Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

3 Reasons to Avoid Farmed Salmon

Not so long ago, Atlantic salmon was an abundant wild species. Born in the rivers of northeastern United States and Canada, after a couple years in freshwater they embarked on an epic migration, navigating 2,000 miles across the Atlantic to feed and mature off western Greenland. Millions of salmon travelled up to 60 miles a day, fending off predators and feeding on zooplankton and small fish. When the time came, instinct and the earth’s magnetic fields led these magnificent fish back to spawn in the precise rivers of their birth.

Today, wild salmon are an endangered species, gone from most rivers in the U.S. There are many culprits, from polluted waterways and habitat destruction to overfishing and climate change. In the last 20 years, however, a new threat has emerged: floating feedlots on the ocean known as open-net salmon farms. The $20-billion-a-year farmed salmon industry is the world’s fastest growing food producer, and it has made farmed Atlantic salmon the most popular fish on dinner tables North America. But at what cost?

This new fish is an industrialized imposter that risks our health and damages our planet. Farmed salmon are bred to grow fast in cages so crammed that they are rife with parasites and disease. The fish eat pellets of fishmeal, vegetables, and animal byproducts; they are doused regularly with pesticides and antibiotics.

We spent more than two years investigating the global salmon farming business and the multinational companies that control it for our book, Salmon Wars. We interviewed scientists, physicians, fishers, activists, and those in the business of aquaculture. We read academic studies, court papers and previously undisclosed investigative files. We identified and tried to answer three critical questions swirling around farmed salmon.

First and most important, is eating farmed salmon healthy?

Doctors recommend salmon for protein, nutrients, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association suggests consuming at least two servings of fish a week. But they rarely spell out the kind of salmon you should eat or warn of the dangers.

Many experts and scientific studies cast doubt on the blanket claim that salmon should be part of a healthy diet when the fish comes from open-net farms. Some farmed salmon may be safer than other types, but consumers rarely have enough information to make that choice. Labels are unlikely to disclose that the salmon was farmed, let alone identify the chemicals used to raise it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t even have definition for organic salmon.

“It is confusing, and I suspect there is willful confusion out there,” Dr. Leonardo Trasande, a professor of environmental medicine at New York University, told us. “We know that every fish is a trade-off between omega-3 content and toxic content like PCBs. From the perspective of salmon in general, the balance favors consumption of that fish. Now the challenge here is that I can’t tell which salmon is farmed the right way or the wrong way.”

As early as 2004, scientists found levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, a probable carcinogen known as PCBs, seven times higher in farmed Atlantic salmon than in wild salmon. More recent studies found high levels of other chemicals and antibiotics in farmed salmon. Researchers at Arizona State University discovered increases in drug-resistant antibiotics in farmed seafood over the past 30 years, leading to concerns about increased risk of antibiotic resistance in humans. Toxins often wind up in salmon flesh and accumulate in people who eat the fish.

Some studies warn that a single meal per month of farmed Atlantic salmon can expose consumers to contaminant levels exceeding standards from the World Health Organization. The risk is greatest for infants, children, and pregnant women because of the potential harm from contaminants to developing brains.

Seafood Watch, an independent guide to fish consumption affiliated with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, recommends avoiding most farmed Atlantic salmon because of excessive chemical use and disease. Nutritionists generally recommend eating wild salmon over farmed salmon.

salmon

Second, is farmed salmon sustainable?

Salmon farmers often advertise their fish as sustainable and naturally raised. These assertions are deceptive.

Salmon are carnivores. Fish meal and fish oil from anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring, and other small forage fish comprise 25 to 30 percent of most salmon feed. Fully a quarter of the fish harvested from the world’s oceans winds up in feed for aquaculture and pets. To meet growing global demand for salmon, huge trawlers pillage the fisheries off the coast of West Africa and Peru, robbing subsistence fishers of their livelihood and increasing food insecurity.

“You take the food from the plates of people in West Africa to feed the people of Europe and the United States and other countries,” Dr. Ibrahima Cisse of Greenpeace told us.

