish husbandry methods could, in theory, reduce fishing pressures on wild populations, thereby protecting endangered marine ecosystems. And, aquaculture seems to offer a level of state control and commercial predictability that is simply not possible from unpredictable capture fisheries. Some view aquaculture as the best hope for food security for a world population expected to reach nine billion people by 2050. Indeed aquaculture features prominently in plans to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty by 2015.
Among the most of the controversial advances associated with aquaculture is the potential for increased production offered by transgenic fish. The possibility of faster growing fish seems like a food windfall in a world where almost one in five people suffer from starvation or malnutrition. So too, the hope that aquaculture of transgenic fish will reduce environmental pressures associated with capture fisheries and conventional aquaculture. Transgenic fish aquaculture might assist in achieving the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) goal of returning world fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015. This is the promise referred to in this chapter’s title.
Any exploration of these tantalizing possibilities must begin with the recognition of the social and environmental problems currently associated with conventional aquaculture, as well as the fears that transgenic fish will be unsafe to eat or unsafe for the environment. One particular area of concern is the burgeoning industry cultivating carnivorous fish, particularly salmon, through open-pen marine aquaculture. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) caution that current salmon aquaculture practices are already unsustainable. Aquaculture of transgenic salmon might have many or all of the risks and drawbacks associated with existing industrial aquaculture practices, plus an additional layer of hazards uniquely created by the genetic modifications being proposed. These are the perils in the chapter’s title.
This chapter explores both the promise and the perils of transgenic fish and makes some recommendations for how to most safely develop its promise, while minimizing the perils.
Keywords: Transgenic Fish, Transgenic Salmon, Aquaculture, Biotechnology, Aqua Bounty, Food Security, GMO GM Fish, GM Salmon, LMO, Genetically Modified
JEL Classification: K00, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation