Originally published June 6 2015
GM salmon susceptible to disease, slow growth, GMO scientists alarmed that biotech is unpredictable
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Canadian government documents recently obtained as part of a lawsuit meant to block the production of genetically modified (GM) salmon show that, contrary to claims made by producer AquaBounty Technologies, the GM salmon actually grow more slowly and are more prone to disease than non-GM farmed salmon.
The documents raise questions about the viability and safety of the fish that have not been considered by the FDA as it ponders whether to approve the fish for human consumption.
"Major grocery chains, consumers and salmon producers are all rejecting genetically engineered salmon," said Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth. "This new assessment adds to the body of science showing that this genetically engineered fish doesn't offer any benefit to aquaculture, has unique health problems and presents environmental risks. Why is the FDA continuing to spend scarce tax-payer dollars reviewing this fish that offers all risk and no reward?"
Fish grow slowly, inconsistentlyThe GM salmon consists of Atlantic salmon (the variety that is farmed), with added genes from Pacific Chinook salmon and from a completely separate type of fish known as an eelpout. The genetic modifications are meant to cause the fish to produce abnormally high levels of growth hormone and to grow as much as six times faster than unmodified Atlantic salmon.
Although AquaBounty runs an illegal test "production facility" in Panama -- actually a "run-down shed" from which GM salmon have already "escaped" -- no commercial production of the GM salmon has taken place. Government regulators have approved the fish's production in Canada, but that decision has been challenged by environmental and consumer advocacy groups. In the course of this legal fight, the groups obtained a partially redacted copy of a 400-page draft risk assessment from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, dated 2013.
This document notes that GM salmon are more vulnerable to the disease-causing bacteria Aeromonas salmonicida than non-modified salmon. According to the public interest groups, this susceptibility raises animal health, public health and environmental concerns that have not been analyzed by the FDA.
The Canadian document also found, that rather than growing faster, the GM fish at AquaBounty's commercial facilities actually grew dramatically slower than non-modified fish. The fish also showed wide variation in growth rates and other markers of performance, suggesting that the genetic modification is not producing consistent results in the actual fish.
This evidence of shoddy genetic engineering raises serious concerns about the safety of the modified fish, the public interest groups warned, not to mention the GM salmon's commercial viability.
No benefits, only risksThe new documents are only the latest evidence to emerge suggesting that AquaBounty has exaggerated, if not outright fabricated, its claims that its GM salmon grow faster than unmodified fish. This is a major reason that the commercial salmon industry has remained hesitant to support the GM fish.
Notably, faster growth is the only benefit that AquaBounty cites for its GM salmon on its application for FDA approval.
"The findings from the Canadian risk assessment show that FDA has based its assessment of this totally unnecessary technology on blind trust," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. "It's clear that there are unique safety issues that FDA has failed to consider, which is why we are calling on the agency to terminate its review of GMO salmon."
No country has yet approved the GM salmon for consumption. If the FDA approves it, it will become the first GM animal approved for human consumption anywhere in the world. Following the release of the Canadian report, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth and Consumers Union all called on the FDA to end its consideration of the GM salmon.
GMO critics have warned that the modified salmon are likely to eventually escape, causing serious harm to the health and genetic vitality of wild salmon populations.
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