TRANSCRIPT - Elliot Entis
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
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
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
In wild salmon, growth shuts down during the winter but with your
salmon, growth continues throughout the year?
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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.
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
What percentage of the breeding population do the "sneaker"
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
favor of labeling GM on food products and on your product. Could
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
situation with fish stocks world wide, how do you see the development
of aquaculture and genetically modified fish?
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.