As part of Farm Aid 2023 in Indiana, Block Corporate Salmon and allies held a press conference to draw attention to the harms of genetically engineered salmon produced by biotech company AquaBounty; share accounts of misconduct at AquaBounty’s GE salmon facility in Indiana; sound the alarm on a new salmon “farm” the company is trying to build in Ohio; and amplify Native-led solutions to the Salmon crisis, such as dam removal and Salmon habitat restoration.
Photo by Noel, Block Corporate Salmon
Food from land and water converged at Farm Aid 2023, a celebration of family farmers that took place September 23 in Noblesville, IN. The annual music and food festival collaborated with the North American Marine Alliance and the Block Corporate Salmon campaign to call for a global boycott of genetically engineered salmon, which in 2015 became the first and only genetically modified animal product approved for sale in the US. Leading up to the festival, on September 21, Block Corporate Salmon held a press conference featuring fishing, farming, and food experts to raise awareness about the risks and harms of GE salmon.
Noblesville is a short drive from the world’s principal facility growing so-called AquAdvantage salmon, which is genetically modified to grow to market size faster than non-engineered Salmon. The land-based facility in Albany, IN is owned and operated by AquaBounty, the Massachusetts-based biotech company that produced and trademarked AquAdvantage.
Photo by Noel, Block Corporate Salmon
In 2022, Block Corporate Salmon released “AquaBounty Exposed,” a report that outlined alarming conditions at AquaBounty’s Albany facility. Former employee, Braydon Humphrey, shared more than 60 pages of photo and video evidence detailing how AquaBounty regularly violated food and worker safety standards, ignored animal welfare concerns, and caused environmental damage unbeknownst to the public and its investors.
“I was deeply disturbed by what I witnessed during my time at AquaBounty,” said Humphrey, who worked as a tech at the Indiana facility from December 2018 to January 2020. “Among other atrocities, we saw high mortalities in densely packed fish tanks — including common instances of AquAdvantage salmon dying from ruptured stomachs, caused by their artificially fast growth rate.”
Before joining Farm Aid activities, organizers from the Block Corporate Salmon campaign held an offsite press conference on Thursday, September 21 to draw attention to the company’s dysfunction, sound the alarm on a new GE salmon farm AquaBounty is trying to build in Ohio, and amplify Native-led solutions to the Salmon crisis, such as dam removal and Salmon habitat restoration.
“For Indigenous Salmon peoples, wild Salmon are our sacred relatives,” said Carl Wassilie, a Yup’ik biologist and organizer with the Block Corporate Salmon campaign, who is rooted deeply in Salmon culture and ecosystems. “The development and commercialization of GE salmon threatens entire ecosystems that depend on wild Salmon. It is also a flagrant affront to our way of life and wellbeing. Yet AquaBounty and the FDA have repeatedly failed to consult Tribes in their process.”
Following the press conference, on the evening of September 21, Farm Aid held a Salmon bake and BBQ featuring fish harvested by Randy Settler, a Yakama Tribal fisherman, from the Columbia River, which flows from British Columbia through Washington and Oregon.
“Our intention behind serving Tribal-caught Salmon from the Columbia River is to share a deeper appreciation of where our food comes from in a cultural and spiritual context,” Wassilie said. “This is in stark contrast to AquaBounty’s frankenfish, questionably labeled as salmon.”
Photo by Feini, Block Corporate Salmon
On Saturday, September 23, Block Corporate Salmon also hosted an interactive exhibit at the festival’s HOMEGROWN Village, held before that evening’s concert. The exhibit invited festival goers to collaboratively envision a future food system that prioritizes the wellbeing of communities and ecosystems.