Elliot Entis is the CEO of Aqua Bounty Technologies in Massachusettes.


What is A/F Protein?

A/F is the original company. It stands for Anti-Freeze. It's the anti-freeze protein gene that we use. The company really started with anti-freeze proteins as a product by themselves, which come from fish.

Who's pioneering Aqua Bounty or A/F Protein?

Now, it's Aqua Bounty. The two companies split. There's an AF company now that does protein products and there is an Aqua Bounty Farms. Scientists actually work in common.

What is the primary protein modification that A/F Protein has pioneered in salmon?

It's a relatively simple genetic alteration. What we've done is taken one portion from one gene from another edible fish. In this case a portion of a gene is normally used to produce a product called anti-freeze proteins in fish. We've matched that up with a salmon's growth hormone gene, and we've gotten salmon to produce their own growth hormone, essentially, under the control of this gene promoter from another fish.

The question is why would we bother, salmon already produce plenty of growth hormone on their own. The twist here is that we've gotten salmon to produce growth hormone at a different time of the year than would otherwise be the case, and in a different organ of the body. Essentially, all we've done is moved the location of production of growth hormone from the pituitary to include now the liver as well and to have it produced all year round. Other than that the salmon is identical in all respects, and we can honestly say that the salmon only produce as a product or proteins or hormones that are already being produced by every other Atlantic salmon.

In that sense, it's less of a total change than it is more like tuning up your car. We haven't changed the engine but we've gotten it to produce more mile per gallon. In this case, instead of getting the equivalent of 10 miles to the gallon we now get 40 miles to the gallon. Because we already know and we've measured it that we actually don't have any more growth hormones circulating through the salmon's body than was already there before. It's just being used much more efficiently than previous.

In wild salmon, growth shuts down during the winter but with your salmon, growth continues throughout the year?

Yes, that's an interesting thing. Wild fish are very finely tuned to survive otherwise they wouldn't be here. And salmon as well as a lot of other fish in the North Atlantic simply stop growing in the when food is scarce and the need is there to preserve themselves against the cold water. If a fish such as a salmon were trying to grow in the wintertime then it would be using up more energy than it could essentially get from it's environment. So, it shuts down.

Now in our case, what we've done is manage to produce I guess what would be called the equivalent of cows because they now need to be kept in, fed, warmed, otherwise they wouldn't survive. If these fish were to escape into the wild, what I believe that we'd see is a very low rate of survival, based on the fact that they do continue to grow year round, which is not a good survival factor if you're a salmon.

Could you comment again about how your salmon's year round growth makes them less fit for survival?

In the wild, salmon normally do not grow in the wintertime. It's a survival factor not to produce hormones and not to continue to grow when the water's particularly cold as it is in the wintertime. Our salmon by contrast actually do grow year round as we produce or reproduce a growth hormone on a continual basis. That's not a very good survival factor. In fact, nature has clearly chosen against fish that attempt to grow in the North Atlantic in the wintertime. Our fish are counter to that survival. What that really means is that if these fish do manage to escape, their capacity for survival is going to be much lower than the other fish that are in the wild. They're not good wild fish.

Is this true of the Pacific Ocean as well?

There is some good information about that. The information that we're aware of which has been collected over the years by a number of research organizations, including National Marine Fishery Services point out that Atlantic salmon in general do not survive in the West Coast. In fact from the 1930's to the 1960's, there was a program in which literally millions upon millions of Atlantic salmon were released into the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to bolster that stock.

The end result was that they didn't survive. In fact there was virtually no Atlantic salmon whatsoever in the wild in the Pacific, despite countless attempts to have them reproduce. So what happens if you have a genetically modified, as we call it an advanced hybrid salmon, that has a lower survival factor than Atlantic to begin with? What are the odds that they would survive in the Pacific and I'd have to say that the odds don't favor it very well at all.

Is faster growth the subject matter of this interview in terms of your salmon?

