Have you ever seen an animal with a trademark? Neither had we…until recently. A genetically modified, trademarked salmon has been approved for human consumption by the FDA and will be available for purchase in the United States soon. The AquAdvantage® Salmon will soon be lurking in your sushi, with no warning label as to its origins and little proof of its safety.
AquAdvantage® is a product of AquaBounty Technologies, which has combined genes from various salmon and other fish to create a new animal that grows much faster than natural salmon—making it possible to farm more salmon in less time. The fish will be the first GMO animal to officially enter the human food chain, although it will undoubtedly be followed by a parade of other genetic monstrosities created solely for the convenience and cost-effectiveness of large-scale agricultural enterprises. It is currently being sold in Canada, and will soon make its way into American supermarkets as well.
The Fishy Business of GM Animals
Genetically modified animals pose a host of ethical, ecological, and economic problems. Among many other concerns, it’s important to consider:
- Is it humane, responsible, or morally acceptable to tamper with an animal’s genes, modifying it in ways that may cause unknown harm to the animal or reduce its quality of life?
- Is it ethical to create an entirely new species at all? Who gets to determine limitations on what sorts of animals are acceptable to create?
- What happens when a newly-minted, genetically mutated animal escapes the confines of its warehouse/aquatic enclosure/pasture and mingles with other, natural species?
- Is it reasonable to create animals that might, if allowed into the natural environment, cause ecological damage ranging from overpopulation to extinction?
- Is it economically a good idea to introduced patented animals onto the market, opening the door to more Monsanto-type lawsuits and driving traditional farmers out of business? What animals should qualify as trademarked? What legal ramifications might occur when a trademarked animal breeds with a natural animal?
Although this list of questions reads a little like science fiction, these are valid concerns that should be dealt with now, before Pandora’s box can’t be closed. Furthermore, this is the tip of the iceberg where GM animals are concerned and decisions about the regulation of GMOs need to be made now rather than waiting until they must be made during a crisis.
What Exactly is an AquAdvantage® Salmon?
You won’t find much information about the nature of this fish on AquaBounty’s website. The information offered there only addresses AquAdavantage’s® alleged benefits, and the “frequently asked questions” are clearly crafted by the company to highlight positives while skirting around negatives. It’s doubtful that someone who has actual concerns about GM animals would ask AquaBounty questions like “How do restaurants benefit,” “How does the American economy benefit,” or “Can fast-growing salmon help reduce pressures on dwindling wild fisheries,” but this type of contrived “question” dominates their FAQ page.
Image via AquaBounty
The company also doesn’t share its magic “recipe” for fast-growing fish. Under the Technology tab on its website, AquaBounty presents a scant few paragraphs about the genetic makeup of the fish, only mentioning that they’ve combined genes from two types of salmon to create the AquAdvantage® brand fish. This, of course, sounds reasonably wholesome—two salmon, after all, might breed in the wild. What they neglect to mention is that the fish also include genes from the Ocean Pout, an eel-like bottom dweller that lives deep in the cold depths of the sea.
The eel’s DNA acts in part as a sort of antifreeze, which allows the modified salmon to continue to grow even during the winter when normal salmon don’t grow. The GM salmon grow to full size in just 18 months, rather than 3 years. The beefed-up fish dwarfs a salmon of the same age, certainly speeding up the time it takes for a farmed GM salmon to make it from tank to dinner plate.
A Patented, Unhealthy Fast-Food Fish
Salmon is a healthy food, right? So more of it coming into the American market will be good for our health?
For starters, Wild Caught salmon is a very healthy food—but it differs vastly even from the farmed salmon that’s already on the market. Farmed salmon is fed a diet high in fat in order to speed growth. Its diet is largely comprised of GMO corn and soy, which are grown with Roundup. It has more calories than wild salmon and is much higher in inflammatory-causing Omega-6 fats. Farmed salmon are exposed to contaminants that are unhealthy for both fish and humans, and are given supplements to make their flesh pink (without this, the flesh of farmed salmon is a dull grey).
Image via The Salmon Man, Facebook
When you’re farming a salmon that’s been genetically modified, you are taking on even more health concerns:
- AquAdvantage® may cause or exacerbate allergies to finfish, because of the genetic process used to create them. Only one test for allergenic properties was done on just six fish (and that test was not double-blind). The results are that GM salmon seem to be 40 to 19 percent more allergenic, depending on the type. Even in this small test, it’s clear that more research needs to be done in the area of allergens with GM salmon.
- Genetically Modified salmon contain high levels of IGF-1, a growth hormone that is known to cause breast, blood, prostate and colon cancer. This hormone is often used in meat production, but the FDA requires a waiting time in which the animal is taken off the hormones before it’s slaughtered so that the hormones have time to clear from the meat. AquAdvantage® Salmon have this hormone built into every cell, and it can’t be cleared before consumption.
- AquAdvantage® Salmon contain 10 percent less healthy Omega 3 fatty acids than even farmed salmon—and the balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 is worse than any other farmed salmon. They are fed on GMO soy, as well. Basically, they are the “fast food” of fish, switching speed and convenience for nutrition and sustainability.
Not only are genetically modified fish ethically problematic, environmentally and economically unsound and, frankly, creepy—they are also not as good for you as even farmed salmon and they pale in comparison to wild salmon. In addition, they may cause life-threatening allergies and, most alarmingly, cancer.
Eating AquAdvantage® Salmon instead of wild-caught salmon is the equivalent of eating a Big Mac and thinking you’re eating a grass-fed ground sirloin burger on an organic, sprouted-wheat bun. Before these fast-food fish make it to American grocery stores without labels identifying their origins, please do what you can to educate yourself and your loved ones about GM animals—and, ask your local grocery stores not to carry AquAdvantage® fish. Even if the FDA approves it, we can hope that if the public won’t eat it the fish-factories won’t produce it.
– GMOs Revealed