The FDA recently submitted documents to the White House Office of Management and Budget, supporting the commercialization of genetically modified salmon. This, after several years of studies on the health and environmental impact of this new breed of superfish.
Before we explain why we’re worried about this move, a brief history. Worldwide, we have been overfishing for too long. Most wild stocks of salmon, tuna, and other large fish are close to depletion. Fish farming is a solution that has its pros and cons, but still is unable to catch up with growing global demand for quality seafood.
This is where science comes to the rescue. Wouldn’t it be great if we could grow much more fish, and at a faster rate than what nature does? That’s exactly what AquaBounty, the company behind this new salmon, has achieved. By adding growth hormone gene from large Pacific Chinook Salmon to the Atlantic Salmon, the former now grows at a much faster rate.
In addition, another gene was thrown in, from a type of cold water eel. Its responsibility is to keep the growth hormone continually active. The result is that the new super salmon reaches twice the weight and size of a regular salmon within 18 months since hatching.
This sounds great, but here are some of the problems:
Not enough safety tests – The genetically modified salmon has been evaluated for safety, but not on a sufficient scale. Example: tests for potential allergens were only executed on 6 fish.
Gene pool contamination – a major risk of GMOs is that they mix with their conventional cousins and obliterate them. There is no way to go back. GMO salmon can easily escape from the farm pools where they are grown, and overtake the native wild populations. AquaBounty claims this is virtually impossible, but millions of farm fish escaped from farm pools in recent years.
AquaBounty has put in another safety measure – the GMO fish are sterile so they could not really effect native populations. Except that about 5% of the GMO fish are not sterile. Oops.
Competition with native populations – In order for the GMO fish to grow so fast, they need to eat a lot too. And since they eat the same type of food as their conventional brethren, natural wild stocks will face even more pressure once GMO fish escape. Natural bounties could potentially decrease.
No Label Required – The FDA sees no difference between GMO and conventional foods, so naturally there will be no labeling required of the new salmon once it hits the market. Keeping the public in the dark is never the right answer.
What do you think? Will you eat GMO salmon? What if it is the only affordable way to get seafood for your family?