The world's oceans, lakes and rivers give us a lot.
Since the 1960s, we've seen an estimated four-fold increase in seafood harvest and consumption. For those who enjoy eating seafood, preserving precious aquatic resources means being selective about what we consume and how it arrives on our plates. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) offers excellent resources to help support sustainable choices.
Supporting healthy seafood populations can also start on land. Opting for plant-based alternatives to traditional seafood can help reduce pressure on marine ecosystems.
When it comes to health and sustainability, GMO fish flounders
Did you know that the first GMO animal approved for human consumption was a fish? In 2015, AquaBounty's AquAdvantage GMO salmon was approved for human consumption in the U.S. and Canada. The fast-growing GMO was engineered by inserting DNA from an eel-like ocean pout and a Chinook salmon into an Atlantic salmon. It is raised in inland fish farms on Prince Edward Island and Indiana.
While AquaBounty trumpets its products as an environmentally-friendly way to get healthy, sustainable salmon, several environmental organizations, including the Non-GMO Project, disagree with their statements. Farmed salmon generally provides less nutrition to the eater, and fish farms are notorious polluters and sources of disease. Also, fast-growing GMO salmon could present an existential risk to wild salmon populations in the event of escape.
So, we know GMO salmon is a non-starter. What if sustainable seafood doesn't come from fish farms at all, it comes from legume farms?
Plant-based and off-the-hook
If you're looking for plant-based alternatives to seafood, a wealth of non-GMO options are available.
Good Catch combines a variety of legumes to deliver the rich flavors and flaky textures of seafood favorites. They currently offer fish sticks, fillets and crab cakes, and recently added a plant-based salmon burger to their menu. (Check out the Plant-Based Foods Association interview with Good Catch here to learn more about the company).
Konscious Foods is another plant-based brand making a big splash. Founded by industry leader Yves Potvin (of Yves Veggie Cuisine and Gardein), Konscious Foods offers plant-based sushi rolls, onigiri stuffed rice snacks and poké bowls that you can pick up in the frozen foods aisle. Konscious Foods says their whole grain, vegetable, legume and fruit-based products prove that protein alternatives don't need to be highly processed, filled with unnatural ingredients or cost more than their overfished and farmed counterparts. The simplicity, convenience and quality of Konscious Foods options earned an honorable mention from the Plant Based Foods Association Expo recap.
Responsible seafood production needn't rely on costly corporate biotech "solutions" when simpler, better and more accessible options are already available. Indigenous experts have practiced sustainable wild-caught salmon fishing for millennia, and there are several Non-GMO Project Verified plant-based options for vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians and omnivores alike.
We need GMOs like a fish needs a bicycle.