18 Apr 2013: Opinion

As Final U.S. Decision Nears,
A Lively Debate on GM Salmon

In an online debate for Yale Environment 360, Elliot Entis, whose company has created a genetically modified salmon that may soon be for sale in the U.S., discusses the environmental and health impacts of this controversial technology with author Paul Greenberg, a critic of GM fish.

Few businessmen would relish promoting a product dubbed the “Frankenfish,” but the challenge does not seem to daunt Elliot Entis, co-founder and former CEO of a company, AquaBounty Technologies, that is on the verge of selling a rapidly growing, genetically altered farmed salmon. The company’s AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon — modified with a gene that enables it to reach harvesting weight in half the time of a regular salmon — received preliminary approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last December. A public comment period ends April 26, after which the fish could win final FDA approval and become the first transgenic animal product ever sold as food in the U.S.

Genetically Modified Fish Debate
Paul Greenberg, left, and Elliot Entis
To explore the environmental and human health impacts of the AquAdvantage salmon, author Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food and an outspoken critic of GM salmon, invited Entis to engage in a written online debate for Yale Environment 360. Entis, who has spent two decades and raised roughly $50 million to bring his fish to market, readily agreed:

Paul Greenberg: It’s always exciting when we see some law of nature that can be tweaked with human know-how, some hidden efficiency that can be added to make a system better. And I’ve certainly written over the years about the importance of reforming aquaculture to have more efficient systems. But I have to admit I don’t really see the point of a genetically modified salmon at this time. The non-modified salmon industry has greatly improved its feed efficiency. You’ve often made the point that traditional salmon farmers grow their crops in sea cages that pollute the marine environment and that we’d be better off farming in tanks on land. You’ve further argued that only a modified fish would meet the costs of growing fish on land because of its added efficiency.

Meanwhile several growers seemed to have figured out containment-growing of fish closely related to the Atlantic salmon without tampering with genes. Your colleague Per Heggelund at Sweet Spring in Washington State says he can grow a coho salmon in containment in nine months. If we have these possibilities, even if the risks are low for the Aqua Bounty Technologies (ABT) salmon, why even introduce it into the food system?

Finally, a point that is overlooked is that in this country we have abundant wild salmon in Alaska, two-thirds of which we send abroad. We seem to be sending all our wild fish abroad and then importing farmed fish in their place. Your fish would further supplant American use of American wild fish.

Elliot Entis: Paul, I have to disagree with you here on several points. While strides are being made to grow salmon in land-based facilities, it is far from proven to be economically feasible. And though the industry has made great improvements in feed efficiency, the amount of fish to produce one pound of salmon is still about 2 pounds, and growth rates are much lower than you might believe. Because of these remaining hurdles, unfortunately, two of Per’s recirculation plants are now closed, bankrupt mainly due to an inability to meet the projected production of 3-kilogram fish in 12 months.

So while hopes for indoor systems grow, it is apparent that greater economic efficiencies are needed. These efficiencies can be created by economies of scale, more efficient feeds, and more efficient fish, e.g., the AquaBounty salmon. Not only have eight generations been raised in an indoor facility with a now-proven growth rate, the latest third-party analyses of the AquAdvantage salmon’s sustainability shows that these fish
‘These fish can efficiently utilize a much higher percentage of plant protein in their feed than others,’ says Entis.
consume 25 percent less feed than their standard Atlantic Salmon brethren to achieve the same growth, and even better, they are able to efficiently utilize a much higher percentage of plant protein in their feed than the others. In a recently concluded trial, plant protein was substituted for 50 percent of the fish meal in the industry diet and the result was that the AquAdvantage salmon not only tolerated this, but grew more quickly than any of the standard salmon and still retained the same nutrient content. In sum, the amount of fish needed to grow one pound of AquAdvantage Atlantics is reduced from the industry standard of about 2 pounds to roughly one pound.

As for the risks from the AquAdvantage salmon, what are they?

Studies conducted by independent researchers in the U.S., Canada, and Australia have come to the conclusion that even the release of fertile AquAdvantage Salmon would pose virtually no risk to the ocean environment. Fast-growing AquAdvantage salmon are not suited to life in the wild, and all indications are that they would rapidly disappear in the event of an ocean release. The AquAdvantage salmon is truly the “disadvantaged” salmon when it comes to going out to the wild waters of the ocean.

Now, if you still don’t see the point of using transgenic technology, then I assume you just don’t like the technology because you don’t like the technology.

Greenberg: If the AquaBounty fish is safe for consumption, if it poses, in your opinion, very few risks, why then the resistance to labeling the AquaBounty salmon as being the product of genetic modification? Why not call a GE [genetically engineered] fish a GE fish on its labeling?

