What GMO salmon could mean for the seafood industry

Dive Brief:

  • Genetically modified salmon have raised many questions by regulators, the food industry, and consumers over the years, and still no country has approved GMO salmon for commercial sales. One company in particular, AquaBounty Technologies, has been trying to get the FDA to sign off on their GMO salmon for nearly 20 years.
  • On the side of GMO salmon, the fish grows larger twice as fast as conventionally-farmed salmon, which could mean more salmon to feed more people at a faster rate. 
  • However, more often cited than the benefits are the risks associated with GMO salmon, particularly their effects on the environment and the wild salmon population should they escape their farms as well as potential health concerns for consumers.

Dive Insight:

One potential argument for GMO salmon is that as salmon is considered one of the healthier types of fish to consume, this could arguably be a help to the languishing food supply desperately needed by a surging global population. This is a common argument for genetically modified foods in general.

However, many others say the risks may be too great for GMO salmon to ever be commercialized, according to NPR. If any salmon were to escape from their pens — which GMO salmon farmers say would not likely happen due to stringent containment and sterilization methods — they could significantly impact the wild salmon population by breeding with them. GMO salmon could also permanently alter the habitat of wild salmon and other fish living in the same waters, particularly the rivers located near some of these GMO salmon containment areas.

Besides the global food supply and environmental concerns, whether the food industry would benefit from GMO salmon's commercialization is up for debate as well.

GMO salmon could also flood the seafood industry, as GMO produce and commodities, particularly crops like corn and soy, have already done for their respective markets. This could put a strain on fishermen and distributors of wild and traditionally farmed salmon who would be forced to compete with a product that can get to market faster.

However, some seafood producers, particularly those who already farm salmon, could see GMO salmon as a boon to their businesses as they quickly adopt the new species as a way to increase production and reduce time to market. This could grow the GMO salmon industry quickly in the U.S. should it receive regulatory approval.

Filed Under: Manufacturing Food Safety
Top image credit: Marlith