Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Pew and the Post are hosting a live forum on GE fish tomorrow featuring the president of AQUA Bounty, among others. You can submit questions like:

Please explain how increasing salmon growth hormone production will have any effect except to exacerbate the problems inherent in aquaculture. As Pauly et al. wrote in Nature 418: 689-75:

Modern aquaculture practices are largely unsustainable: they consume natural resources at a high rate and, because of their intensity, they are extremely vulnerable to the pollution and disease outbreaks they induce. Thus, shrimp aquaculture ventures are in many cases operated as slash-and-burn operations, leaving devastated coastal habitats and human communities in their wake.

[M]uch of what is described as aquaculture, at least in Europe, North America and other parts of the developed world, consists of feedlot operations in which carnivorous fish (mainly salmon, but also various sea bass and other species) are fattened on a diet rich in fish meal and oil. The idea makes commercial sense, as the farmed fish fetch a much higher market price than the fish ground up for fish meal (even though they may consist of species that are consumed by people, such as herring, sardine or mackerels, forming the bulk of the pelagic fishes in Fig. 1). The point is that operations of this type, which are directed to wealthy consumers, use up much more fish flesh than they produce, and hence cannot replace capture fisheries, especially in developing countries, where very few can afford imported smoked salmon. Indeed, this form of aquaculture represents another source of pressure on wild fish populations.

Considering the additional evolutionary risks posed by transgenic fish (as discussed by Muir and Howard, PNAS 96: 13853-6), what rationale could there possibly be to commercialize this product?

[Don't send this question; I already sent it. That would constitute astroturf].

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