Entis: I want to put in a good word for labeling. I am now — and have been on written record for 20 years — in favor of labeling foods produced with the help of modern biotech. And based on my conversations with its management, AquaBounty continues to favor labeling, with the caveat that labeling is supported as a voluntary marketing tool, not as a skull and crossbones warning, which is what the opponents of biotechnology want. I want to follow in the footsteps of the organic farming associations that also developed their labeling plans as a marketing tool. So I propose that the food industry develop a consistent, informative, and accurate label for all foods developed with the help of modern methods of hybridization, a label that indicates the health and environmental benefits of these foods.

We have an obligation to make aquaculture as efficient, as sustainable, as possible. Given that it is now proven that we can significantly reduce the feed inputs, particularly the fish-based portion, as well as the time and other scarce resources required to raise Atlantic salmon by using biotechnology-based hybridization, do you still object to its use? That is the real question in our conversation.

Greenberg: To your main points about improved efficiency of ANY species, be it Atlantic salmon or coho or tilapia. Yes, obviously it would be better to have more efficient, less impactful animals for our food. But it’s also clear to me that the diet of the future is going to contain less animal protein. It simply makes more sense. The loss of energy that happens when you feed an animal and then eat that animal, instead of what you’re feeding it, will not be economically acceptable in a few more decades, even if animals are more efficient. Greater efficiency is a distraction from the
‘Greater efficiency is a distraction from the problem of our over-reliance on animal protein,’ says Greenberg.
larger problem of humans and our unsustainable over-reliance on animal protein.

I’m reminded of something told to me by the writer Anna Lappé (daughter of France Moor Lappé, who wrote Diet for a Small Planet). Anna’s essential issue with GE crops, be they salmon or corn or pigs, was the open-ended way they formulate our response to population growth. If we continue to bend the rules of nature so that we can provide more and more food for an open-ended expansion of humans on the planet, something eventually will have to give. Would you like to live in a world of 15 billion people? 20 billion? I would not. And while it’s possible you will label my response as New Age-ish, I feel that GE food distracts us from the real question of the carrying capacity of the planet.

Entis: Paul, you cannot with credibility applaud and encourage increasing the efficiencies of aquaculture through the use of indoor systems as you have often done, while simultaneously disparaging efficiencies if they come from better understanding of fish genetics. While consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, I think that in the context of this discussion it has some merit. And while I understand and share your concern for the potential degradation of our habitat and our lifestyles if population growth is unchecked, it is not clear to me that you have set forth a coherent message. It seems that personally you want to be able to continue to eat meat protein, but not have it so available that everyone can afford to have it.

AquaBounty Genetically Modified Salmon
Aqua Bounty Farms
An AquAdvantage salmon, top, compared with a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling of the same age.
Greenberg: Honestly speaking, I don’t believe that making a faster-growing salmon, already a luxury product for 99 percent of the world, will mean that people in South Sudan will suddenly be feasting upon lox and bagels every Sunday. To my mind it’s really about improving profit margins for AquaBounty, which markets to the West and hopes to sell to the West.

While we’re on the subject of costs and marketing, could you set the record straight on how much funding you’ve received to date? How does it compare to other areas of aquaculture research? I ask because while perhaps the investment was small, there is the potential of a huge payoff for you and one with which I take issue.

Entis: This discussion is not just about AquaBounty’s salmon, it is about the acceptance and use of a technology that can help all of us attain goals we hold in common, like producing more food with less use of scarce resources, be it water, fish meal, or land that could be left wild. And focusing only on AquaBounty’s use of this technology, perhaps you will be pleased to know that it has successfully been applied to tilapia, a fish that subsists on vegetable matter and makes up much of the meat diet of poorer countries. A variation of the technology has also been used in China so that carp, a diet mainstay in Asia, can be produced more quickly with less feed.

As for economics, it is a matter of public record that AquaBounty raised about $30 million [net] on the London stock exchange in 2006, and $7
‘We have gotten by with few dollars and bad PR, but pretty good science,’ says Entis.
million more through 2012. Prior to 2006 the company raised about $25 million. All of this is private capital, of course, and over the course of 20-plus years, not very much money. I would love to have been the head of a company with serious resources, but the fact is that we have gotten by with few dollars and bad PR, but pretty good science.

Now about the “huge payoff” that you object to. Why? It seems that you object to a company making a profit if they develop a faster-growing, more sustainable fish hybrid, but not if they develop a better facility in which to grow it. To quote your earlier writing: “Let the fittest, most closed system survive and reap the economic benefit inherent within that victory.” Since you appear to be pleased if a high-tech plumbing company gets a huge payoff but not a biotech company, I assume you are not an anti-capitalist, just an anti-biotech capitalist.