Salmon farmers argue that they fill the need for protein as the global population grows. Depleting fisheries in low-income countries to provide an unsustainable fish for richer countries sets a dangerous precedent.

Efforts to develop alternative protein sources are under way in university laboratories and start-ups. So far, there is no end in sight for the industry’s exploitation of small fish.

Recent court cases have challenged the industry’s sustainability claims. Norway’s Mowi ASA, the world’s largest salmon farmer, settled a deceptive advertising case in federal court in New York City a year ago. The company paid $1.3 million and agreed its U.S. subsidiaries would stop using the phrases “sustainably sourced” and “naturally raised” to describe its smoked salmon.

Finally, are farmed salmon raised naturally in ways that do not harm the environment?

You be the judge.

The fish spend two to three years in open-net farms that contain up to a million salmon jammed into 10 or 12 cages, which extend 30 feet below the surface and are anchored to the seabed. The crowded cages are petri dishes for tiny parasites called sea lice and many viruses that kill farmed fish and endanger wild salmon when currents carry them outside the farms.

Massive doses of pesticides, including banned neurotoxins, and antibiotics are deployed against the parasites and pathogens. Some of the residue winds up in the salmon, and some falls to the seabed below the cages. Untreated waste from excess feed, decomposing fish, excrement, and chemical residue forms a toxic stew that kills or drives away marine life for hundreds of yards. One photo we found showed a yardstick stuck to the 32-inch mark in slime beneath a salmon farm.

Salmon in open-net farms die from parasites, disease, and warming waters at a staggering rate. Estimates are that 15 to 20 percent of farmed salmon die each year before they are harvested; that is tens of millions of fish. By comparison, the mortality rate for factory chickens is 5 percent and 3.3 percent for feedlot cattle. Young wild salmon beginning their migration are especially vulnerable to the plumes of sea lice from the farms. Escaped farmed salmon compete with wild ones for food and weaken the gene pool through interbreeding.

Up to 85 percent of the salmon we eat is imported from farms along the coasts of Norway, Chile, Scotland, and Canada. Yet the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for food safety, pays scant attention to farmed salmon at a time when food-borne pathogens are on the increase. For instance, an investigation by the General Accounting Office, an arm of Congress, found that the FDA inspected 86 samples out of 379 thousand tons of salmon in 2017.

Fortunately, there are alternatives. New technology, called recirculation aquaculture systems, grows the fish in closed-containment facilities on land. The fish swim in tanks filled with filtered, recirculated water and the salmon never touch the ocean, eliminating the use of chemicals and damage to the environment.

Several recent surveys show that consumers will pay a premium for products that are sustainable and don’t harm the environment. Land-raised salmon may eventually upend the global market. For now, transparency, better regulation, and accurate labels on farmed salmon are essential to ensure good choices for our health and the health of our planet. Until that happens, farmed Atlantic salmon from open-net pens is off our menu and should be off yours.

BY DOUGLAS FRANTZ AND CATHERINE COLLINS        JULY 21, 2022

Source: Time


4 Comments

Organic Food Provides Significant Environmental Benefits To Plant-Rich Diets

The study of more than 34,000 people is the first to investigate the environmental impacts of both food choices and farm production systems

A study of the diets of 34,000 people confirms that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is better for the planet than one high in animal products. The study also finds that organic food provides significant, additional climate benefits for plant-based diets, but not for diets with only moderate contribution from plant products. This is the first-ever study to look at the environmental impacts of both food choices and farm production systems.

A major new study confirms that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is better for the planet than one high in animal products. The study also finds that organic food provides significant, additional climate benefits for plant-based diets, but not for diets with only moderate contribution from plant products. Published today in open access journal Frontiers in Nutrition, this is the first study to investigate the environmental impacts of both dietary patterns and farm production systems. It is also the first to investigate the environmental impact of organic food consumption using observed diets rather than models.

Many organizations, including the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, advocate the urgent adoption of more sustainable diets at a global level. Such diets include reduced consumption of animal products, which have a higher environmental impact than plant-based products. This is mainly due to the high energy requirements of livestock farming as well as the very large contribution of livestock to greenhouse gas emissions. Intensive livestock production is also responsible for significant biodiversity loss due to conversion of natural habitats to grass and feed crops.

