The Food and Drug Admistration (FDA) held hearings last week on the introduction of genetically engineered salmon in the U.S. for human consumption. If approved, these gargantuan creatures would be the first genetically engineered animals of their kind to enter America’s food supply.
Injecting fertilized salmon eggs with growth genes from Pacific Chinook salmon creates a substantially larger fish, grown to market size in half the time as a wild Atlantic salmon. AquAdvantage Salmon, created by AquaBounty Technologies, are also injected with DNA from the ocean pout – an eel-like fish – allowing the salmon to be grown in the winter as well as the summer.
The company, which is pushing its salmon to be approved for sale in supermarkets within the next two years, claims there are no adverse health effects to consuming these salmon and that they are similar to wild Atlantic salmon, except larger because of the genetic modifications. A fish that grows larger and faster has obvious economic advantages.
Little is known about the negative health effects of eating the AquAdvantage Salmon because studies on the subject are far from thorough.
One of the most compelling arguments against allowing mutant salmon on the market is that the safety and allergy studies have been taken from shockingly low samples of fish. AquaBounty not only provided its own data on consumption safety to the FDA, but provided samples with only a few dozen fish in their data assessments, according to the New York Times. Without further testing, the fish could prove detrimental to consumer health.
The modified salmon have higher levels of an insulin-like growth hormone that could lead to a higher risk of cancer, according to the Times.
The FDA concluded that even large quantities of the salmon would not significantly increase the amount of the hormone consumed. If a potential cancer risk is irrelevant to the FDA, one may question what other negative factors they overlooked.
Yes, these AquAdvantage Salmon will be larger, cheaper and more readily available to inland states in the U.S. There are positive economic facets that AquBounty recognizes. However, at some point, Americans must question if this is truly safe or merely a desperate attempt to overcompensate for a struggling economy.
Some question whether the salmon will be labeled as genetically engineered if passed into supermarkets. How this is even a question is beyond comprehension. Bringing in DNA from outside sources and injecting it into the salmon eggs may promote dangerous allergens consumers should know about.
Treading into unsafe waters of genetic engineering is something the U.S. must take very seriously. The unknown nature of the science allows for unforeseen factors. Despite the claim that genetically engineered salmon will have a positive effect on society, consumers need to think twice about consuming it.
Tara Petzoldt is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.