Greenberg: I’ve actually heard rumors from some of your critics that getting approval for inland farming of the fish is just the first step. Are there forces within AquaBounty that would indeed like to put the AquAdvantage fish in net pens and farm them in the sea, with all the damaging effects we’ve discussed?

Entis: Paul, I can say with assurance that the idea of putting AquAdvantage salmon in ocean net pens has never been discussed or considered by the company. Regulatory approvals for the long foreseeable future will, I am certain, be available only for land-based systems. And that is as it should be. While we are on the subject of critics, there are two kinds: those who begin with a reasonable understanding of the science and have made AquaBounty prove that its products are safe, and those who simply make up baseless charges and promulgate myths. Unfortunately, we have far more of the latter. I am all for mythmaking, but mostly in the form of Arthurian legends.

Greenberg: One criticism I’ve often heard of the AquAdvantage fish is that underlying this more efficient animal is a bid to privatize the Atlantic
‘Others would rather take a longer range view and wait and see if the technology is truly safe,’ says Greenberg.
salmon itself. Just as farmers of corn and soy are caught in a relationship with the large seed companies where they must purchase seed from a handful of firms that own the genetic material of their seed, isn’t it true that should the AquAdvantage fish come to be grown in the United States won’t you then have something of a monopoly?

Entis: Aren’t the salmon raised by farmers already “privatized,” as are all agriculture products? And as far as having a U.S. monopoly, I think you are putting too little faith in the powers of competition and diversity of taste. While I do believe AquAdvantage salmon present noteworthy economic and environmental advantages to users, I also have no doubt that as soon as that becomes commercially apparent, there will be others with equally inventive technologies that will lead to additional improvements in fish farming genetics. I am sure you do know that currently the U.S. does not have a salmon farming industry: We import 97 percent of our farm-raised salmon, so anything we can do to change that paradigm and help create a domestic industry will be a boon to our economy and a plus for our workforce.

Your broader comment about farmers being forced to buy seeds from a few companies is off the mark: No one forces farmers to buy seeds from Monsanto, DuPont, or any other company that sells them. I give more credit to farmers than you seem to — they buy these seeds because they are more productive. If it were not the case, the farmers would certainly go elsewhere, and many do, including, of course, organic farmers. There are always commercial choices in seed buying.

What I really believe you are referencing is the fact that seeds from these companies are patented. If your objection is to U.S. patent law, you should take a broader view and not assume it is genetic engineering that is differentially protected to the exclusion and detriment of more traditional seed and plant producers. At last count, there were thousands of seed and plant patents issued since the first one in 1930, and only recently have they been protective of GMO seeds and plants. Without patent protection there would be no AquAdvantage salmon, and few or any genetically modified plants. But there would also be no Burpee’s Big Boy tomatoes, no Celebrity Golden Boy and Viva Italia vegetables. The fact is that without patent protection there is little incentive to invest the enormous amount of time and money needed to make significant crop improvements, either the old fashioned way or especially by using the newer methods that are expensive, but capable of greater improvements in shorter amounts of time.

Greenberg: But what about the fact that traditional growers who may not want to farm with modified stock will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. That they may in fact be obliged to buy salmon juveniles exclusively from AquaBounty. Is that ethical? Is that good for the world?

Entis: I am confused by your raising the question of ethics. Are you really suggesting that improving a product so that people will prefer it is
‘No fish has undergone as much testing and analysis as the AquaAdvantage salmon,’ says Entis.
unethical because people with an inferior product will be disadvantaged? Is that what you would have written when the first Model T rolled off the line and the horse and buggy industry cried foul? Your "ethical" objection can be raised against any new invention or product. Do I hope salmon farmers will buy the AquAdvantage eggs? Of course, and then the farmers, consumers, and the environment will benefit. I think that is pretty ethical.

Greenberg: I suppose it depends on what your definition of an “inferior product” would be. I know you have absolute faith in the safety of your salmon, but others would rather take a longer range view and wait and see if it is truly safe. DDT and PCBs were once considered “safe” in the general marketplace. We only saw their profound impact on the environment decades later.

Entis: Paul how long is the long range? Ten years? A hundred? This argument is the refuge of those who would prefer that this fish and any product of biotechnology never see the commercial light of day.

Very little in our world is perfectly knowable, but over the years I believe that the systems for judging knowable risk have improved in quality and comprehensiveness. I also know that analysis of DDT, PCBs, and other chemical agents used in the past did not undergo 15 or more years of safety research, as has the AquaBounty salmon. I can also point out with no fear of contradiction that no fish has undergone as much testing and analysis as the AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon.

