Been There Done That

December 9, 2012

I could have sworn that I had some ideas about what to do for a blog this week, but I put things off. What with that talk about punkin pah & caroling ast we was rockin’ roun’ the Christmas tree, I plum just forgot what I was going to write about. I bet it was a doozie, too.

Mebbie it was that item I saw on the network news during the week about AquaBounty® salmon. Now, I hardly ever watch the network news I gotta tell you. So it was a rare pleasure indeed to see a network news reporter talking about genetically engineered fish. If you were to go read the text of this story on the network news, it would have seemed kind of reasonable. And if, like me, you first heard about genetically engineered fish when you were a mere sprat on the faculty at Texas A&M (this would have been nearly two decades ago, I’m telling you—but who’s counting?), you might have been surprised to learn…

[long pause here with baited breath]

Well, actually ABSOLUTELY NOTHING from this report on the network news. There was the least little hint that the AquaBounty company is finally about to go bust, waiting for the Ef DEE Ay to grant regulatory approval for their fast growing Atlantic salmon. {N.B. This is just the name of the fish. It’s projected to be grown in net pens—fish farming, for the uninitiated. It’s not supposed to get anywhere near the Atlantic ocean.} Now certainly this fish has attracted a few enemies, but frankly blog readers, we’ve been over this terrain before. If I’m not mistaken I wrote a rather confusing blog on this subject last summer, but I took pains to provide a link to a not very confusing (but frankly not very funny either) blog that I wrote for Science Progress almost a year before that ‘splains it all. And that blog mentioned that the last truly reportable events (to wit a news conference at the Ef DEE Ay) had in actual fact occurred two years before that.

So don’t look for any details here today in the present. The only thing worth noting here today in the present has absolutely nothing to do with this fish (which is, I admit, the putative connection to food in this week’s Thornapple blog). What’s notable is that there WAS nothing in the network news story this week. Most of us who’ve been following this saga for a major portion of our adult lives have been wondering how the Aqua Bounty (no connection to Mutiny on the Bounty) avoided going bankrupt in, say, 1997 or 2003. We’ve wondered whether there was some kind of corporate conspiracy to have this dinky little start-up company with the ugly fish take all the heat for getting the first transgenic food animal through the regulatory gauntlet. But the network news reporter didn’t have anything to say about that, so if you want to start internet rumors about corporate conspiracies, don’t let anybody know that you found out about here, cause I just made it up. No all the network news reporter did was mouth utterly prosaic stuff that could have been said at least 4 years ago, and in utter truth, could have and was said a good 10 or 15 years ago. But the network news reporter read the story (as they are won’t to do on television) in an astonished tone of voice. As if: “Can you BELIEVE this people? A genetically engineered fish! Look at how big the sucker was!” There was also a picture of the network news reporter eating some of the fish, but he was astonished nonetheless.

So come to think of it, that particular nothing of a non-event really couldn’t have been the good idea I had last week. Mebbie it was “Christmas Food Songs”—as in “Egg nog! Yeah, I’ll have some egg nog!” ‘Cept we did that last year.

[insert long pregnant pause here]

Mebbie I’ll remember it by next week. For now, go back and read the entire blog over again but this time as if it were being spoken out loud in an astonished can-you-believe-this tone of voice. It’s much better that way, I promise.

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University

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