One of the fundamental cornerstones of Brand Tasmania’s clean green image is that we are GMO-free, that is to say, since 2001, Tasmania has had a moratorium on genetically-modified organisms. This moratorium was formalised into legislation with the passage of Tasmania’s Genetically Modified Organisms Control Act (2004). Originally intended to be in place for five years, this Act has been extended for a further five years on three occasions, in 2009, 2014, and 2019.
Given this long and strong support for a GMO-free Tasmania, you may be surprised to contemplate the situation with Tasmanian salmon. One could argue that the salmon themselves are not GMO, only their food. That’s not entirely true, which we explore in another page, but suffice it to say that this argument falls apart because as the saying goes, ‘you are what you eat’. If we feel that consuming GMO may be unsafe for us or inconsistent with our values, then why would we feel comfortable with our food consuming it. It is important to note that many experts have concluded, based on extensive research of the subject, that GMO is safe and even beneficial in many cases. Our point, however, is about the fact that many who won’t eat GMO may care that their food eats GMO. Our point is about consistency, transparency, and honesty. Consumers have a right to know the truth: if salmon farmed in Tasmania are being fed GMO products, this should appear on the supermarket and restaurant labelling.
Are Tasmanian salmon fed GMO products?
Skretting is the main supplier of food for salmon raised in Tasmania, and a leading supplier of aquaculture feed worldwide. At numerous places in Skretting’s Sustainability Report 2019 , they indicate that they are a prominent player in Brazil’s soya market. Today fully 98 percent of the soy produced in Brazil in GMO . So it would seem farcical to pretend that for an industry as huge as salmon farming, at least some of the soy sourced would not be GMO. What’s more, non-GMO is more expensive, and why would a company pay that extra cost if they don’t have to? The answer is simple: they wouldn’t.
The companies are quite guarded about this. According to Skretting, “Skretting Australia’s procurement strategy is to source our raw materials as non-GMO… Skretting’s feeds categorically satisfy the GMO free status as stipulated by The Food Standards Australian and New Zealand Code” . But then when you look up that Code, the FSANZ stipulates that “Food” is defined as “anything that is intended or offered for human consumption” (Standard 1.1.2—2 Definitions), and that “food produced using gene technology” (that is to say, GM food) “does not include food derived from an animal or other organism which has been fed food produced using gene technology” (Standard 1.5.2 – Food produced using gene technology) . Here’s how we read that: “We aspire to source non-GMO because we know that a lot of people want to hear that, but the law only pertains to food for human consumption, not to our product which is for fish consumption, so we are fully legally compliant with our ingredients which may or may not be GMO”. In other words, yes, salmon farmed in Tasmania are being fed GMO products… because if they weren’t they would just say that and be able to back it up.
What bugs us about this is the secrecy, the double-talk. Instead of describing your aspirational strategy or stating that you categorically satisfy a law that lists your product as an exclusion, how about just being straightforward? If you know people don’t want GMO, then don’t use it. And if you use it, then just be honest. The problem with this sort of double-talk is that it blows to smithereens any trust in any other claims that are made: when you catch someone in a lie or evasion once, you never actually fully believe them again.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
Image Deforestation by Diorit BY SA 3.0