So, Paul after our lengthy and perhaps discursive conversation, has any of this allowed you to see things a little differently?

Greenberg: I think the points you make are often valid and I do see some validity in a genetically engineered, more efficient fish, if indeed AquaBounty’s true and stated goal is to end net-cage aquaculture and get
‘I stand opposed to modified salmon until the industry can enforce standards to keep them out of the sea,’ says Greenberg.
fish farms out of the sea. But I don’t believe that will happen. I think that somewhere along the line someone will realize that they can make even more money growing genetically modified fish in the open ocean. Maybe it won’t be AquaBounty. Maybe it will be one of your future American competitors. Maybe it will be a competitor in a place like China, where environmental safeguards are much less stringent. And since modified salmon will be cheaper, there will be more demand and then more salmon farms in the ocean. The load and burden on the environment will increase, not decrease.

So I respectfully say that I stand opposed to modified salmon until the industry can on an international basis agree and enforce standards that keep modified fish out of the sea.

POSTED ON 18 Apr 2013 IN Business & Innovation Oceans Policy & Politics Science & Technology Sustainability Urbanization North America North America 


I don't approve of this genetic modification becoming public. I have to wonder what the KOSHER community thinks about this. Since there are eel genes then it would be not kosher even though we generally consider salmon to be a basic kosher fish. However there is a trepidation in the kosher community that is not being addressed openly enough regarding other genetically modified foods or products including corn and soy products that would again be considered to be KOSHER by nature of their basics. However if a food contains insecticide that is a part of the makeup of the DNA of the genes of this revised corn then it might very well have to be considered defiled and products, even corn flakes or oat meal or soy based products would have to be banned from the KOSHER food section.

If animals are being fed these products then they also should be considered defiled. Without knowing what is going on it is hard to distinguish, as a buyer, what to accept or not accept. As corporate entities that might very well employ Jewish, if not Kosher Jewish scientists then it becomes difficult since well intentioned workers are at risk of losing their jobs and of their labs losing their funding and other matters such as pharmaceuticals are involved that might save lives…

Posted by Karl S Schwartz on 18 Apr 2013

The issue of whether a gene from an unkosher animal, if inserted into an otherwise kosheranimal or fish changes its status has been decided by the leading rabbinic authorities and scholars for quite a while: genes in themselves do not change the kosher status of an animal, it is the traits as defined in the Torah and as analyzed by rabbis for generations that are the basis for deciding kashrut. In the United States, for example, the Orthodox Union (the “Union”), a leading kosher authority, has ruled that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) do not violate kosher or kashrut. It asserts that since genes are microscopic, they are therefore botul, or nullified, in the new plant or animal.

As one kosher certifier in Baltimore put it, “The bottom line is, if it looks like a tomato and smells like a tomato, it is a tomato and may be eaten.” In Israel both Chief Rabbis have also concurred that DNA itself (the stuff of genes) is neither kosher no non-kosher. It is the traits that count.

Looking at this from another perspective, all animals share many of the same genes. Among fish, an ocean pout – which is not kosher – and a salmon which of course is kosher – have about 80 percent of their genes in common. If genes were the deciding issue then either both fish would be kosher or both unkosher. This argument also goes for pigs and cattle which also have over 85 percent of their genes in common.

Posted by Elliot Entis on 18 Apr 2013

It is hard to take Mr. Entis seriously at all as he tries to conflate GMO's with hybridization. They are drastically different. Also, we are finding that many vegetable hybrids (those countless patented seeds Entis refers to) don't grow as well as heirloom seeds when matched to their specific areas of origin.

No food should be patented and no one should be afraid to buy food at the local supermarket.

75 percent of the American public polled says "Go AWAY!"

Posted by paul cunningham on 18 Apr 2013

Greenberg's closing statement is telling. To paraphrase: Even if none of my original grounds for opposing GM fish turned out to be based on fact (or even self-consistent) someone somewhere might someday do something that DOES cause problems, so I maintain my opposition.

@Karl - Are these meant to be serious objections? An agricultural product should not be approved because some tribal elders 2500 years ago issued decrees about what foods were OK for the tribe members to eat?

Incidentally, since the salmon has scales it's kosher, no? If a rabbi wants to make a fuss, that's his followers' problem. Not mine.

Posted by Foster Boondoggle on 18 Apr 2013

"AquaBounty continues to favor labeling, with the caveat that labeling is supported as a voluntary marketing tool, not as a skull and crossbones warning, which is what the opponents of biotechnology want."

No one is asking for skull and crossbones labeling. PEOPLE simply want their food clearly labeled so they can choose to eat what they wish to eat and not eat what they do not wish to eat. PERIOD!