We've now done a number of studies and had a number of studies done on our behalf by research organizations that will ultimately be reporting to the Food and Drug Administration. And we're aware now of the fact that our salmon do not differ from other Atlantic salmon in any material aspect that we can determine. Hormone balance, nutritional value, taste and color - they are all part of salmon. A salmon is a salmon is a salmon in this case and the fact that they grow a little bit quicker is an advantage, but we don't sacrifice other attributes for that advantage.

What's the advantage of faster growth?

There are tremendous advantages to having a faster growing fish if you're in the farming business. These advantages are spread across the board. It's an advantage for the producer, there's an advantage for the consumer and what's not focused on enough is that there are advantages for the environment. For the producer, we basically have a situation now where you can produce twice as many fish in the same time period because we've cut the harvest time in half. So that means a farmer with enough acreage or water acreage in this case to produce one thousand pounds of fish in a cycle, can now produce two thousand pounds and I think the economics are fairly clear from that.

It's going to be much more inexpensive to produce the fish and there's a higher profit margin, and interestingly enough there's also what we find a better food conversion ratio. What that means is that the fish actually eat less to put on more weight. So all of these are economic advantages. In a capitalist society as we have of course, some of those advantages will get translated down to the consumer in the form of lower prices. As demand increases, normally the price would go up. But in this case the ability to harvest much more fish at a lower cost per pound is going to allow more consumers around the world to eat these fish. For the environment, the advantages are perhaps even greater than those just for the consumer and for the producer.

Right now, salmon farming is increasing at somewhere between 10 and 12 percent per year compounded annually and it's projected to continue at some kind of rate that is in that ballpark for the next 20 or 30 years. What that means is in order to produce these fish in order to meet people's protein needs, we're either going to have to use up more coastal land, more space, create more effluent (?) than we have before. Or, we'd have to learn how to be more productive. And being more productive is what we think will give an advantage. Number one, it means that you can do two things. Either produce more fish on the same amount of coastal land that you have today, or as the economics are more favorable change a lot of salmon farming into inland facilities, which is simply going to eliminate many of the problems we see with the environment.

Even while we have outdoor salmon farming in the coastal areas, the fact that these fish eat less to put on more weight means that they are more sustainable. And that's tremendous goal that all of us have. Sustainability is a key issue on the planet as the population continues to grow. The other advantage is that were just asking to grow sterile, all female stocks. What this does is eliminate the problem, which is constantly being talked about by environmentalists today of gene introgression. Or what happens when a fertile salmon escapes into the wild and mates with the wild stocks-does it change the genetic balance out there? Whether or not you think that's an issue, if you have a sterile fish escaping, you know that has to be much more favorable than if you have all fertile fish.

How does a fish grow larger without eating as much?

Yes, I think that's a large part of it. Salmon farmers have always noted the fact that the fastest growing fish have a tendency to eat less and are the most efficient food converters. Presumably, even though their metabolisms are faster, a certain percentage of food that you take in is just used to support your bodily functions. If your bodily functions are only occurring over 18 months as opposed to 36 months there's that much food you didn't have to eat to keep your body going for the extra year and a half. You're going to wind up with a better food conversion ratio.

Where is the industry, in terms of moving out of ocean net cages to land-based containment?

I've been convinced for years that the long-term industry has to move towards land-based farming. I think that's a necessity not just because of the environmental reasons although that's going to be a critical component. But, also for the security of those people who are growing salmon. Today you might find that its much more inexpensive to grow salmon on coastal land in any given year, but the next year, you might loose all of those fish to escape or to disease or an uncontrolled change in temperature of the seawater.

I think that in the long run any responsible and mature industry is going to want to be able know how much it's going to be able to harvest at the end of the day. What's the predictive factor? And is it worth paying several cents a pound more to have that predicative factor as opposed to not knowing whether or not you'll have a crop at all. In the long run, the industry has to move in that direction and for environmental reasons, because as we know there are more and more strictures on where you can place your net pens. There's more public awareness of some of the issues and problems caused by salmon farming.

I see our technology as a platform technology. It lowers the cost enough so that it provides an incentive and a platform to enable salmon farmers to make that switch a little bit more quickly towards land-based farming. Will our technology meet the rational and reason for people to start using land based farming? No, but I do think it allows them to make that choice more easily.

When do you guys begin to make a profit -- do you need to wait for land-based farming?

No, I think that our product will start to be used both in ocean net pens as well as in land-based facilities. As I've said before, I believe that we offer a safer alternative to the present methods of producing salmon in ocean net pens, due to the fact that these will be sterile fish and due to the fact that they have survival values and they eat less. There are advantages even in the short run. We will start to commercialize this product where we can, where it's legally permissible, where we've passed all of the regulatory hurdles. In the interim, also work toward more of the land based facilities. It's a combination.

What are the concerns surrounding the possible escapes of GM fish?

e of the great concerns today among environmentalists regarding salmon farming is what happens to the wild stock when salmon escape? They do escape. Each year there are several hundred thousand fish that go from net pens back into the wild. People have taken a look at this and ask the question, "Is this helping to diminish the wild stock?" On the theory that domesticated salmon are bred for domestic purposes and aren't as fit to survive in the wild. Therefore, when they do escape, and they do create offspring with the wild stocks, they will be genetically less fit to survive. That's been an ongoing question, and so what we've done is sort of taken the bull by the horns, or maybe the fish by the fins if you will... and we've said look - let's only have all sterile genetically modified fish.

Why the triploid process?

We've taken a position that we want the fish that we raise, or will be raised, that are advanced hybrids to be sterile. We think this resolves a problem in the industry. Where fish that escape have a tendency to mate with the wild stocks and it's controversial but perhaps they help to diminish those wild stocks. Today there's a well-known process called 'triploiding' in which fish eggs can be made sterile and the resulting fish never sexually mature. Salmon farmers do not use it. The reason salmon farmers don't, primarily, is that it slows down the growth rate. As a result, there's an economic disincentive to use this technology despite the fact many organizations, like the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, have attempted to get salmon farmers to use it for many years.

Now, we come along and we say, look, we have a fish that grows significantly faster, in fact double the rate at which salmon apparently grow. Even though our salmon, when they are made sterile, may grow slightly more slowly as we do know. They have made up so much of the difference in growth rate that you can now afford to have an all-sterile population out there and not sacrifice the economics. So there's a benefit here to the farmer who will face less opposition who will still have a fast growth rate and certainly to the environment in which if salmon do escape they will in fact be sterile.

Some scientists think there cannot be 100% sterility. Can you address that issue?

There have been a number of studies done about triploiding and it's effectiveness. It's been done in grass carp, in trout as well as in salmon. If done properly, we know for a fact that it can be 100 percent. We've experimented with many different techniques to induce the sterility. Triploiding can in fact be 100 percent effective. The question isn't however, whether it will always be 100 percent effective. But the question is with proper quality assurance and quality control can we maintain it at such a level that it will be as close as humanly possible to 100 percent.

We do believe that that's going to be the case. In fact, in our application for approval in the United States and as well as in other countries, we will be putting in quality control quality assurance mechanisms, so that testing will be done on a significant sample from each egg batch that's let go. So we will always know what the essential rate of sterility is. Now in our hands to date, we have done a number of experiments in which we've optimized the process, and I have to tell you that the results have been 100 percent successful. Moreover, there's a history of work that's been done in Canada on this very problem and the results over many years and many thousands of experiments in the hands of researchers whose controls we are using currently, has been that they've been 100 percent successful as well-literally to many thousands of fish.

We believe that it can be done. There's another broader question here. The broader question is what happens if one individual salmon for example out of 100,000 does escape and is in fact fertile. We have to take a risk benefit approach to this. Today we know if that if 100,000 fish escape we know that they will all be fertile. If 100,000 advanced hybrids escape aqua advantage fish and the possibilities exists that one or two might be fertile, which is better? Which has the risk benefit? Where do we tip the balance? Now we know from historical evidence taking a look at what's happened to salmon escaping the past, that for every 100,000 fish that escape roughly 6 and only 6 ultimately come back to be able to make successfully great offspring.

