Engineering Trouble: Biotechnology and Its Discontents

By Rachel A. Schurman; Dennis Doyle Takahashi Kelso | Go to book overview

3
The Migration of Salmon from
Nature to Biotechnology
Dennis Doyle Takahashi Kelso

The president of A/F Protein Inc., which owns the patent on transgenic growth hormone-enhanced Atlantic salmon, switches on the slide projector to show a photograph of three fish. “These three fish are the same age, ” he explains to an audience of business people at the San Francisco Seafood Show. “The two fish on the right are what a salmon farmer expects to see roughly … 14 or 15 months post-hatch. The fish on the left, if you can detect a slight difference, is its transgenic sibling. ” The audience laughs, then murmurs. The transgenic fish, an AquAdvantage salmon, is several times the size of the two normal fish combined.

That fish … now weighs about three and a half kilos, and basically is ready for market. The bottom line is that using this technology … roughly a year and a half has been cut off the development time. So that instead of taking approximately three years or slightly less to develop a fish for the marketplace, we can do that twice in the same time span that it takes farmers to do it once. (Ends 1999)

Commercial salmon aquaculture, unlike wild-capture fisheries, uses technology to minimize unpredictable natural factors in raising fish. Salmon farmers fertilize, incubate, and hatch eggs in a controlled hatchery environment. There the juvenile fish develop into smolts, which are ready to live in saltwater. 1 The smolts are then moved to net pens or cages suspended in coastal marine waters, where they grow to market size and where the salmon farmer harvests them before they reach sexual maturity. Salmon farmers attempt to shorten production times by using a variety of technologies and husbandry techniques—for example, manipulating photoperiod and water temperature in the hatchery, feeding diets formulated

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