The method of food production may also influence sustainable diets. Organic agriculture is generally considered more environmentally friendly than other modern production techniques. However, while many studies have investigated environmentally sustainable diets, these have rarely considered both dietary choices and the production method of the foods consumed.

“We wanted to provide a more comprehensive picture of how different diets impact the environment,” says Louise Seconda from the French Agence De L’Environnement Et De La Maitrise De L’Energie and the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Unit one of the article’s authors. “In particular, it is of considerable interest to consider the impacts of both plant-based foods and organic foods.”

To do this, researchers obtained information on food intake and organic food consumption from more than 34,000 French adults. They used what’s called a ‘provegetarian’ score to determine preferences for plant-based or animal-based food products. The researchers also conducted production life cycle environmental impact assessments at the farm level against three environmental indicators: greenhouse gas emissions, cumulative energy demand and land occupation.

“Combining consumption and farm production data we found that across the board, diet-related environmental impacts were reduced with a plant-based diet — particularly greenhouse gas emissions,” says Louise Seconda. “The consumption of organic food added even more environmental benefits for a plant-based diet. In contrast, consumption of organic food did not add significant benefits to diets with high contribution from animal products and only moderate contribution from plant products.”

However the researchers caution that the environmental effects of production systems are not uniform and can be impacted by climate, soil types and farm management.

“We didn’t look at other indicators such as pesticide use, leaching and soil quality which are relevant to the environmental impacts of productions systems,” says Louise Seconda. “Therefore future studies could also consider these as well as supply chain and distribution impacts of food production.”

The authors also say it will be important to conduct further studies to confirm these results and to expand our understanding of how the entire food production lifecycle impacts sustainability.

Journal Reference:
Camille Lacour, Louise Seconda, Benjamin Allès, Serge Hercberg, Brigitte Langevin, Philippe Pointereau, Denis Lairon, Julia Baudry, Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot. Environmental Impacts of Plant-Based Diets: How Does Organic Food Consumption Contribute to Environmental Sustainability? Frontiers in Nutrition, 2018; 5 DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2018.00008


Leave a comment

4 Psychological Studies That May Completely Change The Way You See Yourself

by Higher Perspective

1. The wooden door experiment.

The wooden door experiment was an experiment conducted by researchers in which college students were targeted. The researchers would ask for directions, and halfway through receiving directions from the students, workmen hauling a large wooden door passed between the two having the discussion, and then another researcher switched places with the individual who was asking for directions. Around half of the participants didn’t notice that the person asking for directions had changed.

This is called “change blindness.”
It demonstrates how we’re sometimes not aware of what’s happening before us.

door

 

2. The Stanford prison experiment.

This is one of the most famous psychological studies in existence. It examines how social environments affect our behavior. 24 undergraduates without a criminal background were placed in a fake prison. Some acted as guards, others as prisoners. Six days in, it had to be cut short because the guards became so violent.

“The guards escalated their aggression against the prisoners,” says Phillip Zimbardo, the researcher who initiated the experiment. “Stripping them naked, putting bags over their heads, and then finally had them engage in increasingly humiliating sexual activities.”

Yikes.

3. The Harvard grant study.

Over 75 years, 268 male Harvard graduates were followed over various points in their life to gather data on how they live. What did they find? Love makes you happy. It’s a corny message but true. Love gives us the greatest sense of self-satisfaction.

4. Cognitive dissonance experiments.

Cognitive dissonance is a popular theory in psychology. It states that humans can’t cope with conflicting thoughts and emotions without experiencing some degree of mental distress. One experiment on this matter, conducted by Leon Festinger, involved participants who completed long, mundane tasks. Once completed, half were offered $1 and the other half were offered $20. The $20 group was told to tell the $1 group how much fun they had doing the task. The $1 group justified that they also thought it was a fun task as well, even though they clearly didn’t.

It tells us that we lie to ourselves to justify how we live our lives.