It is the BIOTECH COMPANIES that fear the labeling. It is the BIOTECH companies that believe labeling at all will have a "skull and crossbones" EFFECT. That is not the fault of the consumer. The CONSUMER has a right to know what they are eating and feeding to their families.

Posted by Amy Peters on 18 Apr 2013

I'm not so sure Paul Greenberg was the appropriate person to debate the FrankenSalmon issue. At best, it appears he provided all his questions beforehand giving ample time for Elliot Entis to formulate well-thought responses. It's difficult to believe Entis responded in real time.

At worst, this entire conversation was a farce dreamt up perhaps by Entis to put a happy face on a Frankenfish. Greenberg asks questions that seem designed to elicit responses that can best be described as PR worthy.

Here are some questions a "real" critic of GMO food products should be asking.

1) How much testing on humans has been done by independent laboratories? Well over 20 years has been spent developing these fish. Over what time frame were the tests on human consumption conducted? For example, what harmful effects could occur on a diet of Frankenfish for ten years? 20 years? Where can we find those results?

2) Which is correct? AquaBounty or AquAdvantage? For the rest of the questions, I'll use both interchangeably for the same thing.

3) If the AquaBounty fish is safe for consumption, where are the test results by independent researchers showing this?

4) You stated, "Studies conducted by independent researchers in the U.S., Canada, and Australia have come to the conclusion that even the release of fertile AquAdvantage Salmon would pose virtually no risk to the ocean environment." Anybody can make bold statements like this when they don't have to back them up. Point us to the studies by these independent researchers with names, how they were funded, written results with how they jumped to their conclusions, etc.

5) You said, "I am ... in favor of labeling foods produced with the help of modern biotech. And ... AquaBounty continues to favor labeling." Being so in favor of labeling, how much money did you or Aquabounty contribute to California's Proposition 37, the Right-to-Know proposition which would have required GMO labeling of foods sold in California? How much did you or Aquabounty contribute to the "No on Prop 37" campaign? Are you or AquaBounty members of the Biotech Industry Organization that contributed to the "No on Prop 37" campaign?

6) You also said that you support GMO labeling "with the caveat that labeling is supported as a voluntary marketing tool." I could argue that it is currently voluntary, yet I see no GMO products labeled as such. Wouldn't you agree that the voluntary requisite is just not working and hasn't worked for nearly 20 years? It appears to me GE companies want GMOs to remain hidden.

7) You concluded your thought saying you are against "a skull and crossbones warning, which is what the opponents of biotechnology want." Where did you get your "skull and crossbones" description of the warning the Right-to-Know people want? I believe I have the right to know what I am buying, what I am eating, and what I am feeding my family, my children. After all, we know how much fat content, how many calories, whether peanuts were used, whether HFCS or PHVOs are ingredients. None of those carry skull and crossbones. Why do you use that description? Is it to induce your readers into thinking that the Right-to-Know people are over the top? Are you trying to get them on your side by cutting down your opponents instead of meeting them head on?

And I haven't even got through half the article yet!!

Posted by Don Cherf on 18 Apr 2013

"Your broader comment about farmers being forced to buy seeds from a few companies is off the mark: No one forces farmers to buy seeds from Monsanto, DuPont, or any other company that sells them. I give more credit to farmers than you seem to — they buy these seeds because they are more productive. If it were not the case, the farmers would certainly go elsewhere, and many do, including, of course, organic farmers. There are always commercial choices in seed buying."

This is NOT off the mark. Farmers ARE Being forced to buy seeds from Monsanto! Framers are being sued for purchasing seed from grain elevators, not even knowing that some of those seeds are 2nd generation Monsanto-patented GMO seeds (it is legal for the elevator operator to sell them). But when they plant them and they are tested to contain Monsanto's patented genes, they are sued. AND they are not allowed to save their own seed. That is what is happening here in the US. GMO seeds are NOT more productive. They have failed to produce better yields and the promise of having to use less herbicide and pesticide was a pipe dream, and in fact has proven the opposite. We now are fighting superweeds as a result and
crops require MORE herbicide, not less.

In India, famers are committing suicide because of crop failure of Monsanto's Bt cotton, year after year they fail, and when they TRY to purchase CONVENTIONAL seed from the suppliers, they are told there AREN'T ANY to be had. Well documented in the film Bitter Seeds: http://www.itvs.org/films/bitter-seeds

Posted by Amy Peters on 18 Apr 2013

What makes anyone think that genetically modified foods of any kind can be good for the human body? Please label any and all foods that are GM. The consumer does have the right to know and also has the choice NOT to buy it and not to eat it!