Now if you have a 99% success rate with tripoiding, to have one fish come back and be successful at mating will require the escape of millions of fish. So, we've lowered the probability of fish coming back having a genetic introgression or genetic mating with wild stocks and helping decrease those wild stocks. If you add to that factor the fact that our fish are less likely to survive in the wild due to that one change we've made in them, then I think that we've taken this to the point of a very highly unlikely scenario. So measuring, we have benefits. We have more fish in less space at lower cost to human beings, providing more food for people.

We have a better food conversion ratio, which means that the fish are more sustainable. We'll have less impact more directly on the environment. Those are the benefits. We have a risk. There's a very slight risk that a very small number of fish could escape and could be fertile, and could have a localized impact. Geneticists have studied this problem about what impact genetically modified products have had on the environment. To date, we have seen that there's been virtually no impact in any area of the world for any of the genetically modified crops and other products that are in use today.

If you think about it, what we are attempting to do here is to create a benefit for people that is a faster growing fish. This is not particularly a benefit for the fish in terms of its survivability in the wild. In fact, if you think about it some more, the fact that we can confer a characteristic on a fish which is random in terms of the fish's survival, what are the odds that that will help it survive? I think the odds are very poor because we're not doing it to allow it to survive in a niche which nature has created for it for eons and for which it knows how to survive. All of the historical evidence and all the studies show the opposite to be the case. Any change produced by man in a beast or in a fruit, or in a vegetable, has a tendency not to improve its survivability in the wild, but to make it less fit and then needs to be cultured. And that we believe is the case with our salmon as well.

What is your view of the "Trojan Gene Scenario?"

Dr. Bill More has produced a hypothesis that says that if an advanced hybrid fish has better success at mating or whose progeny are less likely to survive, it will create an effect somewhat like a death spiral in an airplane over a number of generations and that the total number of fish in the wild will decrease ultimately linked to possibly even extinction. The hypothesis is based largely on that increased attractiveness of the male fish to the female fish so that you have an increase in mating success, over the normal wild population.

That in turn is based upon larger size because size is a predominant attribute that the female looks at, perhaps in other species as well. In this case however, we have 12 years of history, 6 generations of salmon, and many, many thousands of fish, to be able to answer the question, do our fish grow larger, are they bigger at sexual maturity? The answer is unequivocally, no. In our hands, and in everything that we've done the indication is that at sexual maturity, our fish are no larger than other salmon that are currently being raised. So we have no reason to believe that there's any particular attribute, which would allow these fish to have a more attractive mating pattern.

If you take a look at Bill's work, you also see that a number of other factors have come into play, and his theories have become much more sophisticated over time. And the curves that Bill draws, in terms of the likelihood of the Trojan Gene effect occurring, indicate that there are a number of factors all of which have to come together in order for the Trojan Gene theory to work. As you factor more and more independent variables into the equation and as our fish don't seem to meet those, the indications are that the Trojan Gene hypothesis has very little, in fact, to do with our fish.

Are your fish larger at sexual maturity, and does the onset of sexual maturity come sooner with your fish?

No, at the onset of sexual maturity our fish are not larger. Our fish have growth patterns in which they grow very, very rapidly for the first year. In fact they grow five, six, seven, even eight times faster than other salmon. However that growth rate increase starts to slow down over time so that ultimately when they do reach sexual maturity they haven't gotten any larger. That early spurt is what we're relying on mostly for the advantage.

Do they reach sexual maturity earlier than other fish? It's very possible that they will on average become sexually mature in two years instead of three years. But it's a little difficult to tell only because salmon normally become sexually mature at two year, three year, or even four or five-year intervals depending upon the sub-strain of fish. So that's a little bit confusing. All I can tell you is that at sexual maturity, our fish are somewhere in the 4 to 5 kilo range which is an optimal market size, and they don't seem to be a lot larger than that. If your fish reach sexual maturity early, then we're back to the chance that a fertile modified fish would have a better chance of reproducing before predation.

