As we debate the safety of fish after Fukushima, we have to contend with the growing possibility of widespread genetically modified salmon becoming available.
Environment Canada has given the U.S. biotech firm AquaBounty the green light to produce genetically modified fish eggs in Canada. If it gets FDA approval in the U.S. as well, the company can anticipate being able to ramp up commercial production.
Defending the safety of genetically modified fish to CBCNews, AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish says, “We’re visited on a continuing basis, and it’s probably a dozen times a year between DFO, Environment Canada and other agencies. They examine all our procedures, they examine all of our records, they’ve examined the facility. And in fact, I think we may have set the standard for inspections of facilities of this type.”
Inspections aside, AquaBounty cannot guarantee what will happen when these GMO salmon enter the ecosystem. The real bounty is in the production and their bottom line. AquaBounty’s salmon grow at double the rate of regular salmon.
As for the effects of GMO salmon on human health, CBCNews reports this statement from Stotish: “Are you going to believe the professionals, the skilled scientists, or the people that are constantly beating the drum that there is some sort of conspiracy between the government and industry to somehow damage the environment?”
In a far more measured assessment, a recent report titled “Hybridization between genetically modified Atlantic salmon and wild brown trout reveals novel ecological interactions,” published in the Proceedings of The Royal Society, highlights uncertainty and concludes that the potential risks of genetically modified salmon are unknown.
According to the study:
In stream mesocosms designed to more closely emulate natural conditions, transgenic hybrids appeared to express competitive dominance and suppressed the growth of transgenic and non-transgenic (wild-type) salmon by 82 and 54 per cent, respectively. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of environmental impacts of hybridization between a GM animal and a closely related species. These results provide empirical evidence of the first steps towards introgression of foreign transgenes into the genomes of new species and contribute to the growing evidence that transgenic animals have complex and context-specific interactions with wild populations.
Since fish is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which promote a healthy heart by lowering the risk of heart disease, vegans, vegetarians, and dieters who have scaled back on their consumption of red meat, need to keep a close watch on the latest catch.
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