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From the January Newsletter of EatFirst - www.eatfirst.org 2004


Fish farming in enviro crosshairs

      It boggles the mind.  After 40 years of crying about depletion of ocean fisheries one would think the Greens would welcome aquaculture with open arms.  According to the FAO report “State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture 2002”, farmed fish increased from 3.9% of total production in 1970 to 27.3% in 2000.  That’s an environmental miracle to crow about!  In 2001 fish farming saved 37.5 million metric tons from being taken from the oceans.  Genetically enhanced salmon, for example, grow twice as fast as regular salmon and eat 20 percent less food.  This means that fish farmers can raise twice as much fish in the same amount of area while producing less pollution.  So what is it about this environmental miracle that the Greens don’t like? 

      Same old story - it’s not about saving fish, it’s about who feeds the fish.  Farmed salmon have been in their crosshairs for a long time.  Over the past few years several different scares have circulated including bogus environmental damage, and of course, the horrifying prospect of ‘factory fish’ breeding with wild fish.  That was followed by the “fake pink color” scare and genetic engineering scare.  Fortunately the public doesn’t listen very well and fish farming is growing, not shrinking.

      Their latest strategy is attacking farmed fish on a food safety basis.  Actually this began in 2001 when Canada’s favorite whacko, David Suzuki, tested 8 salmon and found higher levels of PCBs in farmed fish.  That was followed by an Environmental Working Group study that tested 10 fish about six months ago.  The EWG managed to get their non-peer-reviewed, unpublished, “study” covered in several papers including the New York Times.  The first clue that this was more junk science was the fact that PCB levels were never given.  They were simply identified as a “toxin” or “probable human carcinogen” and/or “a cause of cancer and nervous system damage”. 

      PCBs are a now-banned chemical that was formerly used in industrial insulation and legally released into rivers and streams.  And, there is absolutely no credible evidence that environmental exposure to them poses a risk of cancer or any other ailment.  Even workers who were exposed to high levels over many years show no increased cancer rates.  At high doses, PCBs can cause tumors in lab animals but so do thousands of naturally occurring chemicals found everywhere.

      After the scare stories appeared the American Council on Science and Health called the National Cancer Institute asking if they knew of any evidence, new or old, that trace levels of PCBs in fish contribute to the toll of human cancer.  The NCI said “no”.

      Furthermore, one needs to look at where the scare stories originated.  The EWG is not a science organization, it’s an advocacy group.  In fact the group once conceded to the Weekly Standard magazine that they don’t even have a single doctor or scientist on staff.  They do claim David Fenton as a Board Member and, if you recall, he is the one who masterminded the Alar scare years ago.

      Just this past week the PCB issue flared up again, fueled by another study, this one paid for by Pew Charitable Trusts.  It was published in Science, “Global Assessment of Organic Contaminants in Farmed Salmon”.  Pew has been after fish farming for years and throws pots of money at researchers for ‘studies’ that can be used to further this end.  They also support EWG and they have lobbied Congress for a moratorium on new fish farms.  As Steve Milloy at www.junkscience.com says, “At least the Pew Charitable Trusts are appropriately named.  Like their bogus salmon scare, they stink.”

      There has never been a single health effect associated with eating farmed salmon despite people eating literally tons of it over the past 20 years.  The PCB levels in commercial fish are well-within the safe levels set by the FDA.  Plus, the levels have been declining for years.  The levels reported in Science are about 20 times lower than levels found by the FDA in 1989.


Oops! Wild salmon have higher PCBs

      Today, just as I finished the above article, the Seattle PI (1/15) reports yet another study that shows Puget Sound’s wild chinook have PCB levels just as high as the farm raised fish in the Science study and in some cases even higher.  How’s that for timing?  Some days I just love what I do.  How are enviros going to cover their hypocrisy this time?  Wild salmon are their icon, their god!  When will intelligent people wise-up and quit listening to them?


      As for the dangers from Puget Sound fish, they are the same as farm raised, as near to zero as you can get.  In fact Washington state health officials, after studying Puget Sound salmon contamination for about a year, say they probably won’t issue advice on how often the fish should be eaten.  Why?  They believe the heart-healthy benefits of salmon far outweigh the risks posed by PCBs.  Well, doesn’t that sound familiar – the benefits outweigh the risks.  Enough said!






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