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Would you like a side of ocean pout DNA with your salmon?

September 21, 2010

flickr/sifu renka

I’m scared to eat fish. I used to believe that having salmon for dinner was healthy for me and the environment. Now, I’m not even sure if what I’m eating is salmon.

I’ve watched fish become more scarce and wild salmon become a rarity in grocery stores next to its farm-raised relative. And now I am listening to the debate over genetically modified salmon.

The AquAdvantage salmon is genetically modified Atlantic salmon, from AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. It would be the very first genetically modified animal approved for consumption if the FDA decides it is safe. They will grow twice as fast thanks to a handy bit of DNA from what is called an ocean pout. Have you ever seen an ocean pout?

photo of an ocean pout by Steven G. Johnson

DNA from that lovely eel-like creature would be grafted onto a salmon’s growth hormone gene, which would then be injected into the eggs of a North Atlantic salmon. At least that’s my understanding, but it’s all a bit confusing. And to make it even more confusing for the consumer, if this new AquAdvantage salmon is approved, the FDA still needs to decide whether packaging will have to state that the fish is genetically modified. EXCUSE ME?

Not only could your “Atlantic salmon” be an eel-like adaptation of the formerly-known salmon, but, you wouldn’t even know it?! I don’t know which is scarier, genetically modified fish or not knowing how your food is produced. AquaBounty states on their website,

“Mature AAS are indistinguishable from their conventional counterparts.” Well isn’t that reassuring.

AquaBounty is also developing similarly produced trout and tilapia.

So tell me, as the consumer, doesn’t this scare you? Yes the population is growing, and yes we seem to have an insatiable appetite for seafood but isn’t this taking it a bit too far? Hasn’t producing our food bigger, better and faster already been tried? (CORN). And what has that given us besides diabetes and a food system tied to one crop, and one crop only?

I think we need other options and we need to take a good hard look at what we, as consumers, want.

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