Chef Moonen vs the GM Salmon

Chef Rick Moonen (writing for CNN) wants you to Say no to genetically engineered salmon

…I was alarmed to learn early this month that the Food and Drug Administration announced with “reasonable certainty” that a new genetically modified Atlantic salmon awaiting approval posed “no harm” to humans who might soon have the opportunity to buy it and eat it as though it were a fish from nature. The announcement brings this “Frankenfish” one step closer to your table….

Just a couple of quick comments:

First, it’s hard to take Moonen seriously when he signals, in his very first sentence, his apparent unwillingness to do things like look at evidence or adapt to changing circumstances. Moonen’s opening salvo:

I am and always will be completely against any food that has been altered genetically for human consumption.

Welllll, ok then. He will “always” and “completely” be against “any” food that has been genetically altered. No matter how useful the modification? No matter how much evidence is marshalled in the future to demonstrate safety, and so on? That’s the kind of statement that — if taken seriously — signals that the writer just isn’t trying to form an opinion based on things like facts. It signals instead an attachment to ideology.

(And, it’s worth noting that while Moonen’s article gives reasons why he doesn’t like the idea of GM salmon, he gives no reason at all why he will “always” and “completely” be against “any” food that has been genetically altered.)

My only other point is about business and economics. Moonen runs a successful restaurant, so it’s reasonable to think he knows something about business. So, what does he have to say about the business side of GM salmon?

The creation of this fish is just another tactic for big industry to make bigger, faster profits with no consideration for the impact it will have on our personal health and the health of our environment and ecosystem.

Two points need to be made, here. One has to do with profits. You can be sure that, yes indeed, AquaBounty (the company that developed the new GM salmon) is interested in profits. They are, after all, a corporation, and not a charity or a government agency. But so what? There’s nothing evil about profit. And the way companies make a profit is by providing something someone wants to pay for. GM salmon that grows faster will reduce costs for salmon farms, and in a competitive environment that will lead to lower salmon prices for consumers.

The other point has to do with motives. Moonen claims that GM salmon is “just” another industry tactic, and that the company in question has “no consideration” for anything other than profit. Seriously? Moonen really thinks that the human beings — they could be your neighbours, your cousins, someone you respect — care about nothing other than money. On what grounds does he say that? Heck of a presumption. Personally, I know just about as much about AquaBounty’s CEO Ronald Stotish as I do about Rick Moonen — i.e., next to nothing. I certainly don’t have any reason to think Mr. Stotish is any more of a slave to the bottom line — or any more willing to sacrifice customers’ health to make a buck — than Mr. Moonen is.

(See also this recent blog posting: Will Chefs Serve GM salmon?)

About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
This entry was posted in aquaculture, biotechnology, ethics, fisheries, genetic modification, GMO. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Chef Moonen vs the GM Salmon

  1. Anastasia says:

    It’s interesting that everyone thinks they know more about genetic engineering and agriculture in general than people who are actually trained in the subjects.

    Someone should let Chef Moonen know that virtually everything he serves in his restaurant has been modified in some way by humans. Every plant and animal that we eat, with the exception of a few things like wild fish and wild blueberries, have been bred to suit human purposes, often using Herculean measures such as tissue culture, chemical mutagenesis, artificial insemination, and wide crosses between species that would never happen in nature. Every plant and animal grown by humans is subject to extremely unnatural conditions, even the organic ones. The processes that Chef Moonen uses in his restaurant undoubtedly change the chemical composition of the food he serves, occasionally in ways that have been proven to cause the creation of cancer-causing compounds, and frequently in ways that destroy some healthy compounds in the food. Unless Chef Moonen’s restaurant is 100% wild sourced and served raw, he is lying to himself if he thinks the food served in his restaurant is “all natural”.

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