Fish on table

Fish on table

A trip to the local grocery store can challenging. There are so many choices! Shopping for fish, be it tuna or salmon, fresh or canned, is further complicated by the labels “farm-raised,” or “wild-caught,” and stickers of origin.

What these labels represent are different methods of fish farming. The ways in which fish farmers cultivate the fish we eat is an issue of sustainability and food ethics. The FDA is currently under fire with respect to laws about the labeling of genetically modified salmon. GMO-salmon, nicknamed “Frankenfish” because it grows larger and faster than regular salmon, could be heading to your neighborhood grocery store, for your purchase and consumption and without your knowledge. The laboratory that has created the science for GMO-salmon,  AcquaBounty Technologies,  argue that GMO-salmon will benefit farmers and consumers of fish worldwide because of increased salmon production. There are several reasons why “Frankenfish” has become such an issue: nutritional concerns, labeling concerns, and questions about how GMO-salmon could change the aquaculture. With regard to nutrition, genetically modified salmon has about 12% less omega-3 fatty acids than normal salmon. For those who consume salmon for this nutrient, GMO-salmon, unfortunately, is less effective than normal salmon to this end.

What is really at stake for us as consumers is that we should be able to make food choices that fit into our food ethics. Therefore, labeling is a real problem. At this point, the best we can do is pay attention to the origin stickers that appear on packages of fish in most grocery stores and educate ourselves as to what they indicate.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program has a user-friendly website and phone app that are available to consumers who want this information at their fingertips.

And then there is is general worry about aquaculture; namely, that the use of science interfering with nature is intrinsically problematic. One kind of question we could pose has no easy answer.  Namely, are we playing the role of a Higher Power when we allow science to dictate the growth and development of the food we eat?

The FDA could reach a decision this fall regarding the sell and labeling of “Frankenfish” for human consumption. The war over this is becoming so fierce that many major retailers, for example, Whole Foods, is refusing to sell GMO-salmon. Consumers are also weighing in on this topic by emailing the FDA and signing online petitions.

Let us know what you think!

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