Genetically-engineered-salmon farm awaits eggs

Fresh water is circulating through 68,684-gallon indoor tanks.

Containment barriers are in place to prevent an escape.

Facilitiy manager Pablo Bernal and other veteran Chilean fish farmers are on the job.

Birds and dragonflies swoop and dart above wastewater treatment lagoons full of turtles.

Security guards are on patrol; surveillance cameras are operating, and a chain-link fence topped with strands of barbed wire runs along the perimeter of the complex.

Everything’s virtually ready to start producing the world’s first approved genetically engineered (GE) food-use animal, an Atlantic salmon trademarked as AquAdvantage Salmon. Its advantage is it reaches market size (about 5 kilograms, or 11 pounds) almost twice as fast as non-engineered Atlantic salmon.  Read the article.


Current biotech regulations create animal and crop approval blocks and bottlenecks but gene editing may open new doors

The cost of current biotech industry regulations might not be obvious to consumers, but it’s clear to researchers.

“We’ve got nothing on the market for animals. Zero. Twenty years of zero. That’s the cost of regulation. That’s my entire career,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, a geneticist with the University of California-Davis. “I very much understand the opportunity costs of tying breeders’ hands behind their backs because we have developed these disease-resistant animals, we have developed animals that more efficiently digest their feed and reduced environmental impact per pound of gain, and they haven’t come to market.”

Van Eenennaam said many genetically engineered animals have not been commercialized because regulatory costs are prohibitive. And it’s unlikely to change unless regulations for gene-edited products avoid the regulatory environment that has kept smaller companies and some academics from using transgenic processes to produce innovative agricultural products. Transgenic breeding involves the moving of genetic material between unrelated plant or animal species. These types of crosses have been used to create many of the crops, including corn, soybeans and cotton, that dominate farms in the US and other nations where GMOs are allowed to be grown.

According to a 2011 CropLife survey, it costs an average of $136 million and takes 13 years to bring a GMO crop to market. That’s a price that can only be paid by the largest of companies. Said Van Eenennaam:

So yeah, the environmental implications of slowing down or excluding access of breeders to innovation is draconian, especially in animal production. I see that lost opportunity, perhaps the public doesn’t, but breeders do.

Ironically, GMO opponents often point out that only large companies benefit from biotechnology while lobbying to make it more difficult and costly to produce GMOs. As a result, few small companies have successfully navigated the regulatory maze to commercialize transgenic products. One of the few success stories is that of Aquabounty and its genetically engineered salmon.  Read the article.


AquaBounty expansion

Construction at GM salmon facility in Rollo Bay proceeding as planned

The summer of 2017 was a hot one in PEI, not only weather-wise but also opinion-wise, when it came to the provincial government’s approval for AquaBounty Technologies’ expansion of their Rollo Bay facility. The company’s plan is to commercially grow salmon from genetically modified eggs to market size. The approval granted on June 19, 2017 led to wide media coverage that seems to have slowed down after the summer months. Salty reached out to both AquaBounty Canada Inc. as well as to several activist groups in order to inquire about the current status of the expansion project and the opposing movement.

Dave Conley, director, corporate communications of AquaBounty Technologies Inc. informed Salty that the renovations to the existing hatchery facility (formerly known as Snow Island’s Atlantic Sea Smolt Ltd. Facility) have been completed. Construction to build broodstock and production facilities are underway with an expected completion date in the fall of this year.

When asked about the public concern with regards to the company’s expansion in PEI, Conley responded, “Our plans to commercialize the production and sale of our AquAdvantage salmon took all the concerns expressed to date into consideration. Escapes and water usage were the primary concerns. Regarding escape risks, the RAS [Recirculating Aquaculture System] facilities we are using have multiple and redundant barriers to prevent escapes of all life stages, from eggs to adult fish. The water usage in all three facilities combined will be less than in the original smolt production facility because the new RAS design recycles more than 99% of the water we use.”  Read the article.


Aquaculture America 2018: GE salmon pioneer AquaBounty laments past struggles, eyes future

Taking an audience of fish farmers and scientists through 30 years of AquaBounty Technologies’ struggle to get its genetically engineered salmon to market, Dave Conley, the firm’s communications director, sounded wistful.
He took the audience through the long development and approval path for its faster-growing AquAdvantage salmon from the company’s 1995 application before the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to its 2015 approval.

“If you look at the opportunities lost over those 20 years AquaBounty could have done some really innovative stuff instead of fighting battles trying to get through the court of public opinion and FDA approval,” he said.

