When U.S. Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski introduced legislation last month seeking to ban Aquabounty’s so-called Frankenfish, they put the interests of Alaskan citizens over corporate plutocrats and near-sighted regulators. We should applaud the senators for their intervention on behalf of our state’s most important economic, cultural, and natural resource.
But the simple fact is this: nearly all the food we put into our bodies contains the same genetically modified organisms that we supposedly decry in our debates about this salmon. The corn that finds its way into products as diverse as breakfast cereals and filet mignon has been reengineered by biotech firms to resist a host of pests and pesticides that might otherwise damage the country’s most valuable agricultural good. The soy products that extend meatloaves and enhance soups have undergone similar manipulation in the past two decades. At this point, 90 percent of all soy grown in the United States — 60 million acres or so — is genetically modified, most of it to withstand the application of glyphosphate, a toxic herbicide.
If we expect consumers down south to pay a premium for our wild Alaskan salmon, we too should make a similar sacrifice to purchase products that guarantee that we are not eating genetically modified organisms. Certainly, we can push our food producers to utilize non-genetically modified food stuffs; we, too, can purchase foods certified organic by the USDA. Such sacrifices will be difficult, of course, but we will be taking a stand against the biotech oligarchies that have a stranglehold over our food system.Anything else would be unjust to our fishermen.
• Mink teaches environmental studies at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. and is a summer resident of Sitka, where he runs the Sitka Conservation Society’s Salmon Tours program.