The Tasmanian Government has maintained a moratorium since 2001 on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to the environment. This policy is intended to position the State in the global marketplace as a producer of food that is genuinely GMO-free.
Production and use of GMO materials is on the rise globally with around 79% of global soybean trade coming from GMO sources while 30% of maize and 24% of canola/rapeseed is GMO. Labelling of genetically modified (GMO) products in animal feeds is not required in Australia. GMO material in animal feed is already in use in Australia through locally grown GMO cottonseed, and imported soybean and canola meal products. However, there is little information on the actual volume of GMO material currently used in animal feed, let alone in aquaculture.
Skretting Australia currently uses ‘minor quantities of imported soybean meal’ in their feed. If any part of this soybean meal was from a country that does not separate GMO from non-GMO crops, or label GMO crops, this soybean meal is likely to include GMO soy.
Stock Feed Manufacturers’ Council of Australia states that: ‘The use of Genetically Modified feed is down to individual aquaculture companies.’
Both Tassal and Huon Aquaculture assert that they do not use any ingredients derived from genetically modified crops in their fish feed. How this claim can be verified is unclear given there is no requirement from the feed companies to declare supply chains that would include unlabelled GMO under Australian labelling laws. Salmon companies may be relying on feed companies Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification to support claims of a GMO free supply chain. However, it is not an ASC requirement that feed companies source non-GMO ingredients. There is one reference to GMO in Criterion 188.8.131.52 that states 'Presence of a system to identify feeds which contain transgenic materials (> 1% in total volume).
The ASC only requires that feed mills must 'be aware of any transgenic materials they receive from their suppliers, and have systems in place to trace these through their production process and into the finished feeds.' ASC sees this requirement as sufficient to 'meet customer requests for declarations from feed companies.' Information may be supplied to the salmon industry, but is not clearly and comprehensively made available to consumers of Tasmanian farmed Atlantic salmon.
ASC allows feed companies to use low levels of GMO feed without declaring this to salmon companies. Only GMO ingredients of more than 1% of each ingredient must be declared. None of the three feed companies that supply Tasmanian salmon companies responded to our questions about the percentage of GMO ingredients in the feed supplied.