Genetically Modified Salmon? - A. Brown
With growing concern, I've been reading stories about how much of the corn and soy sold here in the US is genetically modified. In trying to follow a more-or-less "natural" diet, I've already cut out most of the beef and chicken grown on factory farms, and attempting to eat more seafood. In my opinion, salmon is one of the easiest fish to cook: the thick slabs of a filet stay together fairly well and have a good taste even if garnished with nothing but a little salt.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I read that A/F Protein, an American-Canadian company, is producing genetically modified salmon implanted with genes that will make them grow faster. Although not sold in the US yet, the fish is under review by the FDA. The article in the Washington Post (see http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A5198-2000Oct13.html for more information) says that there is a loophole in FDA regulations that allows foreign companies to import meat treated with chemicals that aren't allowed in the United States (a frightening enough thought!) so it's likely that these salmon can be on our dinner plates even if our government decides that it's not OK to produce them here.
Add to this the fact that our government and the big biotech companies don't believe we have the right to know what is in our food, and that means that we won't have a clue which salmon is engineered and which is not. At least with packaged foods, we can avoid products from companies that are known to produce this "frankenfood" if we wish.
Why the concern? Is it really unsafe? I don't know. The problem is, I'm not sure they do either: the bottom line is money and if there are consequences later down the road why let that bother you when you can make a quick buck today? The main concern right now is the wild salmon: the ones that are being fished to the edge of endangerment. If these larger fish are allowed to escape (and no containment is perfect, especially when many fish farms share the same coastal waters as the wild ones) it is feared that they will outcompete the wild fish for mates. Many of the offspring of these biotech fish are not suited to live in the wild, leading to potential decimation of the wild fish population.
Besides, many of the salmon farmers say that this type of engineering is unnecessary: they don't need to genetically engineer fish in order to have plenty. Fish farming has been fairly successful on its own, as evidenced by the price of salmon in your favorite grocery store: it's much cheaper now than a few years ago. Some researchers also argue that similar benefits to the biotech fish can be achieved through conventional cross-breeding techniques.