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International News, January 2006

Norwegian farmed salmon banned by Russia

On 5th December 2005, Russia banned imports of some Norwegian farmed salmon due to cadmium and lead contamination. Intrafish (1st December) named four processing plants as being involved: Marine Harvest-controlled Nova Sea at Lovund; Marine Harvest-owned plant in Ulvan; Sekkingstad-owned Profish in Espevar; and Sjotroll's Brandasund Fiskeforedling. Later in December, Russia extended the ban from 1st January 2006 to include all imports of fresh Norwegian farmed salmon. “In the course of analyses of salmon from Norwegian farms, experts found an increased content of such harmful metals as lead and cadmium,” said Sergei Dankvert, head of the Russian food safety agency Rosselkhoznadzor. In one sample, the lead content exceeded the permissible limit by 18 times and cadmium - by 3.7 times. In a second sample, the contents of lead and cadmium were exceeded, respectively, by 10 and 2.5 times.

Russian ban “could provoke worldwide scare”

Reuters (7th December) reported that: “Norway farms around 570,000 tonnes of Atlantic salmon a year - the biggest global producer from a total of 1.25 million tonnes - and a scare could hit worldwide demand, while supply remains fairly inelastic, said Klaus Hatlebrekke, a market analyst with the Norwegian bank DnB NOR. “If the Russian findings are correct, then worry will spread to Asia and the United States and Europe and really hurt global salmon demand,” he said. And the ban will already weaken prices as fish farms have to sell salmon when they reach a certain size or they will die and be worthless, he said”.

£1/4 million lost per day

Fish Update (4th January 2006) reported that: “Norwegian salmon producers risk losing at least three million NOK (£259.5K) per day unless salmon import restrictions applied by Russia are lifted by January 10”. Reuters (3rd January 2006) reported that: “Shares in Norwegian fish farming companies fell on Monday after Russia banned fresh salmon imports from Jan. 1, saying that the fish contained unacceptably high levels of toxic metals. Shares in Leroy Seafood, which relies heavily on exports, suffered most from disappointment that Norway had failed to persuade Russia to drop the ban and were down 4.5 percent at 69.75 crowns by 1250 GMT on the Oslo bourse. Fjord Seafood shares were down 2.9 percent at 4.32 crowns, Cermaq fell 1.4 percent to 54.0 crowns and Pan Fish was down 1.0 percent at 2.07 crowns. The benchmark index was up 0.35 percent.”

Malachite – “not the stuff that makes Superman weak”

In their review of 2005, Intrafish picked ‘Malachite Green’ as the “Worst words in the seafood industry”. “It’s not the stuff that makes Superman weak, the seafood industry learned, but an antifungal and dye sometimes used by the aquauculture and, strangely enough, paper towel industries,” wrote Intrafish (December 2005). “The salmon industry has long-since banned malachite green, though the substance cropped up in British Columbia salmon farms owned by Creative Salmon and Stolt Sea Farm last year, causing millions in losses. Across the ocean, Asian producers — particularly pangasius farmers — couldn’t seem to keep it out of their fish, either. How to keep the cancer-linked substance out of the food chain is a challenge not just for a few companies, but the entire seafood industry”.

Is farmed salmon safe to eat?

“Is salmon safe to eat?” asked an article in the Toronto Star (6th January 2006). A resounding no is the answer from Dr. Jeffrey Manly of Toronto: “Since research indicates the high level of toxins in the ‘chow’ fed to farmed salmon is potentially carcinogenic for human consumption, then why don’t the leaders of our federal parties (who coincidently are fighting for our votes in the coming election) pledge to do something about it?” he writes in a letter published in reply (10th January) “It is inconceivable that this feeding procedure is allowed to continue while our political leaders ignore our health. Shame on Health Canada, the farmers who feed the ‘chow’ to the salmon and to our political leaders. Perhaps one of these leaders can take time out from photo ops to consider this most unfortunate situation”.

GE salmon leap onto FDA’s menu?

“If Elliot Entis can win FDA approval for his quick-growing fish, he’ll pave the way for other food companies working on genetically modified animals,” reported Business Week (16th January 2006) on the latest from AquaBounty’s genetically engineered ‘Frankenfish’. According to Business Week: “Aqua Bounty is in the final stages of a five-year battle to get the product approved by the Food & Drug Administration, which has yet to approve any transgenic animal for human consumption. If the company succeeds, Entis' salmon could become the first such product on the market. He hopes to achieve that milestone by 2008”. Critics want the deep freeze put on AquaBounty’s plans. “We know genes cross borders, but what we have here is a radical speeding up of that journey,” says Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation of Economic Trends. “We’re introducing so many radical changes into the physiology of the ecosystem. The environmental implications could be enormous”.