Posted by Jill Guyot on 18 Apr 2013

Though a waste of my valuable time, I again ask what research FDA has conducted to ascertain whether or not this particular modified salmon is safe to eat? I don't mean reading research done by the company that produces it. I refer to independent research. If FDA has conducted none, then it is in no position to approve the genetically modified salmon. Thus, no approval.

Posted by Jean Westler on 18 Apr 2013

This is a very nice discussion.

Given the morphological lesions induced by mandatory triploidy ( ulcerative jaw lesions, gill/fin anomalies, aberrant red blood cells, and unexplained inflammatory lesions), I don't believe this animal does not suffer from insertional mutagenesis. I also don't believe it doesn't contain elevated levels of IGF1, given the underpowered sample sizes and the wide normal ranges in salmon. On the other hand, there already exists a faster growing salmon, which requires 25 percent less feed. http://aquaticcommons.org/2596/1/WF_2455.pdf

So, like Mr. Greenberg, I don't see any redeeming qualities of this new animal, or as the FDA sees it this new "animal- drug".

Posted by Ena Valikov on 18 Apr 2013

Mr. Entis - I was on the fence before I started reading and confess that I am still a little undecided, but agree that Mr. Greenberg was not successful in bringing me over to his side. Questions remain, but following Mr. Greenberg’s logic – we would all be using rotary phones tethered to a wall via a curly cord that my mother used to use in the 1970’s and I certainly wouldn’t be responding via an iPad right now. I look forward to more debate. Thank you both.

Posted by Jason Bahr on 19 Apr 2013

Wisconsin Judge Partick J.Fiedler rulled " no, plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to Produce and consume the foods of your choice". Three weeks later he quits and joins a law firm that represents Monsanto. Now Wisconsin's department of Ag is spending ten of thousands of dollars in a week long jury trial to prosecute a Amish farmer for misdemeanor license violations. You see, he dared to provide raw dairy directly to people in his private food club. Monsanto makes riBGH growth hormones and the conventional dairy industry is a billion dollar industry. Now for another connection to labeling and GE foods. Fluid milk sales I'd down nation wide so the answer is of course to put aspartame in it, without labeling requirements. ****

We all need to engage on a grass roots level within our communities. We need local food sovereignty laws. And we need to not be bullied by our own government when we opt out of the commercial food supply system. Feeding our selves is a basic human right. To choose what we eat is a constitutional right. But these rights are being methodically eroded with rulings like Feidler's. Don't let the precedent be set. Go to Vernonhershberger.com to see how you can help.

Posted by Gayle Loiselle on 19 Apr 2013

Understanding how genetic engineering is done, and particularly how this Aquabounty salmon has been engineered, it boggles my mind why all this fuss about GM food. People forget (or haven't the slightest idea) that we have thousands of tested dangerous and NON-TESTED chemical additives in our daily food and cosmetics. All this anti-GM crowd should go demo in front of grocery stores, or more directly to the food and cosmetics industries that use the additives. Concerning the GM salmon in particular, I will be really happy having it to eat (raw as sashimi, my preferred) than NONE as might happen if present practices of catching or culturing remain as they are. And that obviously applies to seafood (food?) in general.

Posted by Luiz Ozaki on 19 Apr 2013

I don't approve of GE anything when it comes to food. It's not safe and in fact incredibly harmful. Why do you think even health professionals tell you to stay away from processed foods? They are BAD for you. Well virtually all processed foods are GE. So what now we disguise the bad under a cloak of "fresh" food? It's disgusting. They should all be sued for poisoning not only humans and animals, but the environment. There isn't one thing that anyone can say that can convince me otherwise.

Posted by on 19 Apr 2013

I think Mr Entis' arguments are quite sound. 100 years from now, people will look back and think, what was all the fuss about? No new genes, just a gene from one edible fish inserted into another, which increases the efficiency of feed conversion. Intact proteins are not taken up from the gut in any case.

Demonizing GMO foods has sucked the wind (and the sense) out of the environmental movement. I think of it as an unintended diversionary tactic: While environmentalists exert so much effort against GMO foods far more important issues, like contamination by lead, mercury, and cadmium or hormone-mimicking chemicals released into the environment (BPA is just the tip of the iceberg) get a free ride. It is a matter of priorities, and also a matter of scientific honesty.

Posted by Roger Faulkner on 19 Apr 2013

STOPPPP! Enough is enough! Quit engineering our food. Agriculture should be agriculture and animals should be their untainted selves. The facts that the genetically engineering process has gotten so far in such a short amount of time without strict regulations and check and balances is incredibly disturbing. If the mass of American society was aware of the health and environmental implications that comes with these modifications they would side with Europe and other countries that ban this crap on their soil.

