Have the feds endorsed Frankenfish?

Posted by David Gomez

AquaBounty's controversial bid to release its genetically modified (GM) salmon has been criticized by a number of legislators.

Yet, that didn't stop the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) from declaring their love for the controversial fish by giving AquaBounty $494,162 worth of research funds. 

When we last discussed the "Frankenfish," it seemed as if AquaBounty wasn’t going to have much of a problem convincing regulatory agencies to allow them to be sold in stores. But then the opposition against GM salmon grew to include the Republican controlled House of Representatives.
    
It suddenly looked like the cleverly named AquaAdvantage would be stalled and reason would win out.
    
Yes, according to a report in Grist, the House was going to disallow the FDA from using funds to approve the salmon (a similar bill was stalled in the Senate).

But then the USDA gave AquaBounty the cash to study technologies that would render the "Frankenfish" sterile.
    
Let's think about this for a moment.

Isn't it somewhat contradictory to have at least one part of the legislative branch of government resist approval of a controversial GM product, while the USDA turns around and essentially funds research to help bring that very same product to market?
    
So it’s not at all surprising that USDA’s grant to AquaBounty is perceived as somewhat strange. Why, it almost seems like the US government has somewhat of a vested interest in the future of GM fish.
    
With all of the controversy and legislative resistance surrounding the fish, why would the USDA step in and just give them money? What do people in government stand to gain if the AquaAdvantage gets pushed through?
    
At the moment it doesn’t make much sense.
   
It is also worth noting that AquaBounty was having some difficulty convincing the government all of its genetically modified fish would be born sterile - so that if one of them managed to escape into an ecosystem, it won’t be able to breed and wreak havoc on the environment.
 
But in email to Grist, AquaBounty CEO Ronald L. Stotish admitted the company's  technology is not 100-percent effective and that’s why they "needed" the FDA funding.
    
Maybe this isn’t that big of a deal to most people, but if the US government is determined to get involved with every aspect of the food market, can't they at least give money to people who aren’t trying to introduce controversial sci-fi food?
    
I did some quick research and couldn’t find any links between AquaBounty’s board members and the current administration, but it still comes off as really weird that the USDA has basically declared that it REALLY wants GM fish to be sold to people.
    
An even better question would be: just why is the US government giving out tons of cash to people who want to research and develop biotechnology in the first place?
    
The scientific jury is still out on whether or not GMO’s and bioengineered animals are safe for humans, and yet the government is pushing the industry really hard by handing out funds that will likely lead to the development of even more biotech products.
    
If the biotech food market is going to grow it should be because of its own actions and customer satisfaction, not because the government provided financial help every step of the way.