The pioneering firm, which has operations in Canada and Panama and is working on refitting the former Bell Aquaculture facility in Albany, Indiana, burned through $80m during that period.

“We had to reduce our staff. We had to focus our attention of what was priority and what wasn’t,” he said. “We had to landfill 62 tons of perfectly good salmon that we couldn’t even give away to a food bank because of what the activists would do to us.”

The firm, which sold some salmon in Canada last year, still faces challenges on US GMO labeling laws and the hurdle of consumer acceptance, which Conley believes will come, someday.

I think consumers are going to eat the salmon and they are going to like it and we are going to move past what we’ve been suffering the past 25 years,” he said.  Read the article.


For sale in Canada, genetically engineered salmon delayed by politics in US

A trivia question for American food shoppers: AquAdvantage, the genetically engineered Atlantic salmon being sold in Canada, is available in how many U.S. supermarkets?

The answer is none, despite being approved as safe to eat by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in late 2015, the first GE animal to be so approved. In fact, the fast-growing transgenic Atlantic salmon won’t make its way to U.S. stores and restaurants for nearly two years, perhaps longer, said Dave Conley, spokesman for AquaBounty Technologies.

However, wild salmon is a big Alaskan home industry, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, didn’t like GMO salmon competing with her state’s wild catch. She and other Alaskan officials got Congress to hold up sale of the fish in the U.S., forcing FDA to block AquAdvantage imports until the agency issues new regulations to indicate “genetically modified” on food labels. FDA is mandated to issue that regulation by late July but has not indicated when to expect the rules.

AquaBounty expects to comply with FDA requirements, Conley said, but is waiting to see just what the labeling rules will be.  Read the article.


How anti-biotech environmental groups are trying to kill roll-out of AquaBounty’s sustainable salmon

If you love Atlantic salmon, what you are eating is almost certainly farm-raised, despite what the label might say. The mislabeling fraud may be as high as 69%, according to a Time survey.

Many consumers believe they are ‘missing out’ in taste by not consuming wild fish, but more and more salmon lovers accept the fact that we need to buy farm fish to restore the ocean’s bounty because of a history of overfishing. They are focused on the benefits of sustainable fishing and the healthy advantages of salmon—it’s a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Las Vegas chef Rick Moonen, a champion of sustainability, is one of many high-profile chefs who have switched to farmed salmon.

Which makes the current campaign by some Canadian environmentalists attempting to demonize what is widely considered the most sustainable salmon on the market—a fish genetically tweaked to grow twice as fast with no negative ecological consequences—particularly disturbing. It’s also highlighting the ongoing pitched battle between organic fundamentalists, who proliferate in the old-line environmental movement, and more science-and technology-embracing environmentalists.  Read the article.


The Long Journey of Genetically Engineered Salmon to Your Dinner Plate

Thirty years of controversy has followed the transgenic technology that produces fast-growing fish but now it has finally arrived in Canada and could soon come to the United States. Will it live up to its claims of making seafood more sustainable?

One day in 1992, a technology entrepreneur sat down for a meeting with a pair of biologists who were studying the genes of fish. The scientists, Choy Hew and Garth Fletcher, were working on a method of purifying “antifreeze proteins” that would help Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) survive so-called superchill events in the North Atlantic. Normally these salmon migrate out of the sub-zero ice-laden seawater of the far North Atlantic to overwinter in less frigid waters. Increasingly, though, such fish were being farmed, penned year-round in offshore cages, in near-Arctic waters to which they were not adapted. Fish farmers were looking for a way to keep the fish alive through the winter, and the antifreeze protein seemed like a possible solution.

As the meeting drew to a close, Fletcher and Hew showed Elliot Entis, the entrepreneur, a photo of two fish of equal age. One dwarfed the other. “I sat back down,” Entis recalled recently.

Fletcher and Hew, it turned out, had not just been putting antifreeze proteins into Atlantic salmon. They had also figured out a way to add a growth hormone from Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), plus a fragment of DNA from the ocean pout (Zoarces americanus), an eel-like creature that inhabits the chilly depths off the coast of New England and eastern Canada. This genetic code acts like an “on” switch to activate the growth hormone. The result was a genetically engineered superfish that grew nearly twice as fast, on less food, as conventional salmon.  Read the article.


Genetically modified salmon producer AquaBounty advances to product commercialization

AquaBounty, the controversial U.S. firm that has figured out how to make Atlantic salmon grow faster through genetic engineering,  continues its march toward widespread distribution of its salmon.

On 12 January, it issued an underwritten public offeringthat is expected to raise USD 12 million (EUR 9.9 million). The company said the new funding will help it build and operate more production facilities in the United States.

