Soy Ain’t Green
By Rich Bindell
Summer means cooking outside and, for many of us, that involves finding the perfect piece of fish to throw on the grill. But the way we source our seafood is changing dramatically these days, so you might want to pay close attention to what’s happening with the last wild food source in America.
Our report, “Factory-Fed Fish: How the Soy Industry is Expanding Into the Sea,” shows how the soy industry, which is dominated by Big Ag giants Monsanto and Cargill, are promoting the use of soy as an environmentally-friendly way to feed factory farmed fish. For them, it could mean millions in profits. But for consumers, it’s like taking our factory farm model of food production and putting it right in the ocean.
As consumers turn to fish more often for a healthy source of protein, more and more of us are getting our seafood from aquaculture or factory fish farms. In fact, close to half of the seafood we consume globally comes from these factory fish farms.
Add to that the fact that soy farms were second only to corn farms in the U.S. in 2007, and you can see why the powerful soy lobby, which is well represented in Washington, D.C., is aggressively promoting the use of soy to feed farmed fish. From 1996 to 2009, the sales of foods containing soy increased from approximately $1 billion to almost $4.5 billion.
But SHOULD we feed soy to fish?
Soy is not easily digestible for fish, a problem that can lead to reduced growth rates and inefficient feed use. Fish experience nutrient deficiency when they consume soy.
Soy is everywhere!
Soy is already ubiquitous in the human diet. It’s in 60 to 70 percent of our processed foods and factory farms feed it to the food animals we eat. In fact, livestock consumes 40 percent of the soy produced in the U.S.
So, we eat a lot of soy… is that bad?
Much of the soy produced to feed fish and cattle comes from conventional producers of soy, specifically Monsanto, who controlled 62.5 percent of soybean seeds as of 2010. Thanks to their dominance in the soy market, 93 to 94 percent of the soybeans produced in the U.S. in 2009 were genetically modified according to Monsanto patents. It looks like consumers who eat farmed fish are likely eating fish that are fed GE soy.
Considering how prevalent soy is in our diets, and since there are still many unanswered health questions about high levels of processed soy consumption — including potential links to cancer — adding soy into fish production is reason for concern.
The soy industry leaves its mark on the environment and on communities…
Fish that eat soy produce excessive amounts of waste. When thousands of fish are sharing close quarters in ocean pens, this creates an environment friendly to bacteria and disease. But using soy in industrial-sized fish farms also puts a serious burden on ecosystems on land, including the communities that live in close proximity to the resources necessary to produce soy. In Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia, the expansion of the soy industry has led to deforestation, soil erosion and displacement of indigenous peoples.
Increased use of soy in factory fish farms will allow big agribusiness companies, including Monsanto and Cargill, to transfer their massive industrial farming models into our oceans. This could have devastating affects on the marine environment and the seafood industry, as well as on the health and well being of humans.