This spring Chinook salmon are following their biological calling climbing up the Columbia River to spawn and die. Chinook are the biggest salmon and perhaps the tastiest. Why are we interested in the Chinook?
The demand for salmon encouraged biotech companies to come up with a larger salmon for consumers that reaches the market sooner, so a lab-created super fish will become the first animal that is genetically engineered for human consumption. The status of the super fish is awaiting FDA approval that may be soon.
The new fish is the work of AquaBounty Technologies, called an “AquaAdvantage Salmon” engineered by inserting a Chinook gene into the DNA of a sterile farm-raised Atlantic salmon. A third fish, an ocean pout, which looks like an eel, would provide the “on switch” for the hormone that allows this “Frankenfish” as many call it, to grow very fast. They are asking for fast-track FDA approval. But consumer groups are fighting this approval and are also asking for the fish to be labeled “transgenic”.
GM plants have been around for quite some time, and as far as we know, have not caused any major health problems in humans. I say, “as far as we know” – new allergens are the main concern of GM foods and it is now thought that food allergies are on the rise especially in developed countries including the U.S. There is no “proof” that GM ingredients in the food supply are responsible – I’m just saying.
Consumer groups are pushing for labeling of the modified salmon. If the FDA decides that the “new” fish is not remarkably different from the original, then labeling would not be required. Advocates of labeling say that it is the public’s right to know when genetic modification has occurred. GM fish are not clones since the FDA has already approved that cloned animals are safe to eat. In clones, the DNA is not altered, only copied.
Environmentalists worry that the new fish could escape and mingle with the wild type populations, which is already endangered. They would grow fast and consume more food to the detriment of the conventional wild species. The company applying for the patent say no since the farmed raised Atlantic salmon is sterile and even if a small percentage could still breed, they would breed in small ponds where potential escape is minimized. These promises are based on very little evidence, however, some say.
If approved, the modified salmon could appear in the stores in two years. If it were labeled, would the public accept it? It’s one thing to manipulate a soybean, but this is the first time a living creature has been tampered with.
If the biotech industry gets its way, we may be seeing a lot more of genetically engineered foods in our food supply. Do you approve? At the very least, do you think these foods should be appropriately labeled?