The company’s story is unique in the seafood industry, many parts of which still do not accept AquaBounty as one of its own. Its history dates back to 1989, when it first developed its genetically modified salmon. Within a few years was seeking regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell it, but that process dragged on for 20 years starting in 1995, when the FDA started its review.

But in 2015, the agency granted approval for AquAdvantage Salmon. It was the first time the FDA had approved a genetically modified animal for human consumption. Health Canada approved the sale of the salmon shortly after, in 2016.

Now, AquaBounty is poised to commercialize its product and expand its market share.

“We’ve come through the R&D phase, we’ve been through the approval phase, and now we’re going to commercialization,” Dave Conley, AquaBounty’s spokesman, told SeafoodSource. “It’s been a long journey from 1989 to today, probably longer than anybody anticipated.”  Read the article.


One hurdle for AquaBounty could go, but others remain

Controversial genetically engineered (GE) salmon pioneer AquaBounty Technologies could be cleared to begin US salmon sales if a continued prohibition against its imports isn’t inserted into the next federal budget, the company says.

However, an Alaskan senator who was crucial in tweaking a 2016 budget bill that led to the import ban says that she will continue to fight for the company’s salmon to be labeled as genetically engineered ahead of any US sales.

Speaking to an audience at the recent Aquaculture America conference, Dave Conley, the Maynard, Massachusetts-based company’s communications director, said that language inserted into the bill authorizing the US federal budget for 2016 banned genetically engineered salmon imports into the US until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides guidelines on labeling. Based on the language, the FDA issued an import alert — meaning AquaBounty, which currently grows out its salmon in a small-scale production facility in Panama, can’t bring it into the US

Without similar language in this year’s budget, the import ban will be lifted, Conley said.  Read the article.


Genetically engineered salmon anyone?

For the very first time in the world, Biotech company AquaBounty made a genetically engineered animal available for public consumption. Since going on sale last year in Canada, their genetically engineered salmon has attracted controversy from consumers and scientists alike. AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish explains why this pioneering fish has caused such a splash and why it was nearly thirty years in the making.  Listen to the interview.

Release date: 15 February 2018

Duration: 4 minutes

Genetically engineered fish is not a matter of “if” but “when”

After more than 30 years, genetically engineered salmon may be coming to a store near you. Is that good or bad news for the planet?

One day in 1992, a technology entrepreneur sat down for a meeting with a pair of biologists who were studying the genes of fish. The scientists, Choy Hew and Garth Fletcher, were working on a method of purifying “antifreeze proteins” that would help Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) survive so-called superchill events in the North Atlantic. Normally these salmon migrate out of the subzero ice-laden seawater of the far North Atlantic to overwinter in less frigid waters. Increasingly, though, such fish were being farmed, penned year-round in offshore cages, in near-Arctic waters to which they were not adapted. Fish farmers were looking for a way to keep the fish alive through the winter, and the antifreeze protein seemed like a possible solution.

As the meeting drew to a close, Fletcher and Hew showed Elliot Entis, the entrepreneur, a photo of two fish of equal age. One dwarfed the other. “I sat back down,” Entis recalled recently.

Fletcher and Hew, it turned out, had not just been putting antifreeze proteins into Atlantic salmon. They had also figured out a way to add a growth hormone from Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), plus a fragment of DNA from the ocean pout (Zoarces americanus), an eel-like creature that inhabits the chilly depths off the coast of New England and eastern Canada. This genetic code acts like an “on” switch to activate the growth hormone. The result was a genetically engineered superfish that grew nearly twice as fast, on less food, than conventional salmon.  Read the article.

This story originally appeared in bioGraphic, an online magazine about nature and sustainability powered by the California Academy of Sciences.


Salmon open flood gates for human consumption of GM animals

The sale of modified fish has widened the debate on genetically re-engineered foods

When it was revealed over the summer that genetically modified salmon was now being sold in Canada, the backlash from anti-GM environmental groups was fierce.

The source of the stink was a two-line disclosure in the quarterly earnings of AquaBounty Technologies, a US biotech company, which stated it had sold a small amount of its AquAdvantage salmon.

Engineered to grow at twice the rate of regular salmon, it is also believed to be the first example of a genetically engineered animal bred and sold for human consumption.

Despite the hostile response from some quarters, Ronald Stotish, chief executive of AquaBounty, says “you almost have to be an optimist to do what I do,” adding that although distributors “were thrilled with the product”, his company appreciates “everyone’s right to choose.” He is, however, adamant that launching the product was the right thing to do.

