Franken-fish one step closer to dinner plates
February 22, 2011
No decision has been announced yet by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) following hearings held last September on whether genetically modified (GM) salmon should be the first animal approved for human consumption. But FDA approvals of three other GM foods offer a clue to the agency’s thinking. Over the past three it has approved three GM foods: alfalfa; a breed of corn grown for conversion into ethanol; and sugar beets.
Next up could be GM salmon made by Massachusetts- based AquaBounty Technologies. The fish creators splice an anti-freeze gene from an ocean pout into the growth gene of a Chinook salmon, and then transplant the combo- gene into the fertilized eggs of an Atlantic salmon. The result is an AquaAdvantage fish that grows up to 30 times faster than normal. The company has been awaiting approval from the FDA for over a decade.
If Frankenfish gets the go ahead, American salmon lovers won’t know if they are buying the real deal or a retooled imitation. Because GM salmon is categorized as a “veterinary procedure,” the FDA requires no labeling to alert consumers that the food had been genetically tweaked.
AquaBounty argued in FDA hearings against labeling because “it would make those fish appear to be 'different' than other wild or farm raised salmon, and would play to the fears of some people about ingesting such products.”
According to a recent CBS/New York Times poll, 87 per cent said they believed GM foods were unsafe, and they would not knowingly buy them.
“At a time when American consumers say food safety is their number one concern, I think this is outrageous,” said Alaska Senator Mark Begich. Both Senators Begich and Murkowski have introduced legislation to try and stop ‘frankenfish’ from getting to US markets, and to require labeling should it ever get approved.
New fish positions
Sen. Mark Begich took the lead seat for fisheries oversight in the U.S. Senate. Begich last week was named chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, a part of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. In addition to fisheries and other ocean-related issues, the subcommittee oversees the National Weather Service.
Jeff Regnart is the new director of the Division of Commercial Fisheries, replacing John Hilsinger who retired in December. The division manages commercial, subsistence and personal-use fisheries throughout the state. Since 2003 Regnart has been regional supervisor for the Central region, which covers management and research activities in Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound. Regnart began his career with ADF&G as a wildlife technician in 1984.
Trident Seafoods took top honors at the Symphony of Seafood competition, where winners in three categories were announced last weekend in Anchorage.
For 18 years the Symphony has showcased new seafood products that are first judged by an expert panel, and then enjoyed by all comers at gala tasting events in Seattle and Alaska. The contest this year attracted 15 diverse entries and 400 seafood lovers to a ‘gala soiree’ at the Hilton ballroom.
Trident won the Grand Prize for its Wild Alaska Smoked Sockeye Salmon Peppered, which also took first place in the smoked products category. Orca Bay Seafoods won at retail with its Sockeye Salmon with Tuscan Herb Sauce. Taking first place in the food service category was CrisPanko Alaska Pollock Mini Sliders by Trident Seafoods.
As usual, small companies kept pace with the big guys. Wayne Carpenter of Delta Junction, for example, won the People’s Choice award for his Candy Smoke salmon. The Crabby Sisters of Kodiak took a third place in the retail category with their gluten free, Alaskan king crab cakes.
“It’s all how the product is received by the people and the judges, and they are pretty objective,” said Jim Browning, director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, which hosts the popular event. “Coming in as a Trident product or a Crabby Sisters product makes no difference to them. They evaluate it on taste and consistency and packaging and all of that.”
Next up is a sampling of all the new seafood products in Juneau on March 8. Adding the Capitol City to the lineup is a way to help raise the profile of Alaska’s seafood industry, especially among policy makers.
“We want to make more people aware that there is something other than oil and gas that is making the economy of Alaska strong,” Browning said.
All Symphony winners receive a trip to the International Boston Seafood show in March. At the Anchorage event a ‘skipper emeritus’ award was presented to Al Burch of Kodiak for his 33 years serving on the AFDF board. Fishing veteran Ken Simpson received a ‘green’ award for replacing all hydraulic fluids on his vessel with vegetable oil supplied by Cordova businesses. www.symphonyofseafood.com
Fish flavors - If baby food makers won’t do it,* perhaps the ice cream industry will lead the charge to get more fish into the mouths of American children. Ice cream with seafood chunks has become popular in Japan, where the Kagawa fishery cooperative has been selling it for nearly ten years. It’s available in six flavors – yellowtail flounder, baby sardine, seaweed, octopus, crab and shrimp.
According to the Japan Times, the makers have developed a way to remove as much of the fishy smell as possible, while keeping the delicious flavors. Although some tend to think of it as a joke product, the sellers take their ice cream very seriously. They said they developed the product because more children and young women are shifting away from a healthful fish diet. Seafood ice cream is one way to draw them back. The ice cream is currently being sold at some airports, highway parking lots, and resorts. The Kagawa fishery co-op also sells its ice cream by mail.
People in Taiwan have also gotten a taste for seafood ice cream. For about a dollar a scoop you can select from thirteen flavors- including strawberry tuna, wasabi cuttlefish and pineapple shrimp. The savory ice cream, which comes in stark colors like orange, green and black, is topped with sprinkles of dried fish, roe or chopped squid. The novel dessert was created three years ago by a woman named Liny Hsueh. She is expanding to a second outlet and adding scallops as the newest flavor to her seafood ice cream line up, which she sells under the brand name ‘Doctor Ice’. Codfish creamsicles or surimi ice cream sandwiches anyone??
This year marks the 21th year for this weekly column that focuses on Alaska’s seafood industry. It began in 1991 in the Anchorage Daily News, and now appears in over 20 newspapers and web sites. A daily spin off – Fish Radio – airs weekdays on 30 radio stations in Alaska. My goal is to make all people aware of the economic, social and cultural importance of Alaska’s fishing industry to our state, the nation and the world.