How I Learned to Love Farmed Fish
September 21st, 2010
01:30 PM ET
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Chefs like Rick Moonen and Dennis Lange are deeply skeptical about the environmental and health benefits of genetically altered and modified food - and they're not tremendous fans of the flavor, either. columnist and James Beard Award-winning food writer Josh Ozersky is willing to make sacrifices for the sake of progress.

There's nothing wrong with modifying food to make it easier for us to grow. There are no black Angus cows grazing in the wild; they're the product of breeding for size, marbling and fast growth, not unlike the genetically modified salmon. If a farmed fish is bad for people, it needs to be banned until the problem is solved; but farming fish, in and of itself, is something that needs to be worked out — and soon. Eating the so-called "Frankenfish," however scary it may sound, is a small price to pay for saving the world.

Get the rest of Josh's story at

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Filed under: Environment • FDA • Fishing • Food Politics • GMO • News • Ocean • Sustainability

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. FoodStudies

    It's deceptive to sell fish farms as a safe way to raise fish and preserve the wild stock. Fish farms are host to their own set of problems. Breading fish in close quarters leads to the proliferation of sealice and a tremendous amount of waste that is, many time, released into the surrounding waters. Farmed fish don't consume the same wild feed as their natural relatives do, and often end up eating chemicals, dyes, and other questionable ingredients. Farmed fish also have the potential to escape into the wild, and breed with natural fish, causing a "genie out of the bottle" effect. We are better off looking for alternatives like preservation and limits on the amount of fish caught in the wild.

    December 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
  2. Vanilla Gorilla

    aside from the genetic gymnastics and playing DNA Wheel of Fortune with the salmon and other species – there are other more intrinsic considerations – the fish farms are less then ideal to raise anything that you would want to ingest
    they live, eat and grow in each others "crap" – day after day, week after week and it goes on
    the guy next to you drops a "load" and then you suck it in through your gills

    September 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  3. Mac

    These genetically modified things are fish farm fish. Fish farms generally feed fish or foods made from, guess what: FISH! The amount of sea fish used for feeding fish farms will eventually be greater than any quantity ever dreamed of being caught for human food-fish fishing. That will deprive larger fish including wild food fish of their prey. It will also starve whales, seals and other marine mammals. A lot of the funding for environmental attacks on small fishing boats come from investors in the fish farm business attempting to eliminate family fishing and leave the market to the corporate fish farms. That does not mean that the, generally honest, environmentalists necessarily understand this motive. When a few large corporations dominate the market there will be no choices of fish for you to debate. Then the corporations will have no reason to give money to environmentalists. They will give some of it to lawyers to avoid the very environmental laws they are promoting now.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  4. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    Support your commercial fisherman!

    September 22, 2010 at 11:34 am |
  5. The_Mick

    Personally, I love farmed Tilapia more than the more expensive Orange Roughy, Mahi Mahi, etc. When a local store has a sale of 4 lb of boneless filets for $10.99 I stock some in my freezer.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:15 am |
    • Vanilla Gorilla

      yo Mick – take a sample of the farmed Tilapia to an independent lab and get it analyzed
      they are one of natures garbage disposals and love to eat the other guys "droppings"

      September 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  6. Dee

    "Saving the world?" Are you kidding? No, saving the food corporations is more accurate. The same corporations who profit off of extreme animal cruelty. I'll pass on the farmed fish.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  7. Chris (DC)

    Josh, that has to be the dumbest argument ever. "Saving the World?" Are you serious? I need to contact Time and request a column of my own because clearly they are tossing one out to anyone. Mutating salmon has nothing to do with saving the world. We have seen similar BS ads by mega corporations trying to hock their grains. We already produce more then enough grains and meat to feed the world. We just don't have the desire to distribute it. How you like them apples?

    We produce more grain than necessary and the majority goes to feed beef cattle which in turn aren't going to feed the needy.

    So let's drop the cutesy BS PR spin about "feeding the world" and actually feed the world. We can and must do it with out ruining natural healthy animal and foods.

    Last question: How much are you getting from mega corporations to hock their goods?

    September 22, 2010 at 9:40 am |
  8. bailoutsos

    Pass on farm fish.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  9. Keldorama

    Actually, the fish aren't fed grains. They are fed pellets of other fish: mackerel, herring, sardines and the like. The effect is the same however – no omega-3's because salmon don't eat other fish in the wild. But the process results in a reduction of other fish-based proteins in the ocean, which in turn means less food for the fish that DO eat other fish. Instead of trying to provide more food, maybe we should be concentrating on ways to curb population growth. Because food isn't the only thing that will eventually be in short supply.

