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GMO Salmon — Food for Thought

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By Chris Dunn

If the FDA and AquAdvantage have their way, you’ll soon be eating genetically modified salmon — and very likely, without knowing it.

What’s the big deal, you say; all these philanthropic people (who only have our best interest at heart) are doing is genetically modifying salmon to grow twice as fast as a normal salmon.  And the FDA says they don’t even have to confuse the public by acknowledging it.

All these scientists have done is to help nature out a tiny bit, one might say, by tweaking salmon DNA with a gene from an ocean pout, a fish that grows at the same prodigious rate as Pinocchio’s nose when he (or the FDA, for that matter) speaks.  And to be fair, the good folks at AquAdvantage tossed in a growth hormone from the Chinook salmon just to keep it all in the family.

Admittedly, people have been genetically “modifying” food for thousands of years.  That’s how corn and wheat, as we know them today, were developed.  The difference is those products were developed by careful natural breeding within a species.  The problem here is there is no, I repeat, no empirical research to predict how the human body (and the ecosystem) will react to this little prank on nature.

One thing for sure; if history repeats itself, the human race and nature are in for a rough ride.  For example, the much less invasive experiment scientists of the 20th century performed on unsaturated fats by artificially hydrogenating them created (Bwah, ha, Ha!) transfat, which turned out to be far worse for a human being than lard or butter.  Interestingly, in an unsettling way, transfats were promoted to the public as a “healthy” alternative to that bad, awful natural stuff.

But let’s be optimistic.  Let’s say this time the scientists got it right and the only consumer problem with these fish is they won’t fit in a 10-inch skillet.  But what about the inevitable? — and it will happen.  Some of these genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will end up in the ocean. GMO corn, banned for human consumption, somehow ended up in Taco Bell products. And guess which species will out-eat, out-mate, out-produce, and ultimately, destroy all the other salmon?

Let’s be clear.  This is less a decision of whether or not to allow a GMO salmon to be marketed than it is whether or not to protect and preserve all the other species of natural salmon on earth.

Chris Dunn is a San Antonio-based food writer. The opinions expressed here are his own.

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