I’m an advocate for eating salmon. It’s high in omega 3-fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and therefore promote good physical and mental health. Omega-3 fatty acids are hard to come by in most foods and salmon is a uniquely rich source of these health-promoting fats. I recommend that people try to eat salmon 1-2 times per week.
I also specify wild salmon over farmed salmon; farmed salmon is often labeled Atlantic salmon. Wild salmon is higher in omega-3 fatty acids and is not contaminated with carcinogens, such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) that lace the feed of farmed salmon. Wild salmon in not administered antibiotics, nor is wild salmon administered food dye to enhance it’s eye appeal. Wild salmon is naturally a rich pink-red color.
As good-for-you as salmon is, overfishing is a very real threat to regular consumption of all fish. If we all follow my advice to eat wild salmon 1-2 times per week, would there be enough salmon to go around? Perhaps not. Environmental problems and customer demand is threatening the bountifulness of salmon in our rivers and oceans. Genetically modified salmon may provide a solution to this problem, but is that the solution we want?
How do you feel about genetically modified salmon?
An AquAdvantage salmon behind a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling of the same age. From NPR.
The AquAdvantage variety of genetically modified salmon that is currently under review by the FDA is a fast growing salmon that could potentially put more salmon on our plates. While I am in favor of more salmon, I am not ready to embrace genetically modified salmon for both ethical and health reasons. I am not comfortable with messing with the genes of plants, let alone the genes of an animal. Nor am I convinced that we really understand the long term health implications of genetically modified foods. Additionally, genetically modified salmon would likely continue to be higher in dioxins, PCB’s and antibiotics compared to wild salmon.
Plus, this fast growing salmon will require more calories, and those calories will most likely come from genetically-modified soybean oil rather than fish oil. Remember that salmon are meat-eaters, which means their feed is a mix of fish meal and fish oil. Soybean oil is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, whereas fish oil is high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. When soybean oil displaces fish oil in salmon’s diet, this will lead to a reduction in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and an increase in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
This is a tricky situation.
What kind of salmon should we eat in order to safely consume this variety of fish without depleting this natural resource? Fortunately, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Environmental Defense Fund have resources to guide our salmon choices. Choose wild Alaskan salmon or canned wild salmon most often; wild salmon from California or Oregon are eco-friendly alternatives to Alaskan. Avoid farmed salmon and be aware that if approved by the FDA, we will be seeing genetically modified salmon in our grocery stores. And since food companies are not required to disclose to consumers when food contains genetically-modified ingredients, we likely won’t know if the farmed fish has been genetically modified.