    I too am concerned about these mutants somehow escaping into the ocean and compromising the species. If the FDA is serious about approving this, there had better be very strict controls on the process, as well as regulations on food labeling. Because once this genie is out of the bottle, there's no way to put her back. The precedent will be set.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  10. Steven

    If the fish are fed grains, the omega acid profile of their meat is wrecked. Instead of beneficial omega-3's, you get the inflammatory omega-6's, already present in massive overabundance in the American diet.

    I make it a point to avoid farmed fish like the plague.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:03 pm |
    • Kabra

      Correct!! You might as well eat a burger, farm-raised Salmon is NOT healthy. In fact, grass-fed beef is much healthier, take a look at the fatty acid profile.

      September 21, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
  11. AK salmon girl

    I feel very lucky to live in AK and not have to deal with farmed fish. You would be left in the bush to freeze if you admitted to eating farmed fish here. Anyways, I would like to see the cancer report in 20yrs...interesting research.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
    • cmeyers

      Living in Alaska has its benefits all right. Fresh ocean caught fish is the best.

      September 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
  12. Dave

    I wish people would get their story straight. You want us to preserve nature, so we can't harvest the salmon in the ocean, so we farm fish, but that is bad too. OK, so you don't want us to eat fish, where does it end? No cows because that destroys the land, no crops, that destroys the forest. I guess that just leaves each other.....

    September 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • Randy

      And of course all these "excess" cows are the #1 contributor to AGIT (Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth) because they insist in cutting the cheese all the time.
      I'm sure we'll hear somehow that genetically improved salmon are melting the polar ice caps.
      You heard it here first!

      September 22, 2010 at 10:46 am |
  13. cliff

    bobby...this is about fish...not you liberal/socialists who are afraid of everything.
    I say...if you don't like it...don't eat it.
    Keep on the subject.....FISH.
    Try your local Long John Silvers...I'm sure you will enjoy their food.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
    • Popeye

      It's NOT about the fish. Its about the hormones the genetic altering has the fish bathed in. It's how these abnormally high concentrations of hormones affect humans.

      September 22, 2010 at 2:38 am |
    • Chris (DC)

      Nice deep thought Cliff. If you don't like (understand) a comment start screaming liberal/socialist. It is about the fish and health. We whine about health care costs, we whine about foods. If we stopped screwing with nature with mutated fish or mega factory farms we could save billions in health care. Oh, and before you scream -LIBERAL. I am a Republican. I am just tired of boneheads who listen to Fox while claiming to be Conservative. You are neither.

      September 22, 2010 at 9:46 am |
    • ma

      he's either a libetarian or repub., especially if he's worried about the 1st Amendment, which by the way, will always prevail regarding the freedom of speech. Just ask Larry Flynt.

      September 22, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  14. Retaining1

    Those eggs that you eat... did they come from naturally occurring free-range chickens? Or did they come from chickens that were genetically selected and bred for their egg laying ability? Did they eat the high protein meal that has some added nutrients and promotes egg laying? Did that scotch come from grains that have been modified by man through thousands of years of selective horticulture? Was it grown using organic fertilizer, or was the fertilizer a petroleum by-product? Did the farmer use pesticides?

    I agree that farm raised fish does NOT have the same taste and texture as wild caught fish. Commercially farm raised chicken and eggs don't have the same taste or appeal as free range. However, there is a PLACE for them in the food service industry. In order for you to eat wild salmon, there has to be wild salmon available at reasonable prices. Farm raised salmon replaces wild salmon for many people... not the food inclined purists... but for many people. It allows supplies of wild caught salmon to be abundant and reasonably priced for those who know the difference and willing to pay the slightly higher cost.

    If the farm raised, modified salmon is safe to eat and cost effective... then let it be. It will keep 80% of the masses happy and limit the depletion of wild caught salmon. My only concern is that the genetically modified salmon must be raised in PONDS! not in open pens in the ocean where they can escape into the wild.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Popeye

      The chickens are bred for certain traits not genetically altered like the salmon with genes from first another species of chicken and then another gene from a completely different animal to keep the first inserted gene working constantly. In the case of the salmon the gene for a growth hormone from a larger species of salmon is used along with another gene to keep this hormone in production at a high rate resulting in a fish growing twice as fast.
      What should concern everyone is amount of growth hormones in the flesh and how it interacts with human hormones. Like does it make our natural hormones turn off so you become dependent on this salmon for hormones. Or as the hormones in milk cows and beef stock and such, will the salmon hormones contribute to children going into puberty at a much too early age, stunting growth and other things.

      Its not the fish to be concerned with, its the hormone bath the genetics have altered that is the concern and how it interacts with humans.

      September 22, 2010 at 2:36 am |
      • Randy

        Your concern about hormones is straight out of watching too many 1950's B-movies.
        That's what we have the FDA for. If your concern about livestock growth hormones causing our children to grow into zombies were valid, we would have heard about it decades ago. I believe livestock growth hormones are engineered to only effect growth in specific species. If that premise is wrong, where is the scientific study that shows that it is wrong? I just don't believe it, and I don't believe there is any kind of grassy knoll coverup inside the FDA. Our country has enough turnover in political administrations, that one administration would "out" the previous administration to score political points. But we just haven't seen it, because there *is* no smoking gun.

