AquaBounty Technologies in Maynard, Massachusetts, announced last week that it has sold about 4.5 tonnes of GM salmon fillets to unnamed customers in Canada – where the authorities last year gave approval for the produce to be sold as food.
Aquabounty received regulatory approval from Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency last year, sold approximately five tons of fresh AquAdvantage® Salmon fillets at market price to customers in Canada.
The engineered Atlantic salmon are equipped with a growth hormone gene from chinook salmon that makes them grow much faster than standard salmon. A second added gene from the ocean pout accelerates growth by keeping the hormone gene on permanently. AquaBounty says the salmon grow twice as fast as typical salmon and consume 20 to 25 per cent less food per gram of new flesh.
In 1989, Dr. Garth Fletcher and his research team at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada discovered that a novel application of molecular genetics could significantly increase the growth of Atlantic salmon. By integrating a Chinook growth hormone gene into the genome of an Atlantic salmon, they discovered that they could reduce the time to market from three years to 18 months.
The second innovation in sustainable fish farming production is the development of land-based recirculating aquaculture systems, or RAS for short. While farming salmon in sea cages is less expensive and less technologically complex than a land-based farm, land-based salmon farming eliminates many of the environmental problems associated with net-pen farms. Sea cages are susceptible to a number of hazards such as violent storms, predators, harmful algal blooms, jellyfish attacks, fish escapes, and the transmission of pathogens and parasites from wild fish populations residing near the cages. All of these hazards can cause significant fish losses over the course of the 28-36-month production cycle.