Would you serve your family genetically modified Atlantic salmon that was sterile and grew twice the normal rate in order to protect wild salmon in the ocean? This appears to be the marketing strategy taken by scientists in order to get the first genetically modified animal for human consumption approved.
In the wild it takes Atlantic salmon three years to mature because they do not grow during the winter. But according to the Telegraph, when scientists implanted genetic material from an eel-like species called ocean pout, the fish grew all year long and were full size after only 18 months. However the GM salmon, called AquAdvantage, were all sterile.
The salmon were developed by a company called AquaBounty Technologies. They’re publicizing they have discovered a safe process for breeding salmon quicker in fish farms, while leaving wild fish in the ocean untouched. Their process could also double their profits because the GM salmon will reach the marketplace faster.
The GM fish are currently being examined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But if the agency gives its stamp of approval, GM salmon could be at local grocery stores within a year.
Currently there are no GM animals approved for human consumption and the public has repeatedly shown an aversion to the idea. However, most livestock raised at commercial farms are fed GM food from crops such as corn and soy.
If the FDA approves the GM salmon, it could lead to more genetically engineered animals. The University of Guelph in Canada has been experimenting with its “enviropig,” a pig that is bred to digest food more effectively and have less pollution in its manure.
Animal advocates and environmentalists are opposed to the idea of GM animals. The Telegraph said, “…campaigners question whether the GM material is safe for humans to consume and fear the sterile salmon will mutate in the wild and be able to breed.”
AquaBounty claims there are no risks to the public or the fish in the wild. They see it as an efficient way to produce a nutritional food and believe they are saving wild salmon. While this may be true, no one is considering that the GM salmon are real, living beings that will be affected by this process.
Lord Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association in the UK weighed in with his opinion, “Once you have bombarded an animal with other genes, the DNA is unstable, and there is no guarantee these fish remain sterile. It poses far too great a risk to wild salmon…..we will pay the price.”
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