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Frankenfish

Even though it kind of makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit, I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t looking forward to eating a salmon hot dog. At least, that’s what I hear is something I can do this weekend.  That’s right, the Seafood Expo is coming to Boston this Sunday through Tuesday. Touted as being the “Largest Seafood Trade Show in North America”, the Seafood Expo hosts thousands of vendors from all over the world. Plebeians, chefs, and buyers come to rub elbows with experts in seafood marketing, processing, safety and sustainability. Talk about cerebral candy. As someone who not only works in the seafood industry but also has a personal interest in the topic, this event is one that I have been looking forward to for a while (I am or may not have weaseled myself a free ticket).

As a student at the University of New Hampshire, I studied EcoGastronomy – in human speak, that is the study of sustainable agriculture and food culture.  A huge part of the program consisted of staying up-to-date with current events in the food world; anything from droughts, to blights, to restaurant trends, veganism – you name it. Being the seafood freak that I am, one topic that has caught my eye over the past few months is the introduction of Genetically Modified fish into the global seafood market.

Genetically Modified fish have had their DNA altered to be faster growing, hardier, and less susceptible to changes in things such as temperature and water salinity. You can genetically modify anything nowadays – currently 90% of all corn and soy grown in the United States is genetically modified in some way. Ideally, these GMO fish are the perfect animal to farm for mass consumption. Supporters of this controversial topic believe that embracing the farming of GMO fish would feed more people at a lower economic and environmental cost. It would also alleviate pressure on depleted wild fish stocks; letting varieties that have nearly been hunted to extinction (ie. cod and wild salmon) to heal and thrive once again.  It really isn’t hard to see the benefits.

But, not everyone views Genetically Modified fish in such a positive light. Those who argue against the practice, call GMO fish “Franken Fish” – a disgusting creature assembled by godless scientists in lab coats. Other counter-arguments include genetic pollution in wild fish and health concerns in humans. Pick up the newspaper (or look online, gosh 2014)– I dare you not to find an article about controversial legislature on GMO policies.

I stand somewhere in the middle of the war zone that is the Great GMO Debate.

We still do not know all of the risks on human health and the environment that GMOs pose – this goes for GMO corn and soy too. WE, you and I, are the first generation, the guinea pigs of GMO testing. Yet, how else do we enable wild stocks to rebound if we are not willing to consume less, or find an alternative source of seafood?

Will the world become a place where the fishermen become fish farmers? I have no clue, and I am not saying that is how it should be. Just letting the ol’ mind wander. This is not a problem that rests solely on the shoulders of us New Englanders, but on the shoulders of the whole world.  If you eat fish, know a fisherman, or even think dolphins are super cute – you have a personal investment in the health of the oceans’ ecosystems. You are also responsible for finding a solution. And solutions are just the thing I hope to find at the Seafood Expo in Boston. That, and a salmon hot dog.

 

★ Michelle Wong is the newest member of the ICO sales team. She worked on the farm for many years before returning to ICO after she finished college. ★