That actually overlooks a simple fact. Salmon are unlike a lot of fish species. They actually reproduce and reach sexual maturity at widely variable ages. In fact, taking a look at the biology of salmon what you find is that there are a lot of what they call "sneakers" or fish that are precocious and sexually mature literally at several months. A year old, 12 months, 14, 16 months. These fish, of course, you'd think would have a greater chance of successful mating than other fish. It's not a simple cut and dried formula. We find that salmon sexually mature at 12 months and 14 months are constantly out in the ocean as well as salmon that don't mature until 5 years. So I don't think that that's going to wind up being a factor. I think that our fish in general tend to mature at that 2 and 3 year old level which is not significantly different from a lot of fish out there.

What percentage of the breeding population do the "sneaker" males represent?

I don't know. That varies by area. In Newfoundland, where we have a lot of our original genetic stock for some of our advanced hybrid work, there's a very high percentage of sneakers, because there is a genetic advantage when you're living in Newfoundland to maturing very quickly, very early, and reproducing. I suspect that as you go further south that there's less of the percentage of the population that does that.

Triploiding may not be 100%.

We do not claim a 100% risk free environment in anything we as human beings do. This is not going to be the first 100% risk free project technology or application of human mentality to our surroundings. If you want to a risk free environment, I suggest not getting out of bed.

What kinds of safeguards are you advocating?

We believe it's going to be our responsibility to test all of the eggs before they leave our plant. Whatever it is that we wind up selling and passing along to the grower farmers. In that regard, we will institute quality control and quality assurance to be as close to 100% successful in sterility as is humanly possible. However, if one asks for absolute 100% assurance, meaning testing every last animal, we run into a commercially impractical difficulty.

When you're talking about millions upon millions of fish and eggs, which is what the case is today, then to screen every last one of them is both something that's not done in any other industry nor is it possible to do in this context. It would cost too much and make it prohibitive. We really have to decide ourselves. Are we in a risk benefit position here and are we weighing risks versus benefits and then coming to a conclusion? Or, are we going to be using a different principle? For instance, a principle that says that there are no risks that are tolerable. Remember, if we use the 'no risks are tolerable' assumption, then for any further progress we have to question to ourselves. What are the risks of doing nothing? Because in fact, we will in fact wind up doing nothing.

Does the rapid growth rate predispose genetically modified salmon to more predation?

There have been several studies done, not just by us, which indicate the low survival value of these fish in the wild. One of the studies which was most interesting was to take a group of young genetically modified or advanced hybrid fish and put them in front of a predator, and next to them put a control group separated by a screen of standard Atlantic salmon. Then in the background for each place a predator. What we found was that the control group of salmon all fled, as is normal for them to do, and our fish kept on eating. Presumably at that young tender age when they are growing so rapidly they have such a high caloric intake need that they simply override their fear of predation. And the result of it is that they were decimated. So there's another indication that our fish are simply not good survivors. They may be fast growers, but they are not real smart.

Given all the hurdles, when do you think your product will start being farmed?

'When are we able to commercialize these fish' is really a question for the regulators as much as it is for us. We've submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration; we're submitting more, the process will be ongoing throughout the rest of this year. We are hopeful that we will be able to start commercializing the product sometime next year. However commercialization does not mean it will reach anybody's dinner table necessarily in the next year or two, because salmon do still take a couple of years to grow. So if our plans are realized, sometime in 2004, we'll start to distribute eggs to a select number of approved locations. They will then begin to grow those fish and so that sometime around the end of 2005 to the end of 2006, a few of these fish will perhaps start to make their appearance in super markets and other locations.

Could you tell me a little more about the approved locations?

I think that originally, they will be mostly net cage operations because that's where the industry is. So, I don't think there will be any choice. I suspect that it's more likely to be on the East Coast than clearly on the West Coast. It might be other countries as well as in Canada and the United States. We'll just have to wait and see. We'll have federal approval at that point, and then we'll have just to find out what conditions will have to be met by the local farm in order for them to be certified to grow the fish.

What are the hurdles with the FDA?