Come on folks, all we're asking for is the food your grandmother use to feed you, that is not a lot. Its simple food attained by growing, nurturing and harvesting natural seed. Now fish? Next pig engineered with cow for more bacon? Then what? These decisions come at a consequence. Stand up, speak out and be heard.

Posted by Entity Sterrett on 20 Apr 2013

I agree with those skeptical of a product that has received no independent testing, and is simultaneously and aggressively presented for approval under a system that requires no labeling in the stores. Why has there been no testing of AquaBounty salmon by the FDA in the US, or in Europe, where testing has produced evidence of harm to lab animal organ health as a result of consuming other GE products?

Posted by Michael G. on 20 Apr 2013

Dear sirs, dear colleagues,

How many times must we repeat this: "Say no to GMO!" Join us, please, everyone is welcome. Thank you.

NGO Eco Center "Charles Darwin"
PO Box 34, Novi Vinodolski 52150

Posted by NIJAZ DELEUT KEMO on 21 Apr 2013

This was just released regarding salmon, science, scientists, business and government, the ability of biological agents to create unintended consequences. Outcomes we cannot control easily, if at all.


If farmers everywhere can buy the eggs, the eggs will be subject to uncontrolled and highly varying conditions. This alone guarantees a mutability and release into perhaps vulnerable natural conditions.

The FDA is not the correct agency to be evaluating this biological entity. It has ability to go far beyond the human species in its impact.

Posted by Kathryn Papp on 22 Apr 2013

I am a salmon farmer. I have been for 30 years or more. My stocks are bred on our farms and we intend to continue doing this. For anyone to suggest that the idea of GMO and patenting genes is just subject to the usual competition in the marketplace is disingenuous at best. It is disinformation of the worst kind. Patenting genes has already produced a situation where farmers are being sued for using one seed or unable to get an alternative. Monsanto's practices have meant that those who wish to choose non'GM often cannot. These are not debatable issues, they are facts. I speak as one who has fought this battle.

If these developments are for the betterment of mankind as Mr Entis' tone suggests then there is a simple solution.

All GM patents should be owned by government and bought by government. The inventor/developer should be given a license to operate but the potential should be controlled by government. The principle being that experiments with life should be controlled by those whose children and great grand children will see the effects.

GM is dangerous for the future but it is also the key to total control of our food by multinational enormous companies that have no accountability.

We have to fight for control of this technology just as we should for all other technologies that threaten our future.

Posted by Nick Joy on 24 Apr 2013

There was more info in the comments than in the debate. Support local fishermen, eat wild salmon.

Posted by andy stock on 24 Apr 2013

Sure, eat wild salmon if that is your preference. But irrational fears of some, or even a majority, of the public should not prevent a product from coming to market.

I work for a major food aid org and the food deficits we are facing in the coming decades are frightening. I used to be opposed to GMO until I let go of the fear, did some research and recognized the immorality of preventing the development of techniques and products that will help us feed the world. Too many go to bed hungry every night.

Posted by george on 03 May 2013

I am going to avoid both arguments here and just state that any and all genetically modified food needs to be labeled in such a fashion as to state that it has been done and so in a way to scare but to inform the general public. It needs to not understate or overstate the fact.

Are cigarette labels to harsh? Don't they state a fact?

I am not saying these products are in the same category as a cigarette but the label gets the point across in a short and simple fashion.

Unfortunately, with over 7 billion people on the planet and more on the way, that is a lot of mouths to feed.

I simply want the choice.

Posted by Patrik Curtis on 03 May 2013

Greenberg - captain of the softball team.
Posted by Charles on 03 Dec 2013


Comments are moderated and will be reviewed before they are posted to ensure they are on topic, relevant, and not abusive. They may be edited for length and clarity. By filling out this form, you give Yale Environment 360 permission to publish this comment.

Email address 
Please type the text shown in the graphic.



Are Trees Sentient Beings?
Certainly, Says German Forester

In his bestselling book, The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben argues that to save the world’s forests we must first recognize that trees are “wonderful beings” with innate adaptability, intelligence, and the capacity to communicate with — and heal — other trees.

How Climate Change Could Jam
The World's Ocean Circulation

Scientists are closely monitoring a key current in the North Atlantic to see if rising sea temperatures and increased freshwater from melting ice are altering the “ocean conveyor belt” — a vast oceanic stream that plays a major role in the global climate system.

Exploring How and Why
Trees ‘Talk’ to Each Other

Ecologist Suzanne Simard has shown how trees use a network of soil fungi to communicate their needs and aid neighboring plants. Now she’s warning that threats like clear-cutting and climate change could disrupt these critical networks.

