Science Scope

New on the menu: GM salmon

New on the menu: GM salmon

Posting in Cancer

The fast-growing GM salmon is safe to eat, apparently.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration might give the go ahead to sell genetically modified salmon. Aqua Bounty Technologies' line of genetically engineered Atlantic salmon will grow twice as fast as ordinary salmon.

This would make the salmon the first GM animal to be approved for human consumption.

The Guardian calls this move dangerous.

Aqua Bounty calls it a Blue Revolution, a chance to improve the productivity in aquaculture.

The working product description of AquAdvantage fish is:

A triploid Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) bearing a single copy of the stably integrated α-form of the opAFP-GHc2 gene construct at the α-locus in the EO-1α line, populations of which grow to a mean body weight of 100 g, and exhibit a significantly greater proportion of animals weighing 100 g or more, within 2700 deg-days of first-feeding when fed to satiety in water temperatures characteristic of present-day farming operations, that are produced as eyed-eggs for grow-out of triploid, hemizygous, all-female fish in physically-contained, production facilities.

With the trend going the way of creating more food, will it be possible to eat real food or will it all be made in a lab? Leading scientists previously suggested that growing artificial meat in vats is a good way to increase food production without totally destroying the environment.

If the FDA approves AquAdvantage Salmon, this is how it will be made:

  • eyed eggs produced in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada
  • eye eggs shipped to Panama
  • grow fish in the highlands of Panama
  • process fish there
  • then ship the ready-to-eat fish to the United States

Does that sound appetizing?

The New York Times reports that the GM salmon have elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in them. That's not a good thing, since there's a cancer risk associated with the insulin-like growth hormone. However, the FDA said that even if people consumed a lot of salmon, it would not increase the amount of hormone into their system.

Really? Regardless, as a salmon eater, I will be closely watching to see if this altered fish makes its way from Panama onto my dinner plate soon. That all depends on the FDA's decision this fall.

But scientists don't know what would happen if the GM fish mingle with other natural fish and how the alien species might interact with the environment.

GM plants have already been found in the wild. Even farmed fish have been known to dabble outside of the farm, exposing wild ones to lice and contaminants like antibiotics. The farmed fish even interbreed with the wild ones too, making it harder for them to survive.

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure