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Opponents of aquaculture technology are on the fringe

We were heartened by an article Friday in Feedstuffs Foodlink, a publication we read regularly.

The article shows us that all food producers, aquaculture and agriculture alike, are facing the same criticisms and challenges. And the article shows us that the people speaking out against “big agriculture” are a loud, but tiny, fringe of society.

The article featured exerpts from a presentation given by Jeff Simmons at the International Poultry Exposition in January.

Simmons said that by the year 2050, the world will need 100% more food, with 70% coming from “efficiency-improving, new technology.”

“Technology creates efficiency, efficiency creates abundant and affordable food and this knocks down hunger,” he said.

He pointed out that 25,000 people around the world die every day from hunger. The solution to solving hunger is technology — finding ways to produce a lot of food cheaply and efficiently.

He cited a survey of nearly 100,000 people around the world which asked questions about their food purchasing habits and preferences. 95% were “food buyers” interested in cost, nutrition and taste and 4% were “lifestyle buyers” interested in gourmet/luxury, local/organic and garden-resourced foods.

The remaining 1% of consumers represent the “fringe” who want “to take away choice from the majority,” Simmons said.

Copper River Salmon at Pike Place Market, Seattle

Yeah, Copper River salmon is great. But farmed salmon is just as healthy, and a helluvalot less expensive, thanks to technology.

This is the problem the aquaculture industry faces. Salmon farming is a technology-intensive business. Technology allows a team of five farmers on one farm to grow enough salmon to feed millions of people with an affordable, healthy protein source.

But a very small group of people tries very hard to sell people a false dichotomy: “You must choose between wild and farmed salmon,” they say.

Nonsense.

Salmon farms were started in the first place because fisheries could no longer keep up with global demand for salmon. Global demand keeps increasing because the world’s population keeps increasing. And as people around the world rise out of poverty, and start demanding more healthy food, salmon — recognized worldwide as a healthy source of protein — will help meet that demand.

Especially since the environmental footprint of salmon farms is small compared to many land-based forms of agriculture, such as cattle ranching.

We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with cattle ranching; we support our Canadian beef producers on a regular basis in our respective households.

But there’s only so much land available to feed and support beef herds. The ocean, on the other hand, has barely been tapped for its farming potential.

Salmon farms will add another protein source to the market to allow a hungry world to diversify its diet. Salmon farmers will continue to use technology to grow more fish to feed more people food that is healthy, tastes good and is affordable.

And at least 95% of the world is OK with that.

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