Wouldn’t it be great if Salmon grew to market size in only 18 months instead of 3 years?
Don’t you think it would help the Salmon fishery be more sustainable?
One company, AquaBounty Technologies thinks just that, and have genetically engineered salmon to grow to market size in half the time! Their mission statement is below.
“[AquaBounty Technologies] mission is to play a significant part in “The Blue Revolution” – bringing together biological sciences and molecular technology to enable an aquaculture industry capable of large-scale, efficient, and environmentally sustainable production of high quality seafood. Increased growth rates, enhanced resistance to disease, better food-conversion rates, manageable breeding cycles, and more efficient use of aquatic production systems are all important components of a sustainable aquaculture industry of the future.”
It all sounds great doesn’t it? ‘Sustainable’, ‘efficient’, ‘the Blue Revolution’, ‘enhanced’, ‘increased’, ‘manageable’, these are all things ocean advocates are working towards. . . BUT what does a genetically engineered salmon actually mean?
Aquabounty technologies has “frankensteined” their own species of salmon known as the AquaAdvantage salmon (the process they used is illustrated below and can be found in more detail here). It resembles an Atlantic salmon but contains a growth hormone from the Chinook salmon and a genetic switch from the ocean pout. This genetic switch keeps the growth hormone from the Chinook salmon in the “on” position year round instead of just during warm weather, allowing the fish to constantly grow — to give you an idea, Chinook Salmon are the largest of any salmon species with adults generally weighing in around 40 pounds, but some have been captured at over 120 pounds! That means the Atlantic salmon grows to monumental sizes in very little time.
Despite an uproar from the scientific and environmental community, the FDA seems to be getting closer to granting permission for the AquaAdvantage salmon to be used in aquaculture facilities. The main problem with a fish like this is what would happen if the frankenstein fish somehow gets released into the wild, or any adverse reactions happen from those consuming it.
If the fish somehow made it’s way into the wild, environmental activists are worried that it could outcompete with the wild species, making it harder for an already endangered species to recover. Studies have been shown the potential for a serious impact on the environment , however due to the remoteness of the facilities that contain these fish and the claim that the female fish are sterile, the likelihood of an escape was determined to be of little concern by the Food and Drug Administration which said this fish would have “no significant impact” on the environment. Also, each new facility wishing to contain this fish would have to pass a rigorous inspection.
The other side of the story is genetically modified food in general. When buying food from your local grocery store (in the US) it is very likely you are buying something with some sort of genetic modification to it. There are no labels to tell you this, and if you did not look it up, it would be hard to know. Many other countries have banned the sale of such products or require them to be labeled. Genetically Modified foods have been attributed to the increase in Celiac disease, a life-threatening reaction to gluten and are a primary concern for new allergens, increased toxicities, decreased nutritional value and antibiotic resistance. With the AquaAdvantage salmon being the first and only genetically modified animal approved for human consumption, there is no telling what reactions people might have to it, or that it might have on our bodies. The approval of this species could open the door for other genetically modified animals.
Would you want to unknowingly eat a fish that was genetically engineered?
The FDA Draft Environmental Assessment is open to public comment for 60 days (starting December 26th) so SPEAK UP to the FDA and let them know what you think, positive or negative, about this potentially game changing salmon.