The Food and Drug Administration have a long history of regulating what they call animal drugs. Our fish are being regulated as if they were 'an animal drug'. What that really means is that we have to meet the gold standard. We have to meet the hardest, highest hurdle that we have ever developed for approval of a particular product. In our case, it means that we have to prove that these fish are safe for human food use, which means we have to know about their nutritional value about the hormonal balances, about the proteins that are produced, pretty much everything. It also means we have to know everything on the molecular level as well. So, we can understand where the gene has been placed, what that gene looks like, precisely what that gene has produced. We also then have to know how it will impact with the environment.

This is the big three. What they call manufacturing, environment, and human food safety. The number of studies that go into this are quite a few and quite a lot of money as well. These hurdles are such that we know more about our salmon than anybody, I'd say, knows about any other salmon on the planet at this time. It's a little bit like, if you remember, the old hot dog ads for the Kosher hot dog. We answer to a higher standard, and in this case that's really what we're doing. We're answering to a higher standard than just the typical new food standard. By the time this product gets into the hands of consumers, I suspect we'll be able to say, this is about the safest salmon that's being raised today.

Where is the gene placed?

It just takes up a small space in the salmon's DNA. We introduced the gene by injecting it into the egg originally, then that gene will locate itself in the appropriate location by natural process. We don't have any direct control over that. In fact, when we started this well over a decade ago, 15 years ago, the original injection is made and then a very, very small percentage of the fish that are injected, the eggs that are injected are actually able to successfully reproduce and show the trait. It's literally less than 1/2 of 1 per cent. But then once you take those fish where the gene is appropriately located, and you grow those up, and have them reproduce, then it's pretty normal inheritance patterns. It's just like anybody else growing any other livestock product. You just watch them, you breed them normally, and you pick out the best ones, and you continue to breed those and you create a brood stock. All of that's back to high school biology.

What about consumer acceptance? Do you see that as a big obstacle?

I take a look around at what's been going on with advanced hybrids, genetically modifications in the past decade, and certainly I can say in North America this has not been an obstacle. The fact that people are using new biological techniques to help develop food products has not been in disfavor among consumers. I don't see consumers rushing out of the supermarkets and boycotting those products. I see people buying. I see people accepting the fact that our regulatory system is very good. It insures that we only have safe products enter the market place.

Our record, basically as a country, has been spotless. We don't have Mad Cow disease. We don't have some of the problems they've had in other jurisdictions where the regulatory system may not be as effective. I find it kind of contradictory that where the regulatory system has been less effective as proven by the historical record in Europe, for example, they have more problems with genetically modified food. We, however, who have a very complete regulatory system, are able to approved and use these products absolutely no problem. I don't think the consumer acceptance is the issue.

I do think, however, that the perception of what consumer acceptance will be like is an issue. That is, those people who are responsible for growing products, for distributing products, for selling them, financial markets, politicians even. Those are the people who are more nervous frequently about what the consumer will do than the consumer himself or herself. That's where the trust is greatest. But trusting the consumer to know and understand the product has never been as great as it should be, and that's what I have to worry about.

You're in favor of labeling GM on food products and on your product. Could you elaborate?

Our company has had a consistent standard and approach to the issue of labeling and that is we're totally in favor of it. We are totally in favor of a voluntary labeling system and we intend to have our products labeled. I don't see any negative from labeling. I believe that consumers if they don't want to be able to distinguish between an advanced hybrid fish and a non-advanced hybrid fish should have the choice. I trust the consumer to do what's in his or her own interest. Do I think there is a scientific rationale for this? Not particularly. There is a rational based on what the consumer would like to see.

I see no evidence to indicate that just because a product is labeled, people will shun it. In fact, even in Great Britain, a number of years ago, when the first genetically modified tomato paste was introduced in the supermarkets, they outsold the non-genetically modified tomato paste by a considerable margin, despite the fact that they were higher priced, and they were labeled. We're not talking about a situation where consumers will necessarily be afraid, and I'd rather be transparent. I believe that that's essential for our industry to succeed.

How transparent is the FDA approval process?