Science in the Wild: The Legacy
Of the U.S. National Park System

As the National Park Service marks its centennial this year, the parks are being celebrated for their natural beauty and priceless recreational opportunities. But the parks also provide a less recognized benefit: they serve as a living laboratory for critical scientific research.

At 1,066 Feet Above Rainforest,
A View of the Changing Amazon

A steel structure in the Amazon, taller than the Eiffel Tower, will soon begin monitoring the atmosphere above the world’s largest tropical forest, providing an international team of scientists with key insights into how this vital region may be affected by global warming.


MORE IN Opinion

Why U.S. Coal Industry and
Its Jobs Are Not Coming Back

by james van nostrand
President-elect Donald J. Trump has vowed to revive U.S. coal production and bring back thousands of jobs. But it’s basic economics and international concern about climate change that have crushed the American coal industry, not environmental regulations.

How the Attack on Science Is
Becoming a Global Contagion

by christian schwägerl
Assaults on the science behind climate change research and conservation policies are spreading from the U.S. to Europe and beyond. If this wave of “post-fact” thinking triumphs, the world will face a future dominated by pure ideology.

Why We Need a Carbon Tax,
And Why It Won’t Be Enough

by bill mckibben
Putting a price on carbon is an idea whose time has come, with even Big Oil signaling it may drop its long-standing opposition to a carbon tax. But the question is, has it come too late?

Floating Solar: A Win-Win for
Drought-Stricken Lakes in U.S.

by philip warburg
Floating solar panel arrays are increasingly being deployed in places as diverse as Brazil and Japan. One prime spot for these “floatovoltaic” projects could be the sunbaked U.S. Southwest, where they could produce clean energy and prevent evaporation in major man-made reservoirs.

Point/Counterpoint: Should
Green Critics Reassess Ethanol?

by timothy e. wirth and c. boyden gray
Former U.S. Senator Timothy Wirth and former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray argue that environmental criticisms of corn ethanol are unwarranted and that the amount in gasoline should be increased. In rebuttal, economist C. Ford Runge counters that any revisionist view of ethanol ignores its negative impacts on the environment and the food supply.

The Case Against More Ethanol:
It's Simply Bad for Environment

by c. ford runge
The revisionist effort to increase the percentage of ethanol blended with U.S. gasoline continues to ignore the major environmental impacts of growing corn for fuel and how it inevitably leads to higher prices for this staple food crop. It remains a bad idea whose time has passed.

How Satellites and Big Data
Can Help to Save the Oceans

by douglas mccauley
With new marine protected areas and an emerging U.N. treaty, global ocean conservation efforts are on the verge of a major advance. But to enforce these ambitious initiatives, new satellite-based technologies and newly available online data must be harnessed.

Why Supreme Court’s Action
Creates Opportunity on Climate

by david victor
The U.S. Supreme Court order blocking the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan may have a silver lining: It provides an opportunity for the U.S. to show other nations it has a flexible, multi-faceted approach to cutting emissions.

With Court Action, Obama’s
Climate Policies in Jeopardy

by michael b. gerrard
The U.S. Supreme Court order blocking President Obama’s plan to cut emissions from coal-burning power plants is an unprecedented step and one of the most environmentally harmful decisions ever made by the nation’s highest court.

Beyond the Oregon Protests:
The Search for Common Ground

by nancy langston
Thrust into the spotlight by a group of anti-government militants as a place of confrontation, the Malheur wildlife refuge is actually a highly successful example of a new collaboration in the West between local residents and the federal government.

e360 digest
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies


Donate to Yale Environment 360
Yale Environment 360 Newsletter



About e360
Submission Guidelines

E360 en Español

Universia partnership
Yale Environment 360 articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia, the online educational network.
Visit the site.


e360 Digest
Video Reports


Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology


Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
Middle East
North America

e360 VIDEO

A look at how acidifying oceans could threaten the Dungeness crab, one of the most valuable fisheries on the U.S. West Coast.
Watch the video.


The latest
from Yale
Environment 360
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile.


An aerial view of why Europe’s per capita carbon emissions are less than 50 percent of those in the U.S.
View the photos.

e360 VIDEO

An indigenous tribe’s deadly fight to save its ancestral land in the Amazon rainforest from logging.
Learn more.

e360 VIDEO

Food waste
An e360 video series looks at the staggering amount of food wasted in the U.S. – a problem with major human and environmental costs.
Watch the video.

e360 VIDEO

Choco rainforest Cacao
Residents of the Chocó Rainforest in Ecuador are choosing to plant cacao over logging in an effort to slow deforestation.
Watch the video.

e360 VIDEO

Tribal people and ranchers join together to stop a project that would haul coal across their Montana land.
Watch the video.