GM salmon production and consumption approved by USA

The Guardian reports, 19th November 2015: The production and consumption of genetically engineered salmon has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, marking the first time that a genetically modified animal product has been cleared for sale in the US.

The FDA said that it has approved the salmon, produced by Massachusetts-based firm AquaBounty Technologies, “based on sound science and a comprehensive review” that found the product was safe for US consumers. While GM food such as soy and corn are already available, this will be the first engineered animal product to be approved for sale.

A genetically engineered salmon from AquaBounty Technologies, rear, with a conventionally raised sibling roughly the same age. Credit Paul Darrow for The New York Times

A genetically engineered salmon from AquaBounty Technologies, rear, with a conventionally raised sibling roughly the same age.
Credit Paul Darrow for The New York Times

The federal regulator has stipulated that the salmon may only be raised in land-based, secure hatcheries in Panama and Canada, which it will monitor. However, the US will be off limits for the breeding and raising of salmon.

A Canadian conservation group launched a legal bid to halt the production of salmon in the country, claiming that it risks a “huge live experiment” with wild salmon if the modified fish somehow escape into the environment.

AquaBounty’s salmon are modified for fast growth with genes from two other fish. The company, which has attempted to get its product approved in the US since 1995, claims that the salmon will grow twice as quickly as wild salmon and will need 25% less feed to reach full size.

Ron Stotish, chief executive of AquaBounty, said the company’s salmon is a “game-changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats. Using land-based aquaculture systems, this rich source of protein and other nutrients can be farmed close to major consumer markets in a more sustainable manner.”

Last year, a group of scientists wrote to Barack Obama to urge him to allow GM animals for consumption, citing concerns over food security and climate change. Proponents of GM food argue that engineered protein requires less feed and therefore lower greenhouse gas emissions to produce.

In 2010, the FDA determined that GM salmon posed “reasonable certainty of no harm” to consumers. This was followed by a 2013 assessment by the Canadian government that found a “negligible” risk to the country’s environment from the process.

However, environmental and consumer groups have raised concerns over the advance of GM salmon, with Consumers Union telling the Washington Post that the FDA’s approval was based on “inadequate science and unfounded assumptions”.

Opponents claim there is a real risk the salmon could escape from hatcheries and breed with wild salmon, as the sterilisation process has a 5% failure rate.

Source: The Guardian, 19th November 2015. For the full text, see www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/19/fda-approves-genetically-modified-salmon

 

Marinet observes: This decision by the United States marks a watershed in the future of the oceans and mankind’s relationship to them. Henceforth, mankind will be involved in their genetic manipulation. GM salmon may seem like only a small event, but it marks the beginning of a new future. It is a future over which many, including Marinet, hold great concern.

Essentially, it marks:

  • The end of wild populations and races of salmon. Most are already effectively extinct in the NE Atlantic due to their relentless over-fishing and the impact of salmon fish farms in their breeding areas. The only wild population still surviving in the northern hemisphere in any degree of abundance (accompanied by sensible management) is in Alaska. In the long run, the Alaskan population’s future must now be in jeopardy should GM salmon escape to the ocean and thereafter corrupt its gene pool.
  • GM production and fish farming, rather than the restoration and sensible management and harvesting of wild populations, is now increasingly being accepted as the basis for future fish supplies. The oceans are no longer the domain of the hunter because the wild fish stocks appear to be in irreversible decline. Hence if fish are to remain a source of food, fish farming and GM manipulation of these farmed species are destined to take their place. As already exists on the land, the oceans are now on the cusp of marine farming.
  • If the foregoing is true, this means the end of the natural world in the oceans as we know it. Many believe the oceans have already lost their former abundance and character (see C. Roberts, An Unnatural History of the Sea), and this development marks a turning point from which there appears little prospect of a return.
  • Marinet believes, despite the evidence, that none of this is inevitable. Mankind does have a choice about the nature of life on this planet, and the role of our species in its future. Geologists call this the Anthropocene era — the time of human influence. We can live in harmony with the natural world, or we can dominate it and bend it absolutely to our will. Marinet believes that if we elect for the former and harmony, then our species will survive and prosper. If we elect for the latter and its continuous domination and manipulation by us, we have set off down the road to our extinction.

The survival of the natural world, undiminished and restored to abundance, is therefore the key idea, the key principle, that determines our destiny.

If we destroy the natural world, as we are now doing, we are also destroying ourselves. We need to think long and hard on this fact.


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