As you’ve probably read, the FDA is on the cusp of sending GM salmon to a seafood purveyor near you. If deregulated, GM salmon will be the fist transgenic animal to hit the shelves in this country.
The “AquAdvantage” salmon, the 14-year and $50-million-dollar project of AquaBounty Technologies, begins as a GM Atlantic salmon egg. That egg’s genetic data is spliced with chinook and ocean pout genes before being fertilized by the sperm of an arctic char. In this way, science gives us the “Frankenfish”–so-called because detractors point out the fish’s resemblance to the troubled monster created by Dr. Frankenstein.
Nothing has yet been decided. The FDA has much to consider. Is the GM salmon safe to consume? Does it really grow that much faster than normal fish? How will it affect the environment?
If the past is any indication of things to come, the FDA will approve the GM fish. In the past two decades, GM corn and soy have become ubiquitous thanks, in part, to government’s enthusiastic approval. These GM crops have had far-reaching consequences, including the genetic pollution of non-GM crops. Despite these casualties, government has recently renewed its charge by okaying the production of GM alfalfa.
These made-in-America GM foods have been resisted by Europe, Japan, and even Africa. What’s more, Europe and Japan require labeling for their GM foods, though small in number they may be. Here at home, the FDA has resisted calls for the labeling of GM foods–and things won’t be any different for GM salmon, if approved.
For now, the FDA is considering the facts presented by AquaBounty. Questions have been raised about data collection methods, especially the conflicts of interest that undergird the whole approval process. But the real questions are these: Do we want to create a fish that, if it escapes, could outcompete wild salmon? Do we want to dine on lab-spawned salmon when perfectly good salmon can be had from icy Alaskan waterways? Most of all, do we want to set a GM precedent, so that Frankenfish will be followed by GM beef and GM chicken?
When answering these questions, we can’t forget the example of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. Things didn’t turn out too well for either of them.