So the FDA is currently weighing whether or not to approve genetically modified salmon. I heard this on NPR the other night as I was cooking dinner.
Let me repeat.
The FDA is actually thinking about approving the first genetically modified animal for human consumption.
How many ways can I say this is a bad idea? Before I hop onto my soapbox, however, let's look at the facts.
Why the Salmon is Being Modified…
So apparently, the world eats a lot of salmon. I'm a vegetarian, but even I can say that yes, back when I was eating meat, salmon was delicious. And I'm not alone in that assessment.
AquaBounty Technologies is the company behind the genetically modified salmon. They've created salmon that grows to market size twice as fast as regular fish. This, of course, will help keep up with demand.
So how, exactly, is the salmon being modified?
Here's what Professor ANNE KAPUSCINSKI (Professor of Sustainability Science, Dartmouth College) had to say about it on the NPR interview:
The company that's developed these fish has inserted two genes. One gene is for growth hormone, and it's almost identical to the growth hormone gene that's already in these salmon.
And then the other gene acts like a little switch. It's a piece of DNA that comes from another fish, from the ocean pout, and it's normally connected to the gene that produces antifreeze protein in that fish.
In the case of these salmon, they've just taken the part of the DNA that acts like a switch, and that switch turns on the gene that produces the growth hormone so that the salmon will produce growth hormone in its tissues throughout the year, whereas a conventional salmon only produces growth hormone during the warmer times of the year, when the water temperatures are warmer.
Why This is Such a Bad Idea…
Most of us have figured out by now that whatever we put in our food (or food storage containers, or products we use daily) generally ends up in us.
If you haven't read that article, please do. It's a shocking expose of just how harmful commercially produced milk and cheese is for us.
Another good example? The high levels of BPA that pretty much all of us have in our systems from canned food liners. Or the antibiotics in chickens. The chemicals in dryer sheets.
I could keep going, but you get the picture. Whatever we consume, whatever we touch regularly, whatever we breathe, goes into our systems. And the same has got to be true with genetically modified salmon. If we're eating salmon that has been genetically modified to grow faster, is there a chance that it could somehow affect us the same way?
I'm not a scientist. But I do know that the FDA isn't always right about what they approve. And history has shown that when we start modifying nature to fit our needs, it doesn't turn out well.
The Center for Food Safety also has some serious concerns about this genetically modified salmon. One of their biggest concerns is this: genetically modified salmon will be more susceptible to disease, so they're likely going to have to have more antibiotics than regularly farmed salmon.
When we eat the salmon, we're going to be eating all those extra antibiotics as well.
The Data's Coming From the Company…
Another major oversight here.
The data the FDA is using to decide if this genetically modified salmon is safe or not comes directly from AquaBounty Technologies.
That's right. The company is supplying 100% of the data that claims "Yes! This is safe to eat!"
The FDA asked the company to present data on several issues. First of all, is the inserted gene safe for the health of the animal? Is the inserted gene and the growth hormone it's producing safe for humans to eat the fish? And third, will the farming of these fish have any effects on the environment?
They are not required to conclude that they're environmentally safe, and that's the only condition under which to approve them. That law just requires an environmental assessment, basically figuring out what would be the effect on the quality of the human environment.
BLOCK: And you're saying they're asking the company for that data. This is information coming directly from the company that's producing the fish?
Prof. KAPUSCINSKI: Yes. It's the applicant or the company that's responsible for producing the data. That's the way it works under the drug law that is being used to regulate genetically modified animals, including these fish.
This data isn't available to the public. That includes other scientists.
We Won't Know the Salmon is Modified…
The FDA hasn't made a final decision about labeling. But the professor being interviewed at NPR says that, reading between the lines of the report, the company is pushing for no labeling. This means we would have no way of knowing if the salmon we were buying, or eating in a restaurant, was genetically modified or not.
What We Can Do…
We have a very limited time to oppose genetically modified salmon.
You can click here to send an email through the Center for Food Safety's website. The agency will be collecting all the emails and will present them at the FDA hearing on Sept. 19.
If the bill does happen to pass, and you're concerned about its safety, then you can skip eating it. Eating less meat, including salmon, is not only better for you but it's better for the environment.
What do you guys think? Are you willing to eat genetically modified salmon? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!