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Genetically modified

Frankenfish: Genetically Modified Salmon May Soon Plop Onto Your Plate

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 by: John Dill
Tags: genetically modified, salmon, health news

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(NewsTarget) The FDA is set to rule on whether a genetically modified salmon is safe for human consumption. It is a decision that may soon serve up the first genetically engineered animal food product to consumers' plates. The fish under consideration is the AquAdvantage salmon, a bioengineered Atlantic salmon developed by Aqua Bounty Technologies, a Massachusetts-based biotech company.

Fast-Growing Franken-fish
AquaBounty artificially combined DNA of the Atlantic salmon with anti-freeze genes of an eelpout ( Zoarces americanus ) and growth hormone genes from a Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha ). The result of this genetic modification is a fish that grows to full size at twice the rate of its natural cousins. While non-GM salmon only produce growth hormones a few months of the year, the genetically modified salmon secretes these hormones all year round, even during winter, which is typically a non-growth period.

Aquabounty touts the accelerated growth rate as a feature that can boost the fish sector with higher productivity and benefit the environment by reducing over-fishing. The company also claims that their frankenfish is even safer than its ocean-going counterparts, given the fact that they are bred in a more sanitary, enclosed environment.

Fish Fight
A broad coalition of consumer, environmental and other interest groups are demanding the FDA deny approval for the GM salmon, citing the dangers posed to the wider salmon populations.

There is a very real risk that the GM fish will escape into the wild, just as millions of farmed salmon do every year. Escaped GM salmon would out-compete their wild relatives for food and strain the eco-system. Interbreeding between the GM salmon and non-GM salmon could literally wipe out local populations of the species.

This concern is supported by studies such as one conducted in 1999 by Muir and Howard, two researchers at Purdue University, who found that just 60 genetically modified salmon could drive a wild salmon population to extinction. Marianne Cufone, the director of Food and Water Watch's fish program, says that approving the GM salmon would pose a serious threat to the survival of the native salmon populations.

Some opponents also point out that little is known about the potential hazards that may result from eating this fish, such as allergies, because there is little data to show that it is safe. They also criticize the FDA for releasing rather scant data to the public, even though Aqua Bounty has already submitted all FDA required data. Furthermore, while the company has conducted several taste tests for their fish, it has only conducted limited human or animal trials, which involved a mere 12 fish.

Opening the Frankenfood Floodgates
Approval for GM salmon would very likely fling open the flood gates for other genetically modified animal foods. Aqua Bounty, for example, reports that it also raises GM tilapia and trout, while other food companies are working on GM cows and a so-called "enviro-pig."

The Center for Food Safety: Public Still In The Dark On Transgenic Salmon (Accessed on 09/07/10)

True Food Now: FDA Considers Approval of GE Salmon - the First GE Food Animal - Yet Fails to Inform the Public of Environmental and Economic Risks (Accessed on 09/07/10)

LA Times: Genetically engineered salmon under FDA consideration (Accessed on 09/07/10)

BBC: Push To Have Growth Hormone GM Salmon Approved (Accessed 09/05/10)

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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