Frankenfish: Genetically Modified Salmon could Wipe out an Entire Species

Thursday, September 16, 2010 by: John Dill
Tags: frankenfish, salmon, health news

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(NaturalNews) The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared a genetically modified salmon fit for human consumption, and may soon approve it as a food product. In a September 3, 2010 briefing, the FDA announced their analysis that the GM salmon are "as safe to eat as food from other Atlantic salmon." The agency has also stated that this fish is "highly unlikely" to cause any significant harm to the environment. But will the FDA's approval of this frankenfish be the death knell for a species?

Developed by Aqua Bounty Technologies, Inc., the GM salmon is genetically engineered to secrete growth hormones all-year round, creating a fish that grows twice as fast as regular farmed Atlantic salmon. The company claims that this technology could boost the nation's fish industry while protecting the environment by reducing overfishing.

Just How Safe are Genetically Modified Fish?
There is mounting scientific evidence that GM fish pose extraordinary environmental dangers. According to a hypothesis proposed by researchers Richard Howard and William Muir of Purdue University, Indiana, releasing these frankenfish into the wild can have devastating consequences on their own species. Dubbed the "Trojan Gene" hypothesis, their proposal is premised on an extinction scenario.

The Trojan Gene Effect
The "Trojan Gene" hypothesis holds that, if released into the wild, GM fish could wipe out entire local populations of their species. Much like the Trojan horse, genetically modified fish "gets into the population looking like something good and it ends up destroying the population."

Howard and Muir found that, thanks to their larger size, genetically modified fish enjoy a definite reproductive advantage over their smaller non-GM relatives, attracting four times as many mates. They also become sexually mature earlier than wild salmon. As a result, the unnatural growth hormone genes spread through the fish population quickly.

However, the researchers also discovered that genetically modified fish have a higher mortality rate than wild fish, and are three times more likely to die prematurely. In effect, the very same growth hormone that gives them a reproductive advantage also dooms them and their offspring to an earlier death. Soon, the native fish populations would dwindle and may become extinct.

Furthermore, according to fish geneticist David Penman, at the University of Stirling, there is also evidence that genetically modified fish may have lower mating success and sperm production. Given that large females tend to mate with large males, there would be relatively more matings between genetically modified fish, which would, in turn, lower rather than increase the spread of the growth gene.

In the reverse of Darwin's model of "survival of the fittest," Professor Muir notes that "Sexual selection drives the gene into the population and the reduced viability drives the population to extinction."

An Endangered Species
According to a research study published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," releasing just 60 genetically modified salmon into a native population of 60,000 salmon in the wild would drive the native salmon population to extinction in less than 40 generations. With the Atlantic salmon already on the Endangered Species List, the FDA's decision to approve the commercial production of its genetically modified cousin could drive the species into extinction.

And extinction is forever.

Reuters: Biotech salmon safe for eating - FDA (Accessed September 8, 2010)

Discovery Magazine: FDA Says Genetically Modified Salmon Is Safe to Eat; Decision Looms (Accessed September 8, 2010)

BBC: 'Trojan gene' could wipe out fish (Accessed September 8, 2010)

Center for Food Safety: Coalition Demands FDA Deny Approval of Controversial Genetically Engineered Fish (Accessed September 8, 2010)

About the author

John Dill begun writing as a freelancer in 2007, and has since written and published hundreds of online articles. He specializes in writing health, wellness and insurance-related articles and other web content for a number of online health publications, including Livestrong, Demand Studios and eHow.

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