Get access

The Tragedy of the Commodity and the Farce of AquAdvantage Salmon®


  • Rebecca Clausen,

    1. ( teaches Sociology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, USA.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Stefano B. Longo

    1. ( teaches in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN, USA. The authors have a passion for ecological sustainability and social justice, inspired by the hope they have for future generations. Their research interests include environmental sociology and the political economy of global food systems. Together, their work offers a comparative understanding of salmon and bluefin tuna fisheries. Longo and Clausen recently published an article in Organization and Environment (2011) explaining how the tragedy of the commodity applies to the transformation of bluefin tuna fisheries in Sicily.
    Search for more papers by this author

The authors would like to acknowledge the helpful comments of Joseph Fracchia and the referees on earlier drafts of this paper.


The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve AquAdvantage Salmon as the first genetically modified animal for human consumption. The genetic modifications allow the proprietary fish to grow at a rate twice as fast as a wild salmon, leading to greater ‘efficiency’ in terms of reduced costs and reduced time to market. This article provides an analysis of the ways in which AquAdvantage Salmon exemplifies capitalist market forces controlling and guiding the terms of salmon recovery and conservation. The authors trace historical developments within the salmon industry to demonstrate how capitalist commodity production has impacted fishing communities. They reject the oft-cited ‘tragedy of the commons’ hypothesis offered to explain fisheries crises. In its place, they offer the conceptual framework of the ‘tragedy of the commodity’ to explore how capitalist market forces and complicit state regulations amplify rather than resolve global environmental problems.