(NaturalNews) The Food and Drug Administration appears to be close to approving the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption: salmon with cross species genes and an "always on" hormone switch that enable them to grow twice as fast. A large number of critics voiced concerns about the safety of bio-engineered salmon for consumers as well as wild salmon and about the concern that approval will open the floodgates to a tide of other engineered animals.
Hearings on the safety of the new salmon may come as early as this fall. The FDA confirmed it was reviewing the salmon but, citing confidentiality rules, would not comment further.
Anti-biotech organizations and other concerned scientists and critics are already alarmed over the possible dangers that genetically modified plants represent to the food supply and the environment, such as corn that produces its own pesticides and Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" seeds that produce plants able to withstand high applications of herbicide. In addition, alarm has been raised worldwide about the use of growth hormones in cows and other animals, with many countries banning their use as well as imported growth hormone produced meat and milk.
The genetically engineered salmon has been developed by a company called AquaBounty Technologies. It is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon as well as a genetic on-switch from the ocean pout, a distant relative of the salmon. AquaBounty contends that the fish will be safe for consumption and the environment, pointing out that they will be raised on fish farms with safeguards against their release and will be sterile too.
Others, including fish scientists, disagree and say it is inevitable that some of the superfish will escape into the wild and represent a threat to native salmon populations. The scientists also believe that a small percentage of the fish likely will be fertile and that wild salmon will try to mate with the larger fish regardless, depressing reproductive rates. Pacific Coast salmon are already struggling for sustainability due to dams, pollution, invasive species and loss of fresh water.
In 1999, Purdue scientists warned of risks from transgenic fish in the wild. The researchers found larger transgenic fish were more attractive mates and that the traits of transgenic fish would quickly spread through the wild population. Since transgenic fish offspring live shorter, the native population would eventually be wiped out. Widespread concern followed the study because in aquaculture, the escape of farmed fish is inevitable.
In Scotland and New Zealand, bio-engineered salmon efforts have been abandoned amid cries of "Frankenfish." Likewise, fear of consumer complaints has resulted in many salmon farming groups declaring that they will not use genetically engineered fish regardless of whether governments approve them. The International Salmon Farmers Association, which represents the vast majority of salmon farmers worldwide, has taken a strong stand against the engineered fish.
"Genetically engineered salmon is a solution looking for a problem," said Joseph McGonigle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association. "Virtually everyone in the world has taken a position against them."
"A chemical spill, as terrible as it is, can often be contained and its damage dilutes over a period of time," said Joseph Mendelson, legal director for the Center for Food Safety. "It's the exact opposite for these transgenic fish. They can escape and mingle with the native populations, pass on genetic traits, and their presence will just continue to grow and grow. You can't reverse it."
While salmon farmers have denied interest publicly, AquaBounty co-founder Elliot Entis said, "There's not a salmon company in the world that hasn't talked to us privately."
Tony Isaacs, is a natural health author, advocate and researcher who hosts The Best Years in Life website for those who wish to avoid prescription drugs and mainstream managed illness and live longer, healthier and happier lives naturally. Mr. Isaacs is the author of books and articles about natural health, longevity and beating cancer including "Cancer's Natural Enemy" and is working on a major book project due to be published later this year. He is also a contributing author for the worldwide advocacy group "S.A N.E.Vax. Inc" which endeavors to uncover the truth about HPV vaccine dangers. Mr. Isaacs is currently residing in scenic East Texas and frequently commutes to the even more scenic Texas hill country near Austin and San Antonio to give lectures and health seminars. He also hosts the CureZone "Ask Tony Isaacs - featuring Luella May" forum as well as the Yahoo Health Group "Oleander Soup" and he serves as a consultant to the "Utopia Silver Supplement Company".