In 2015, genetically modified AquaAdvantage salmon became the first GMO animal approved for human consumption in the U.S. and Canada. It was created through combining genetic material from a Chinook salmon and an eel-like ocean pout to the Atlantic salmon. The result is a fast-growing, entirely new fish that has since been raised in inland farms in Canada's Prince Edward Island and Indiana— and served to untold numbers of unsuspecting consumers (GMO labeling was not required in the U.S. until 2022, and restaurants are still exempt from labeling laws).
Unsurprisingly, GMO salmon has faced a lot of backlash, including a growing campaign by Indigenous, environmental and grassroots activists under the banner #BlockCorporateSalmon. Here are three compelling reasons why you should join the boycott.
Reason #1 — Wild salmon is healthier
Salmon is widely considered a nutrient-dense superfood, abundant in crucial vitamins and minerals. It's a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, one of the healthy fats that supports heart functioning, reduces inflammation and lowers blood pressure. Salmon is also high in B vitamins, potassium and iron, and can even help keep your mind sharp as you age.
However, farmed GMO salmon lack many of those health benefits. Genetically modified AquaAdvantage salmon contain less protein, less healthy fats, fewer vitamins, nutrients and healthy acids per ounce than wild-caught salmon. Aquaculture can also contribute to water pollution and increased diseases, making it unhealthy for the environment, too.
Reason #2 — GMOs threaten wild fish populations
Wild salmon populations have been struggling for decades, largely due to overfishing and habitat destruction. They are already extinct in 40% of their historical range. With the pressures facing salmon increasing, preserving and building salmon stocks is more important than ever.
Genetically modified salmon pose an existential threat to wild salmon populations. In the event of an escape (and farmed salmon are infamous for escaping), the GMOs could outperform wild salmon in their competition for crucial resources, gobbling up food to support their abnormal growth. While the majority of GMO salmon are infertile, a small but statistically significant number of them could conceivably breed with native fish populations, causing irreparable genetic contamination in the threatened species.
It's worth noting, too, that salmon are considered a keystone species, occupying a crucial niche within complex ecosystems. From orcas to old growth forests, diverse and majestic species rely on wild salmon. In a very literal sense, both the east coast and Pacific Northwest wouldn't be the same without them.
Reason #3 — Salmon is essential to Indigenous knowledge and culture
The Pacific Northwest is home to Indigenous peoples who have cared for and lived with salmon for millennia. They are the Salmon People — their history, prosperity and survival are inextricably linked to the health of salmon. The connection goes beyond fishing expertise — salmon are part of their cultural and spiritual identity.
The stewardship of biodiversity and resources by Indigenous peoples isn't unique to salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Globally, Indigenous peoples make up only 6% of the human population, but they are responsible for preserving 85% of the earth's crucial biodiversity. Such heavy work is critical to human survival, impacting food security, the emergence of zoonotic diseases and the fates of countless threatened and endangered species.
Choosing wild fish to eat might seem counterintuitive to conservation efforts, but traditional food systems are built on the principle of mutual sustainability — the foods people eat come from plants and animals they are responsible for. Indigenous expertise in healthy and sustainable salmon fishing is unparalleled. Natural, wild-caught salmon are worth investing in and protecting, and there are no better leaders for this movement than the Salmon People.
"Our current food system places a higher value on profits and corporate control than on human health, dignity, and the right to be nourished by and connected to land, culture, and community." — Uprooted & Rising, #BoycottCorporateSalmon