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GM Salmon: A Risk To Consumers And The Environment?

Salmonids Food safety & handling Politics +3 more

US - There has been much speculation over whether the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will allow the sale of genetically modified (GM) salmon to consumers. Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, a US non-for-profit organisation, insists that there are environmental and consumer related health risks from GM salmon.

Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter says that many in the aquaculture industry seek to genetically engineer fish to speed up production of their product.

In this case, the company lobbying the FDA for approval, AquaBounty Technologies, wants to combine salmon genes that control growth hormone with a gene from another fish, the ocean pout. The ocean pout gene would keep the growth hormone in production, effectively creating mutant salmon that grow at twice the normal rate.”

Ms Hauter says that the FDA's tests (historically used to determine if a non-GM food was safe) were created before GM products became a reality and are insufficient in determining the long-term, unforeseen consequences of the GM salmon in question. Put simply, these dated tests cannot determine the salmon’s full allergenicity and toxicity.

Ms Hauter highlights a recent study commissioned by the EU revealed that fish that ahve been modified to grow faster also have a higher tolerance to the toxins in their environment. Researchers expressed concerns that both these toxins and the growth hormones would end up in consumers.

“In addition to the FDA’s inability to test for the full range of consumer health threats introduced by GM foods, the agency’s tests do not include a review of the GM animals’ environmental impacts," says Mr Hauter.

"AquaBounty has claimed that they will raise their fish in land-based facilities where ocean escapes are impossible, but what about the masses of corporations that will no doubt race to produce GM fish in the crowded open ocean facilities they already utilise for fish production? If the FDA approves GM fish, these fish will likely escape from their floating ocean pens (millions of salmon currently escape from them every year). Furthermore, even if a company promises to produce sterile fish incapable of interbreeding with the wild population, fast growing GM fish can easily outcompete wild fish for natural resources.”