The FDA approval process is not totally transparent. We are allowed to submit our documents in private to the FDA without having them publicly revealed. At some point, the FDA itself will reveal a portion of those documents We have taken the position that once our documents, once the data from our studies has been assimilated by the Food and Drug Administration, we ourselves will reveal those studies. We're in favor of revealing them. We've been asked a number of times, why don't you give them to us at the same time you submit them to the Food and Drug Administration?

My answer to that is, well I would like to see every draft of every private paper that a reporter would like to make or a researcher in any other field would like to make before it gets approved and in final form. We reserve the same right to have our material understood and approved, before we'll reveal it, as any one else would do with an early draft. Because until it's approved that's all it is, it's a draft. The FDA might well come back to us and say, we want you to increase your sample size; we want you to go back and study it again, at which point we would do so. Then, we would reveal the data.

What about the term Frankenfish?

I hate to say that the issue of Frankenfish has haunted us over the years. It has been a continually reoccurring event, to the point where a number of years ago, we decided to have it copyrighted. As long as people were going to use that ill chosen phrase, we thought we might as well have some control over it. That didn't occur, of course. I just think it shows a paucity of imagination on the part of the media to continually refer to this as some kind of an item of derision or refer to it as a fictional event in which we are basically trying to scare people.

We all know that frightening headlines sell papers and sell news stories to the TV. My reaction to the media at this point is, guys get over it. Use a different phrase at least if you're going to try and scare people, let's do something new. About the conversation with Crew about Ken Wise, LA Times, well, I'll never talk to him again. It's not that I have a shit list of reporters. I will avoid reporters who I feel don't get the story. I actually care less about whether they are positive or negative and more about do they get the facts right and do they do it fairly.

We've been talking with experts about aquaculture and it's role in sustainability. Could biotechnology, for example, create fish that need less fishmeal?

That's an accurate assessment of where this industry is headed and what we are trying to do. Everyone is concerned with the issue of sustainability, and that does mean that we cannot continue to feed predator fish that we grow with other fish at least not in the same proportion that's occurring presently. Standard practice among fish farmers has in fact led to a diminution of the use of fish to feed fish. That has to take a quantum leap forward over time. A lot of the research that is going on today is directed towards substituting plants and modified plants for fishmeal in fish. We're taking a look at some of those issues as well and hopefully somebody if not us then somebody else will be successful at it. I think it's inevitable. Today when you take a look at what we can do with plants, you realize that the opportunity is in fact there to take many of the proteins that are found in fish and transfer them into for example the seeds of plants and have them grown specifically as fish feed alternatives.

Again, could you address the role of biotechnology in coming to the rescue?

Biotech is looking very hard now at how to substitute plants for fish feed that currently comes from the oceans in the form of fish. We have the ability to modify plants so that they can contain some of the essential nutrients that are only found in fish. We can reproduce them in seeds. So a lot of experimentation now is devoted towards the issue of sustainability. How to make these fish, or allow these fish to be grown in ever increasing numbers and at the same time not to deplete the oceans of the lower fish forms that are used to create the higher levels.

Given the situation with fish stocks world wide, how do you see the development of aquaculture and genetically modified fish?

The question today is not whether aquaculture is a necessity or will it survive. It is a necessity; it will survive. It will grow. The question is how do we shape it, so that it's most efficient and most effective at feeding people while leaving the smallest footprint both in the land and ultimately, of course, in the water. We believe you have two choices: we as a species have two choices. To continue to grow more fish using an unending amount of resources, or to be more productive. Being more productive is what biotechnology is all about.

Can you say a few words about aquaculture?

Fish are the most efficient form of animal protein to grow. Far more so than anything we eat from the land. So as long as we're going to be eating protein from meat I suspect we will shift ever more towards fish as that resource. That means we have to make the transition finally from hunting and gathering which we did on land 10, 000 years ago to farming, which is what we are doing now. This is a brand new industry. Not all problems get solved in the first decade or two. What's amazing to me is how many problems we're well on the way to solving and how aware we are of the issues as we reshape this industry for the future. Aquaculture will be a tremendous benefit to all of us, and we've really no choice as long as we're going to want to eat fish. We should use that farmed resource as opposed to continually depleting the seas.