Scott Nichols

Scott Nichols

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Thank you for your request for comments.   You post states "oceans are being unsustainably plundered in order to feed farmed fish”. I agree with you that catching wild fish to feed farmed fish is not a practice that will allow aquaculture to fulfill its role in our food future (discussed as some length here). However, 18 million tonnes of pelagic fish are captured for rendering (see FAO) with 70% of rendered fish becoming aquaculture diets.  The total wild fish capture annually hovers around 90 million tonnes. Couple these numbers with the FAO finding that 90% of the world’s fisheries are harvested at or above their sustainable limits and it is clear that something beside aquaculture is causing fishery depletion.   So, while you are correct to point out that aquaculture makes an improper call on wild fish, that problem is dwarfed by over-harvesting for human consumption.  Our predilection for eating wild fish is puzzling indeed.  Setting aside the occasional foraged mushroom and spring time ramps everything we eat is farmed.  The problems that result in fisheries depletion are many:  people want to go to a sushi bar and eat tuna; there are 400g Orange Roughy filets at my neighborhood fish monger; restaurants serve shark; people insist on eating cod instead of haddock. Unfortunately, countless other examples exist. A call to action regarding the oceans has two parts.  As a regular source of human nutrition, it makes no more sense to hunt wild animals from the ocean than it does to hunt wild animals on the land.  Secondly, we need new and different sources of ingredients for aquaculture that obviate the need for rendered fish in aquaculture feeds. That moves into your next point about ingredients—What’s next? How should we consider:  “As part of The Protein Challenge 2040, we are identifying the key barriers to scale for innovative and sustainable sources of feed like insects, yeast, algae, and methane. We want to launch solutions to overcoming many of these barriers.” There seems a tacit assumption that soybean production practices are immutable.  I don’t necessarily understand why that is so. Are there a priori reasons that we should accept the obligate coupling of soy agriculture and deforestation? You then state that insects, yeast, algae and methane are sustainable sources of feed.  How can and should insects be fed? Regulatory bodies in many countries don’t allow municipal waste to be used to grow insects that will be fed to animals for human consumption.  Discards from retail grocers may possibly be used but the sustainability argument needs to consider the cost of using that unsold bruised apple to feed larvae. Yeasts are fed sugar.  Some can use sucrose from sugarcane but most use glucose from maize.   Algae are autotrophic meaning that they use sunlight and CO2 as the inputs to their intermediary metabolism. For algae to begin to approach economic utility as animal feeds, they must be converted to heterotrophism (i.e. the ability to utilize carbohydrates as their metabolic inputs for energy and carbon).  Here again we land on cane sugar or corn sugar. Lastly, as a resident of Pennsylvania in the US, the notion of methane being sustainable is a curious one.  I won’t assume that current fracking and collection technologies will be those of the future.  But with current practices, methane and sustainability cannot be linked. I think  benefit from more nuance.  These are not binary considerations: yeast is good/soy is bad.  They seem to call on the convoluted calculus of optimization.   If I may add a bit of advocacy, when we consider the animals we eat in the future, farmed fish should top the list.  Here I make a public health and environmental sustainability case for choosing that path. Scott NicholsFood’s Future, LLC 
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