Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Another Year, Another Battle...

It's January 2nd, we survived the New Year, the holidays, and even the event that threatened to spoil our celebration of the winter solstice - the Mayan Apocalypse. Now that it's over, I look out my window on a chilled landscape that gets even more chilling with each Facebook post I read or article I scan on the news web sites. The end-of-the-world fantasy is gone, but the real one feels like it's creeping up on us just as if we lived in this gray ice-fog every day of the year. Extinctions are increasing exponentially around the globe, Arctic and Antarctic sea ice is disappearing at an accelerating rate, giant storms, floods and drought are ravaging the planet with increasing frequency, and what are we doing as a race? The same old act: shooting each other; arguing; looking the other way; praying; making shit up to be afraid of. 

 It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things that seem to be going wrong when you sit back and reflect on the state of the world and what a mess mankind is making of it, but I really believe that is counterproductive. How can I look my son in the eye and say, "It's too late. Your baby girl doesn't have a chance." I can't. I refuse to believe we will allow ourselves to sail into that bleak future. And the fact of the matter is that we cast off the lines on that voyage long ago. But we can still change course, turn off the autopilot that is steering us into the maelstrom and hand-steer ourselves to smoother, cleaner waters. That is what I have to believe: that abundant, unpolluted waters are still achieveable. But in order to get there we need more hands to be willing to take the wheel, and we need to remain committed to that course. That is why I will continue to rail at the insanity that plays out in the halls of our government, even if it's only on my Facebook posts or in emails to my congressmen. But here? On a blog about fishing and family? Yes, here too. One issue at a time.


I'm no expert on genetic modification of food, but I did harvest a food product (salmon) for 20 years in Alaska (from 1977-97). The threat of farmed fish damaging the gene pool if they should escape their pens has been well-documented over the years. Farmed fish were a big hit when they first began showing up on the international market - they were beautiful (no scars or net marks that come from living in the wild or being caught by fishermen). They were available fresh any time of year, not just during the salmon seasons. And they were cheaper. Before we knew it, fish farmed in Norway and Chile (farms were banned in Alaska) had taken a third of the fresh market out of the hands of the fishermen. Alarming as it was, fishermen unions and some processors took a while to respond with marketing efforts of their own. Wild salmon isn't fed food supplements, has better muscle tone from not living in pens, and doesn't need the food coloring added to the meat like farmed. That message, simple as it was, took years to get out. All of which helped to label farmed fish as an unhealthy food to feed your family. Ironically, the US FDA won't label wild salmon as "organic" because they can't document what they eat out in the oceans while they are maturing - a four-year process in most salmon species. Instead, the farmed fish can get that label, depending on where their enhancement drugs originated. Look here for documentation: The GMO Salmon Struggle

BUT the corporations involved in producing farmed salmon, and one in particular, AquaBounty, have recently taken it a step further - to genetically modify farmed fish to GROW faster. This presents a whole litany of new problems, also documented in the attached article. Just one, that a GMO fish has a voracious appetite, presents a problem for survival in the wild where food sources fluctuate dramatically. If the wild population is contaminated by such a modification, they entire species gets pushed closer to the edge if food sources decline. In other words, they could run out of gas quicker. 

The entire idea of playing with these kinds of enhancements seems ludicrous to me. Why take the risk? Once a GMO fish escapes and breeds into the wild population you can't unring that bell. It's just one among many ideas that are pelting the commercial fisheries around the country (and world) and putting them in jeopardy. Ocean acidification is another major concern (more on that later), and the Pebble Mine (a copper strip mine) proposed at the headwaters of the largest salmon producing rivers in the world (Bristol Bay, Alaska) is another. Makes me glad I'm not making my living on the water anymore, but infuriates me just the same because many people I love still do. One of those folks summed it up well when he said, "They only have to win once to do their damage. We have to win every time." True enough. But I like to think that with each victory the fog seems to lift a little.

If you'd like to join in and tell the FDA not to do this or donate to that cause, go here: Food Democracy Now: No Frankenfish!


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