Genetic freak fish: coming to your dinner table?

Posted by David Gomez

In their quest to apparently make all of our food artificial, scientists have given yet another creation their blessing. Say hello to genetically modified salmon.

They grow at a highly accelerated rate and American scientists are giving the big thumbs up to eating them. The Daily Mail Online calls them "Frankensalmon."

These unnatural beauties could be on American dinner tables in two to three years. And they will have the honorable distinction as the first genetically modified creature to be sold as food.

However, critics say the fish could pave the way for the modification of other fish and other animals that are commonly used as food.

Unsurprisingly, the science involved is highly controversial. People have questions and concerns regarding consumer health and the environment.

Critics of GM food also fear that the food manipulation could lead to disfigured mutant fish floating around. They also fear the GM fish escaping and harming wild fish populations.

Research on modified trout in Canada found that although they grow faster and are much bigger than normal fish, some sprouted deformed heads and developed bloated bodies.

The company behind the GM Atlantic Salmon, Aqua Bounty, says its fish are normal, except that they grow three times quicker.

The AquAdvantage Salmon - as they are creatively named - grow to the weight of around 6.6 pounds in 16-18 months instead of the three years it normally takes farmed fish.

In addition, they are typically be expected to reach twice the size of most natural salmon of the same age.

The extreme growth in the fish is made possible by two genes which are put into the fish’s genetic code. One of the genes gives the fish the large amount of growth hormone they need, and the other makes sure the fish grow in cold weather.

The mad scientist technology allows fish farmers to produce much more fish at a much lower cost. In turn they should be able to use the fish to boost their productivity and also their profits.

The scientists who developed the fish insist that they have also been able to engineer safeguards into them. What fun are engineered beings if they don’t have a safety switch, right?

So, to prevent the new fish from breeding with the natural fish the scientists have made all of the AquAdvantage Salmon female and sterile.

Even with all of the concerns these fish raise, the experts say they are safe to eat, and that the safeguards put into the fish’s genetic makeup are enough to protect wild and farmed populations.

The Food and Drug Administration was quoted in a Daily Mail online story saying "Food from AquAdvantage Salmon is as safe to eat as food from other Atlantic salmon."

They also said "there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from consumption."

The FDA is expected to make their final ruling this month on whether the fish will make the grade or not. There are 31 consumer, animal welfare, environmental, and fisheries groups that will be there to raise their concerns and urge the FDA to resist the fish of the future.