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The cowardly way to sell salmon

AquaBounty sold its first batch of GM salmon but won't say to whom. And the wholesale buyers of the fish are hiding their identities as well, as are those who sold the fish to consumers. That's just cowardly.

AquaBounty and those companies that bought the salmon farmer's first batch of AquAdvantage GM salmon are acting like cowards.

Last week, AquaBounty said in its quarterly report that it sold its first batch of the controversial salmon to companies in Canada, but it declined to identify the buyers. And the companies that bought the fish aren’t screaming and shouting and making themselves known either.

AquaBounty records first sale of GM salmon

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And that, to me, makes them cowardly. And it might hamper market development of this fish.

It sends an odd message to the market that you would sell a product -- a pioneering product touted as equal to non-GM farmed salmon, a product AquaBounty extols as healthy and wholesome and safe to eat, a product that is legal to sell -- and then mask where it was sold and to whom. 

(Click to see our full coverage of GM salmon)

You would think that after 20 years of work getting the product to market, they would be overjoyed to announce the first sale.

Look, I understand why the companies chose this strategy. This fish carries a stigma as the first GM animal to be approved for sale in the United States and Canada. 

It has suffered years and years of misguided assaults from green groups, consumer groups, government officials and seafood industry leaders. In Canada, companies are not obligated to label the fish as genetically modified, so why invite more scrutiny and controversy, right?

The science says the fish is safe for the environment and safe for consumers, and you can either trust the science or not. I personally support the fish being sold in the marketplace, given consumers know what it is they are buying.

And that’s what bothers me about the current situation.

By conspiring to mask the wholesale buyers of this fish and not divulging where it entered the consumer market, AquaBounty and those involved appear reluctant and fearful of truly supporting the product -- and they are playing into the hands of critics, ensuring, more than likely, that labeling of the fish will take on new urgency with lawmakers and consumer advocates.

Just look at all of the news stories that have come out since we broke the news last week. Almost every one of them stresses that no one knows where the fish was sold -- 5 metric tons of GM fish – the first of its kind and a fish steeped in controversy -- unaccounted for.

I am probably wrong on this and the gamble will pay off for AquaBounty in the end, but I can't help but wonder if the foodservice operators or retailers who bought this fish were told it was the first-of-its-kind GM salmon. 

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe the price was just too good to pass up.

I am willing to bet, though, the consumers who bought the fish would want to know.


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