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Genetically Modified Salmon: Meet the Pookalmon

How can we take parts of a different species, put them in an animal and yet call it by the same name? How come you can call it a salmon? It isn't one. Let's call it what it really is.
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This is my final piece on this subject, not because there isn't a whole lot to say, but that if the arguments I have put before and here don't carry enough weight then I am pushing water uphill and so should stop. (Just as a reminder I am the managing director of a salmon farm. I also run a beef and sheep farm and chair a ragworm farm. I am a capitalist and believe totally in the profit motive.)

Spike Milligan, in the Goon Show, back in the 40's and 50's, had a weird vision of life. The Goon Show was a British comedy and I doubt that it crossed the Atlantic. In one episode the noise "cluck, quack meow" was heard.

Peter Sellers asked "what is that?"

Spike replied "it's a chicken/duck/cat."

Peter responded "does it lay eggs?"

Spike's answer "No, it lays kittens."

Written out, it is not so funny, yet it is extraordinary. People thought such a thing was patently ridiculous and impossible. Yet now we contemplate the Pout/Chinook/Atlantic salmon, for this is what is being proposed to the FDA. In fact it is extremely likely that in the not too distant future, we also will face the goat/cow or the chicken/goose etc. Why not? If the driver for these changes is cost and the only mechanism to stop it is law or the attitude of the general public, then we will be facing these and many more such abominations. If the genes from an elephant can be put into a cow via a goat and this makes it grow three times as big, why should this not happen? In the twilight world of the people who promulgate this so-called science, this is a perfectly reasonable act. The question that has to be asked is what would stop them?

Here for me is another rub. How come you can call it a salmon? It isn't one. How can we take parts of a different species, put them in an animal and yet call it by the same name? Of course the proposers of GM salmon will point out that there are many things called salmon that are not from the same genus, Chinook and Atlantic salmon for example. (Pacific salmon, of which Chinook is one variety, and Atlantic salmon both go by the name "salmon" but are in fact from two different genera.) Yet this cannot argue that we should complicate matters further. So if we are going to let this abomination loose on the world, let's call it what it is: a pookalmon. Isn't that just a touchy-feely name? Let's not try to dupe the unsuspecting public by trying to suggest that it is a salmon.

There are and will be more people who will call any criticism of this development as anti-science or ignorance. Yet my whole existence has been about creating businesses, jobs and ideas. Science has created the quality of life I live in, so don't mistake my opposition for ignorance. I have spent 30 years working with salmon and I may not be the world's authority on salmon, but I do know a whole lot about them.

Actually the issue of my gratitude to salmon for all they have given me and my family is not the one that drives me to oppose this movement. It is something far more fundamental. When I was a young boy I used to fish a river next to my grandmother's house. I would have fished all day and all night given the chance but unluckily my parents did think school was a good idea, and so I went. But the fishing wasn't everything. It was the wonder of being out in a lovely countryside with nature around me. Oh you could say (and many do) that this is romanticism, but it isn't. I have eaten almost everything that I saw in those days and still do and will, given the chance. The truth is that the nature that I existed in was not "natural," it was man-made, man-designed and man-controlled. However, the species in it were not. What I saw, experienced and loved were the species meant to be in that area, that fitted that environment and that had existed as species for one hell of a long time. It is true that we have adapted the environment to encourage some but only the balance is affected by man.

The issue overwhelmingly that worries me is how we will ever get this situation back now that the genie is out of the bottle. What can we say to subsequent generations that will have justified such vandalism? It is not as though we actually need to do this. One could argue about the rice production requirements in third world countries but salmon? Nobody is going to argue that there is a pressing need to act.

Lastly, I would like to deal with one minor issue, which is why I am writing these pieces. The cynics will say that I have something to lose, that our salmon farm will suffer and lose market share. I do not think so. In fact, I think quite the opposite since our markets tend to avoid the cheaper commodity products. Loch Duart will remain in a different market category than these fish.

I'm speaking out because we started Loch Duart because we believed in raising fish with some principles: animal welfare, the environment, people and food. We believe in respect: Respect for the environment we are lucky enough to work in. Respect for the animals we rear and work around and importantly, respect for the people that work on our farms, work and live around our farms and those who eat what we produce.

By and large, we have stuck by them. I still believe them. Someone, somewhere has to care that our animals live in decent conditions, that we preserve the environment, and that we look after our people whether they be suppliers, staff or customers and that we serve food we would like to eat ourselves. Really, this responsibility belongs to all of us.

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