If you subsisted on a diet entirely of fish, which would kill you first: mad-cow fish or super tuna? Two stories this week make you wonder. First, Reuters reports on the risk of mad cow disease from farmed fish. Scientists are concerned that the fish, who, curiously enough, dine on pieces of cow, may transmit Creutzfeldt Jakob disease to humans.
I’ll repeat that: Fish dine on pieces of cow.
On the bright side, the risk is very remote and may have more to do with scientists getting their names in the paper than any observable threat.
The second story discusses Japanese scientists’ plan to breed a super-tuna that is stronger, better-tasting, and more disease-resistant than the humdrum bluefin currently in oceans. Bluefin are endangered, which adds a sense of urgency and beneficence. The super tuna would be raised in farms, where they will eat cow bits but presumably not die as easily. (Actually, I don’t know that these particular tuna will eat cows; it could as well be sheep or goats or other farm animals, who knows.)
The underlying presumptions in the tuna article are:
1. Bluefin is hugely profitable
2. Extinction is a problem because bluefin is so profitable
3. Disease in fish farms is a problem because it kills profitable fish
And so the fact that bluefin carry a high mercury load — and that farmed fish tend to be even more toxic to humans — is not worth mentioning.
Not that we need scientists to church out super-fish anyway: the sea is churning them out on its own! Good thing they aren’t smart enough to avoid the hook.
Carrie McLaren & Jason Torchinsky are coeditors of Ad Nauseam: A Survivor’s Guide to American Consumer Culture. In previous lives, they worked together on the hopelessly obscure and now defunct Stay Free! magazine .