        September 22, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  15. Allen Levine

    I love salomon, but have stopped buying it @ the fish market. The salmon that is sold at the fish market is farm raised; it costs 8 to 12 dollars a pound, depending on where you buy it. I did locate a fish market on York Ave, & 82 Street about (2) years ago which wanted $35 a pound for free roaming wild salmon. Go to Costco and the likes, they sell "wild" salmon. Read the label on the back and low and behold under ingredients it will say, 'food coloring added." What "wild" means is that these salmon are raised in the wild in cages; in other words, Farm Raised. So whats wrong with farm raised? These fish do not eat what their instincts tell them to eat, they eat what's given to them, they do not hunt for their food as they were intended to, they do not not live in the environment as they were intended to. How do I know this. Unknown to me I have eaten farm raised salomon. Every time I have, I take one or two bites, throw it in the garbage (where it belongs) cook some eggs,pour a scotch and mutter .......... and say never again! 38 years ago I saw the movie, Soylent Green (1973). It was a science fiction movie about and overpopulated world which was being fed by “Soylent Green,” tasteless green cubes which the government says are made of plankton. Well, it wasn't plankton! What it was I will not say, just in case someone has the oppurtunity to see the movie or the remake,if it is ever made. It becomes clearer and clearer that this movie is becoming more real every day.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
    • Randy

      So now we have 'free range' fish, like chickens, which are really still in cages, but probably have room to swim around in a 360 degree circle?
      I really don't care, as long as the result is healthy (disease free) and nutritious, and of course a reasonable price at the market.

      September 22, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  16. Matt

    I agree with bobby in part (he goes off the deep end toward the end regartding freedom of speech). He is absolutely correct about the GMO trend being about ownership. Big business is now trying to patent genes. Much like the fact that there is now a company that owns genes associated with breast cancer and can control all research and treatements invovlving those genes (thanks US patent office), this company that has developed this "super salmon" will own it. Unlike wild salmon, which belong to both nobody and everybody in a sense, these salmon will all be the intelectual property of this company. The company will have total control in how they are used and distributed and will get to charge licensing fees. The situation is already stupid with GMO crops. If a farmer buys GMO seed from a company, he has distinctly limitted rights regarding how he uses both the seed he buys, and any he produces as his crop. He MUST legally buy a new batch of seed every year. If he replants any of his crop, he is stealing and will be punished. That's a fact, look it up. These fish will work the same way. Also, what happens when these fish polute the natural environement with their genes. there are already super palnts growing wild all over rural America. Someday, someone will own the intellectual property of all the salmon in the sea.

    September 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
  17. bobby

    Hey guys, it's not about the taste. What is being done to us in the name of bigger or better taste or cost reduction is not relevant to the problem of creating something which is not natural and HAS BEEN PROVEN to alter whatever eats it to MODIFY THEM GENETICLY. Link to the research that's already been done and realize we are rolling the dice geneticly...just because we can, And for the sake of big business who's aim is to claim ownership of the food we eat... ALL the food we eat ! If you are not aware of what is going on ...make an effort to educate yourselves. Once we turn the corner on this stuff we won't be able to recall the damage. And damage has already been done repeatedly with the worst yet to come. The aim here is to control food, not improve anything. Just like the aim is to control all of earth's resources so business will have a free rein to charge whatever they want...and they want it ALL. That's the aim...that's the end. Government has no current plan to control this abuse and shows no signs of interest of ever doing so. There is already a massive effort also to control 1st amendment freedom of speech regarding GMO foods...that's right will be arrested for your opinion...Good Luck and remember you now have the facts and still have the right to act. It won't last long. Many countries have banned GMO foods for good cause. Those countries still have their freedom of speech.

    September 21, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • Dawn

      "AS BEEN PROVEN to alter whatever eats it to MODIFY THEM GENETICLY"

      Citations, please.

      September 21, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
      • Randy

        Yes, I'm pretty skeptical that swallowing something that has been genetically altered with alter *MY* genes too. Sounds highly improbable. We're talking about two completely different DNA strings because we're entirely different species. Furthermore, I've never heard that genetic engineering and then taking the result and 'incepting' in an embryo, will somehow creep through a stomach lining and corrupt the DNA of a live, developed being, even of the *same* species.
        Genetic manipulation or alteration just doesn't work that way. The only way live fully developed DNA gets altered is by destroying strands, such as through intense radiation exposure.
        The 'Frankinfish' term is a politically conceived scare tactic.

        September 22, 2010 at 10:31 am |
    • bailoutsos

      Pass on farmed fish.

      September 22, 2010 at 9:36 am |
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