Former Ag Secretary John Block’s Weekly Commentary – “GE Salmon”

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by
the National Corn Growers Association and CropLife America. They are friends, supporters,
and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Today, I have a fishy story to talk about, but before I get started on that, what do you
think of the nation’s economy? I know the farm economy is not booming, but consumer
confidence is off the chart – a 20% jump from last year. Unemployment is down to 4.3%. The
stock market keeps hitting all-time highs. Second quarter growth is at a solid 2.6%. President
Trump says it is going to 3%. How long can this economic explosion be sustained? We shall

Now the fish story –

Here is a headline in the Washington Post paper: “Regulations slow GMO salmon sales
in U.S., but Canadians are eating tons.”

I don’t think that very many people are aware that the U.S. government approved the sale
of GE salmon. We just haven’t been able to decide what the labeling requirements should be.
The Canadian government jumped out ahead of us and now they are eating genetically modified

These fish are Atlantic salmon – farm-raised. They reach market weight twice as fast as
regular Atlantic salmon. They reach market size and weight in a year and a half, and consume
10% less feed. The Atlantic salmon that have not been genetically engineered take three years to
reach market weight.

The GE process gives Atlantic salmon a growth hormone gene taken from a Chinook
salmon. All of this new food production technology is hard to imagine. What if my pigs could
reach market weight in three months instead of five months? We haven’t heard the last of this.
There will be other fish and other animals genetically engineered. They will eat less feed and
grow faster.

Aqua Bounty is the company producing these amazing salmon. The company plans to
farm-raise the salmon at a plant they bought in Indiana and hope to hit the U.S. market in 2019.
The fish is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is “as safe and nutritious for
humans as conventional salmon.” That doesn’t mean the labeling process will be easy. We have
had a long running battle over the labeling of GE foods.

Eric Hallerman, a fish genetics expert at Virginia Tech, predicts “GE fish and other
animals will be on market shelves around the world in the future.”

If you would like to review my radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online
to Have a great weekend.

Until next week, I am John Block headed to the farm in Illinois to check on the crops and