The small bio-tech firm, AquaBounty Technologies Inc., has genetically engineered a salmon, which reaches an 8-pound market weight in just 18 months, compared to the 36 months normally required.
Dubbed “Frankenfish” by the firm’s critics for creating an animal that grows almost three times faster than its natural counterpart, AquaBounty argues their genetically-engineered salmon is virtually the same as the North Atlantic salmon, which the new species is based after.
The firm inserted part of a gene from an ocean pout into the growth gene of a Chinook salmon. They then injected the combined genetic material into the fertilized egg of a North Atlantic salmon.
“This is a single gene and it’s a salmon gene in a salmon,” said Ronald Stotish, Chief Executive of AquaBounty.
The controversy over eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is certainly not a new debate, but if approved for human consumption in US markets by the FDA, this will be the first GMO animal to be sold for its flesh.
Many people find the thought of eating an animal that would have never been created by nature terribly troubling. But the truth of the matter is that virtually all domesticated animals raised to be eaten in the US have been so selectively bred to gain weight, they never would have occurred naturally either.
Broiler (meat) chickens, for example, have been bred to grow so rapidly that by the age of 6 weeks, 90% of these poor birds can no longer walk due to being so morbidly obese.
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Another issue surrounding GMO plants and animals is the possibility of crossbreeding with other species, and the danger that lies therein.
AquaBounty intends to prevent this by having their salmon raised only at inland facilities, rather than in ocean pens, where farmed salmon are commonly raised.
Besides the obvious abuse issues associated with raising an animal in confinement, where they cannot live out many of their most basic natural instincts and desires — much the same as egg battery hens – the pollution and waste associated with facilities such as these may be immense.
It generally takes three pounds of wild-caught fish to raise one pound of farmed fish. And although AquaBounty claims their salmon require 25% less food, that still creates a tremendous amount of waste.
It still stands to be seen if the FDA will approve the consumption of GMO animals for the safety of its consumers, but for the animals involved in what boils down to a $50 million dollar experiment, it doesn’t matter much — their safety and well-being continues to be ignored.
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