Genetically Modified Salmon, Will You Eat It?

Salmon is as close as you can get to the perfect food source. It’s full of protein, low in fat and is chock full of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and selenium. It is also a good source of niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, vitamin B6, choline, pantothenic acid, biotin and potassium. It’s been found to benefit people suffering from mood disorders, improves cognitive function and helps us with pain. There’s one catch: all of this near perfection in healthy goodness comes from wild salmon, not farm-raised.

Farm-Raised Salmon


Fish are being bred in captivity with increasing frequency. Salmon just happens to be one of them. Farm-raised salmon has to be injected with food dyes in order to achieve its trademark hue to entice people to eat it. Otherwise, the meat would resemble the mud gray coloring of bottom feeders. Truthfully, I don’t know why anybody would eat it, other than it’s more affordable than its cold-water cousins caught swimming in the wild. But, apparently, more of it is coming our way.

 

Farm-raised Salmon isn't normally as nutricious as wild salmon: Genetically engineered fish bred in captivityFarm-raised Salmon isn't normally as nutricious as wild salmon: Genetically engineered fish bred in captivity

 

Genetically Modified Salmon


On November 20, 2015, U.S. regulators approved a type of genetically engineered (GE) salmon produced by AquaBounty Technologies in Massachusetts as being safe for consumption, positioning it as the first transgenic animal to grace the dinner tables of the American public — if they’ll have it. The fish, called AquAdvantage, can reach the size of an adult in a little over half the time it would take for wild salmon. That’s 16 to 18 months for the one as opposed to 30 months for the other.

FDA Delivers Decision on Salmon


The Food and Drug Administration's decision on the transgenic fish comes after years of controversy. The fish in question is an Atlantic salmon that’s been injected with a gene from Pacific Chinook salmon to hasten its growth. According to the FDA, regulators have determined that AquAdvantage salmon is not only safe to eat, but it’s as nutritious as the meat from other non-genetically engineered Atlantic salmon. The problem with that is their history of backpedaling on the question of product safety.

 

 Benefits of Wild Salmon: Wild, cold-water fish are full of vitamins and nutritional goodnessBenefits of Wild Salmon: Wild, cold-water fish are full of vitamins and nutritional goodness

 

Benefits of Wild Salmon


Bernadette Dunham, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, stated, "They have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat.” While its safeness is obviously a plus, the question remains as to how is it being raised and will it really retain the benefits of wild salmon. The answer to that is this: the genetically engineered fish can only be raised in contained hatchery tanks on land in Canada and Panama. Why? Because the FDA’s recent approval doesn’t allow AquAdvantage salmon to be bred or raised in the U.S.

Consumer Groups Oppose GE Fish


While the FDA insists, "There are no biologically relevant differences in the nutritional profile of AquAdvantage salmon compared to that of other farm-raised Atlantic salmon," consumer groups are opposing the fish, with concerns ranging from it could be dangerous to the health of humans, to the fear that it may pose risks to other fish populations if it were to escape into the environment. Both are very real and legitimate concerns, for it wouldn’t be the first time either has happened.

Genetically Engineered Fish Rendered Sterile


However, the FDA sought to reassure consumer groups and the general public with the news that AquAdvantage salmon "are reproductively sterile, so that even in the highly unlikely event of an escape, they would be unable to interbreed or establish populations in the wild." Many people will feel better about eating it already, but not everyone. Most species that are bred in captivity, messed with and altered, turn out to be incapable of reproduction and have more problems and shorter life spans. None of these are reassuring qualities in a potential food source.

 

 FDA Approves Genetically Modified Salmon for U.S. Consumption: No labeling will be required to identify it as suchFDA Approves Genetically Modified Salmon for U.S. Consumption: No labeling will be required to identify it as such

 

Food Labeling Concerns


Interestingly, peddlers of the new fish are not required to label it as genetically altered. That’s because under U.S. law additional labeling of this sort is only required if there is a material difference in a genetically modified product (such as its nutritional profile) and its natural, unadulterated counterpart. Since the FDA claims not to have found any such differences, the AquAdvantage salmon does not meet the criteria for a heads-up label. The only thing you as a consumer can do about it is ask the salmon’s origin at point of purchase, if you’d rather not eat it. Bon Appétit!

 

Source: Discovery.com