The main advantage of the salmon’s shorter lifespan is that the fish can be grown in tanks inland, vastly reducing the cost of transportation and the burden on the environment. “Demand for global protein is increasing,” he says. “We have to do a better job and we have to do it efficiently.”

AquaBounty has sold around five tonnes of its product, a tiny fraction of more than 2m tonnes of Atlantic salmon that are typically sold globally every year. Yet some experts believe this small first step could mark the beginning of a new era in genetically modified food production, paving the way for more animal products to come on to a market which has hitherto focused exclusively on crops.

AquaBounty’s salmon, having been examined by regulators for years before it obtained approval to be sold for consumption, has to some extent established a blueprint which others can now copy, argues William Muir, genetics professor at Purdue University in Indiana.

“It was uncharted waters. They didn’t really know how to regulate it,” he says, adding that further applications “will come at speed now AquaBounty has broken the regulatory hurdle.”  Read the article.


AquaBounty on the verge of a major growth spurt as they transition from R&D to operations

Ronald Stotish, president and chief executive of AquaBounty Technologies (NASDAQ:AQB), tells Proactive they’re a small biotechnology company that was founded roughly 20 years ago with the strategic intent to apply the tools of modern molecular biology and molecular genetics to aquaculture.

”We believe that aquaculture is one of the ways to meet future quality protein needs in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way and we believe there are tremendous opportunities by applying modern molecular biology and molecular genetics to improve productivity and the efficiency of production of seafood”.

”We know we have a good product, our experience to date has been  good and at the moment we’ve achieved something that no-one else has done”.

”We’re pioneers in this area and we believe that we’re about to enter into a business that will help meet global food security needs for the next 50 years”.  Read and listen to interview.


To eat or not to eat?

Community Editorial Panel with Morris Haugg

In August I wrote an article entitled “Thoughts on Picking Beans” (not “Pickling” as the headline stated). I concluded by saying that I was hungry and looking forward to a salmon dinner.

At that time, the news media was informing us that a new genetically modified salmon has been produced and was being marketed and bought, without people knowing about it. The genetic modifications of the salmon normally farmed resulted in a larger salmon in a shorter period of time, with less feed required.

The news business thrives more on feeding anxiety, concern and fear in the general public, especially when it comes to something as personal as the food we consume. It is fair to say that the news media has left a large portion of North Americans with the impression that any genetic alteration or genetic engineering is bad or even dangerous to our wellbeing.

So, as I sat down to my salmon dinner that evening last August, I did not know whether I was eating regular farmed salmon or the new farmed variety. It did not bother me that I did not know. It did not bother me that I did not care. I enjoyed it. Period. Read the article.


Single cell protein could be used for aquafeed

A new study has for the first time revealed that a particular single cell protein could replace wild-caught fish and agricultural crops as a key ingredient in aquaculture feeds, potentially providing a lower cost and sustainable alternative protein source.

The researchers in charge of the analysis looked at the efficacy of KnipBio Meal as feed for three important aquaculture species: white shrimp, Atlantic salmon, and smallmouth grunts and found that all three species experienced similar or better growth and survival rates when fed a diet containing this specific feedl when compared to fish given a diet of conventional commercial feed.

From KnipBio, it has been pointed out that half of the fish that humans eat are farmed, and many of these fish require a high-protein diet. Traditionally, aquaculture feeds contain approximately 30 per cent fish caught in the wild and ground up into fishmeal. More recently, in an effort to ease pressure on declining ocean fish stocks, aquaculturists have turned to protein-rich plant crops such as soybeans as replacements for fishmeal. The challenge is a soy-rich can lead to gut inflammation in many farmed species, resulting in lower growth and survival rates.

Considering these data, the scientists developing the study decided to test whether a diet consisting of between 30 per cent and 100 per cent pelleted bacterium Methylobacterium extorquens could serve as a suitable diet for fish and shrimp. Read the article.


Algae-based aquafeed firms breaking down barriers for fish-free feeds

The future of aquaculture lies in fish-free feeds – and it isn’t far away.

At this year’s Seafood Expo North America, leaders from both the aquaculture and aquafeed industries spoke compellingly about the innovations being made – and now marketed – in fish-free feeds.

Historically, aquafeeds have been composed of fishmeal, primarily derived from forage fish. When fed to salmon and other farmed species, forage fish passed on their high omega-3 fatty acid content, and were therefore until recently considered indispensable as an ingredient in aquafeeds. However, in order to feed a growing global population and in response to mounting criticism of the industry’s fish-in, fish-out ratio (FIFO) – the total weight of forage fish compared to the total produced mass of farmed fish – the industry has sought out more sustainable alternatives.

