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September 23, 2010

Is The Franken-Flesh Dam Breaking? ~ Steve Hoffman

Genetically Modified Salmon Might Pave The Way for More Franken-Flesh to Come.

It grows twice as fast, won’t escape into the wild to breed, and is perfectly healthy for humans to eat.

So says AquaBounty—and its scientists for hire—about its genetically-engineered (GE) salmon, AquaAdvantage, which, if the company has its way, will join the nearly 80% of grocery products with one or more GE ingredients.

From tomatoes with a flounder gene to corn with its own pesticide (likely harmful to humans as well as insects), more and more of our plant products have been engineered—including ninety percent of our corn, soy, cotton and sugar beets.

If the FDA allows the sale of AquaAdvantage salmon, it will allow the sale of engineered animals for the first time. And, since AquaBounty is requesting that the salmon not be labeled as engineered, mindful diners may never know what’s on their plate. The company claims the GE salmon is not substantially different from the wild variety so a GE label would only confuse consumers.

The claim is an odd one as, according to Paula Crossfield in Civil Eats, the Veterinary Advisory Committee is reviewing the salmon as ‘new animal drug’ rather than as food. Of course, as a ‘new animal drug’, the approval process involves a 14-day public comment period rather than the usual 60 to 90 day period for food. As Crossfield writes,

the first potentially approved genetically engineered animal is being considered just like a pharmaceutical, instead of as a precedent with significant implications for the environment, other species, and human health…

Ron Stotish, AquaBounty’s CEO, has assured the FDA the salmon will not escape their farms and calls the new fish sustainable.

But, these genetically engineered variants of Atlantic salmon will escape and they will breed. And there’s no telling what this new GE species, developed in a laboratory, will do to wild salmon species and the environment—or, for that matter, human health.

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