AquaBounty Technologies announced that they have genetically engineered a faster-growing Atlantic farm salmon that they plan to make available in grocery stores. The altered fish is pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which is now holding hearings on whether to deem the fish "safe" for consumers. The fish has already been described by one FDA scientist as, "as safe as food from any other Atlantic salmon." Still, not surprisingly, there's strong pushback against the "frankenfish" as it inches closer to FDA approval.
'Say No To Genetically Engineered Salmon' declares Chef Rick Moonen in a CNN opinion contribution. "Make no mistake. The creation of this fish is just another tactic for big industry to make bigger, faster profits with no consideration for the impact it will have on our personal health and the health of our environment and ecosystem." And the argument by AquaBounty Technology that the altered fish is as safe to consume as farmed Atlantic salmon isn't convincing: "farmed salmon aren't really that safe to eat. They have been found to have higher concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls than wild salmon, which gets into their bodies from the concentrated fish meal used to create their feed."
- Consumer Union Pleas Will Fall on 'Deaf' FDA Ears observes Barry Estabrook at The Atlantic: "It is clear that the committee reviewing the application is made up of people who are either blatantly pro-genetically modified foods, or simply lack the expertise to make informed decisions. The committee has no scientists whose expertise is in the areas of fish ecology, food allergies, and endocrinology (all relevant topics), but there are two members who have developed genetically engineered animals, including one Monsanto alum and several veterinarians."
- 'How Can the FDA Tell Whether GMO Fish Are Safe?' In a Slate Explainer column, Brian Palmer details how AquaBounty Technologies attempt to "prove" how the altered fish are safe. By international consensus, all the manufacturer of such genetic fish has to prove is that "the altered species does not differ, biochemically, from its safe-to-eat, naturally occurring cousin." To do this, the company "started by freezing a few samples of their genetically altered salmon and extracting proteins. They compared the proteins to reference data on unaltered salmon in the FDA's Regulatory Fish Encyclopedia...Lab technicians also conducted blood tests....Finally, they homogenized the fillet samples in a blender, and analyzed them for fat, protein, carbohydrates, and a host of vitamins and minerals. The tests showed that only vitamin B6 content differed significantly, but still not enough to raise concerns."
- Science 'Can't Prove' the Fish is Safe 'Over a Long Period of Time' warned Darrell Rogers of the Alliance for Natural Health in a Washington Post article by Lyndsey Layton. The writer goes on to assert that, "Critics said the company had not proved that the fish was safe for humans or the environment. 'If you tried to publish this information in a peer-reviewed journal, it would be rejected,' said Anne Kapuscinski, a professor at Dartmouth College and an international expert on the safety of genetically modified organisms."
- How Do You Label the Altered Fish? "According to FDA officials, food labels are not required to disclose how a particular food was manufactured, unless the manufacturing process alters the food’s characteristics," which is obviously a point of contention, writes Matt McMillen at WebMD News. "if, as AquaBounty officials and others claim, the AquAdvantage salmon is in no significant way different from conventional salmon, then the FDA would have no obligation -- or authority -- to make clear to shoppers that the new product was genetically engineered."
- We Already Eat Other Cloned Animals says Marcelo Glieser at NPR: "In the case of GM salmon, the expectation is that they will go ahead and approve it. After all, the FDA allows us to eat cloned cattle, pigs, and goats. The enormous pressure commercial fisheries are suffering, coupled to the increase in global population and its appetite for high quality fish and meat, should be an encouragement to boost the production of salmon through science. Genetically engineered foods are a far cry from a sci-fi nightmare, although of course all possible precautions should be taken before a new product is launched into the marketplace or the environment."