At the Seafood Expo North America panel “The Feed Revolution: Driving Eco-Efficiency and Innovation in Salmon Aquaculture,” the chief executives of several aquafeed and aquaculture companies spoke about the broad consensus in the industry of the need for innovation to spur change in current industry practices.

“There’s a recognition that the current use of marine ingredients is not sustainable for a rapidly growing industry,” Ricardo Garcia, the CEO of Chilean salmon farming firm Camanchaca, told attendees of the session.

Which isn’t to say there haven’t been advancements in the sustainability of aquafeed in recent years and decades. According to Carlos Diaz, CEO of BioMar Group, one of the world’s largest aquafeed companies, FIFO decreased from 1.9 in the 1980s to 1.4 in the 1990s, and down to the range of 1.15 to 1.3 in 2016.

“In 2017, there will be net producers of fish,” Diaz said, meaning a FIFO score under 1.0.

However, demand for farmed fish is expected to double in the next 10 to 15 years, and the world’s forage fish populations may not be able to sustain that level of increased harvesting. Aquafeed companies are therefore looking at alternative solutions – especially fish-free feeds, such as those made with algae, where there have been extraordinary breakthroughs recently. Read the article.

Editor’s note: AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage Salmon performs just as well on plant protein diets as on fishmeal protein diets in research studies.



AgriProtein to build 20 fly farms in North America

AgriProtein has announced it aims to build 20 fly farms in the U.S. and Canada to produce insect meal to the animal feed industry, including for use in aquaculture.

AgriProtein, founded in 2008 in South Africa, uses food waste to cultivate colonies of flies, converting the fly larvae into MagMeal, which is marketed for fish aquaculture and other products with agricultural uses.

The company has put together a North America-based team “to develop its business locally and build an R&D capability,” it said. The team will be headed by Jon Duschinsky and will seek to identify locations for the plants and licensing partners for its operations on the continent.

“The U.S. is the world’s biggest consumer of protein and the world’s biggest producer of organic waste, a very important market for us,” Duschinsky said. “As AgriProtein is disrupting three industries – agriculture, aquaculture and animal feed – it’s natural we chose the world center of disruptive technologies to launch our North American campaign.”

The announcement came last month during the North America initiative at the World AgriTech Innovation Summit 2017 in San Francisco, California. The company has not yet named any of the specific locations factories will be located. Read the article.


Breakthrough for omega-3 canola

A strain of canola which contains long-chain omega-3s has now been submitted for regulatory approval in Australia, with submissions in the US and Canada anticipated to be filed later this month.

The strain has been developed by Nuseed, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nufarm Ltd, who expect commercialisation of the strian – which they aim to use in aquafeeds and human nutrition – to commence in 2018 or 2019.

“Reaching these regulatory milestones in all three countries gives us both timing and location options as we commercialise canola based long-chain omega-3,” says Brent Zacharias, Nuseed Group Executive.

Nuseed’s proprietary canola will provide long-chain omega-3 oils, similar to those found in fish oil, using a sustainable land-based source. It has been developed through collaboration between Nuseed, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

“These submissions reflect our confidence in and commitment to the science, safety and global potential of our omega-3 program,” says Zacharias. Read the article.


Atlantic Sapphire building USD 350 million land-based salmon farm in Miami

Atlantic Sapphire USA, a subsidiary of Norwegian farmed salmon firm Atlantic Sapphire A/S, will soon start construction on a massive land-based aquaculture facility in Miami, Florida, U.S.A.

Atlantic Sapphire CEO and Founder Johan Andreassen confirmed to SeafoodSource the company has acquired all approvals necessary to begin the first phase of the project, which will cost around USD 100 million (EUR 94 million). Andreassen said he expects the facility will be capable of producing around 10,000 metric tons of rought-weight salmon, or 22 million pounds annually, by the time the phase-one build-out is complete, expected by the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020.

“Behind that, we’ll launch phase two and three, and over the next six to seven years, we expect to grow up to 90,000 tons of salmon annually,” Andreassen said. “We have secured sufficient land to build it out completely.”

The second and third phases will run the project’s cost to between USD 350 million and 400 million (EUR 326 and 374 million), he said.

The Miami facility is being equipped with technology developed by Atlantic Sapphire’s Danish subsidiary, Langsand Laks, including a closed-containment, recirculating aquaculture system that Andreassen said is extremely energy- and water-efficient. Read the article.