A steak from an AquAdvantage salmon. Nearly three-quarters of US consumers asked about the fish said they would try the fish at least once. Photo: AquaBounty.

70% ‘likely to try GM salmon’ says AquaBounty

Seventy percent of people who took part in a consumer research exercise by transgenic-salmon grower AquaBounty said they are likely to buy and try the company’s fish at least once.

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AquaBounty carried out the research involving 1,525 participants in the United States in the autumn of 2019 and has now published the results ahead of the first harvest of AquAdvantage salmon (AAS) from an on-land farm in Indiana later this year. The company has already begun harvesting conventional salmon grown at the Indiana recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility.

Other findings of the research were that:

  • 53% of participants had a first impression of genetically modified organisms related to food that were neutral to very positive;
  • 60% of participants were neutral to very likely to purchase products they buy regularly if labelled as genetically modified organisms;
  • 70%+ of participants were neutral to very likely to purchase products they buy regularly if labelled with a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Bioengineered Disclosure Symbol;
  • 81% of participants had a neutral to very positive reaction to the AquaBounty and AquAdvantage salmon story and product attributes and benefits.
Sylvia Wulf: Interest from "potential offtake partners".

Communications programme

In a comment attached to the company’s H1 2020 results, chief executive Sylvia Wulf said: “We completed proprietary consumer research in Q4 of 2019, and the insights have been used to build out our communications programme that we began executing in conjunction with our first harvest and anticipate will support the commercial launch of AAS later this year. 

“Furthermore, we continue to receive inbound interest from potential offtake partners, who see the inherent value in AAS, from both a sustainability and economic perspective, and we anticipate finalising commercial agreements with key potential customers and distributors in advance of the first AAS harvest.”

First GM meat

AquAdvantage will be the first genetically engineered animal protein of any kind to go on sale in the US, although there are already GM fruit and cereal products on the shelves.

A few tonnes of AquAdvantage salmon produced at a now-closed trial facility in Panama has previously been sold to food service outlets in Canada, but as the country has no requirement for GM products to be labelled as such, customers may not have been aware they were eating a non-conventional fish.

AquAdvantage salmon sold in the US will be labelled as a GM product.

10,000-tonne RAS

The GM salmon are being grown at RAS facilities near Albany, Indiana and at Rollo Bay, Prince Edward Island, Canada, both of which have relatively small capacities. AquaBounty has been looking for a site for a larger, 10,000-tonne-per-year RAS facility and will select the location this quarter, with construction expected to start early next year.

The AquAdvantage salmon are the descendants of Atlantic salmon that had a growth hormone-regulating gene from a Pacific chinook salmon – with a promoter from an ocean pout – added more than 20 years ago.

The modification enables AquAdvantage salmon to grow year-round instead of only during spring and summer. The fish grow to market size in 16 to 18 months rather than three years.