Food writer Josh Ozersky gets the story of the genetically-modified Atlantic salmon about right. He doesn’t discuss the Alaskan wild salmon fishery, which is AFAIK still doing fine. But that fishery cannot come close to satisfying the global demand for salmon. What we need is sustainable aquaculture that doesn’t deplete the fish protein stock with fish meal production, and the waters with excrement and other by-products of the current predator fish farming methods.
(…) But the fact is that, whether through DNA modification, artificial insemination, antibiotics or any other technique, high-tech aquaculture is the only way to save the planet’s marine life. The genetically modified salmon aren’t going to jump into the rivers and take over native ecosystems; they’re bred inland, in tanks; even if one engineered a Finding Nemo-style escape to the open ocean, it couldn’t do anything, since they’re all bred to be sterile. A lot of experts see no other way. “I think the wave of the future is land-based, recirculating self-cleaning systems,” says Martin Schreibman, a City University of New York biologist who studies aquaculture. “We still have issues, we still have problems, and they should be looked at very closely. The FDA is right to do that. But [aquaculture] is the only way to go,” he says. “We don’t have a choice anymore.”
(…) There’s nothing wrong with modifying food to make it easier for us to grow. There are no black Angus cows grazing in the wild; they’re the product of breeding for size, marbling and fast growth, not unlike the genetically modified salmon. If a farmed fish is bad for people, it needs to be banned until the problem is solved; but farming fish, in and of itself, is something that needs to be worked out — and soon. Eating the so-called “Frankenfish,” however scary it may sound, is a small price to pay for saving the world. And who knows? Some day it might even taste as good as its wild cousins.