Genetically Engineered Salmon –Umm Umm Good!

Government regulators are moving to allow the first genetically engineered animal — a fast-growing salmon — to enter the nation’s food supply. In case you’re asking “what’s the hurry,” you’re in good company. Although the FDA said this genetically engineered (GE) salmon “was as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group opposed to farm biotechnology, said in a statement that the fish “is bad for the consumer, bad for the salmon industry and bad for the environment.”

AquaBounty Technologies, the company that developed the salmon, has been trying to get its fish approved for the better part of a decade. The AquAdvantage salmon, as it is called, is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon and a genetic switch from the ocean pout, an eel-like creature. The switch causes the salmon to keep producing growth hormone year round, resulting in a fish that grows to full market weight in 18 months instead of three years.

True to the identical concerns highlighted in the movie Jurassic Park, the main concern here is whether the genetically engineered salmon could escape and establish themselves in the wild, with detrimental environmental consequences. The agency said the chance this would happen was “extremely remote.” It said the salmon would be raised in inland tanks with multiple barriers to escape. Even if some fish did escape, the nearby bodies of water would be too hot or salty for their survival. And reproduction would be unlikely because the fish would be sterilized, though the sterilization technique is not foolproof.


As you’ll see below, the Obama administration’s pledge to make decisions based on science seems to have been kept. But the president isn’t attending any GE awards dinners. No photo ops. AquaBounty said that if the approval came early next year, some salmon could reach American dinner plates by year-end.

Here’s your GE timeline:

  • 1992 – Calgene’s GE Flavr SavrTM tomatoes become first GE food on the market after approval by FDA.
  • 1994 – Calgene’s GE canola approved by USDA.
  • 1994 – Monsanto’s first Roundup Ready soybean approved by USDA.
  • 1995 – Monsanto’s NewLeafTM potato, the first pest protected plant, approved by the EPA and FDA in 1995.
  • 1996 – Monsanto’s first GE insect-resistant corn variety approved by USDA.
  • 1997 – Calgene’s GE insect resistant Bt cotton approved by USDA.
  • 1999 – GE papaya strains developed by Cornell University and the University of Hawaii approved by EPA.
  • 2005 – Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa approved by USDA. This approval was challenged in court and planting of GE alfalfa was prohibited.
  • 2005 – Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets approved by USDA. This approval is challenged in court and planting of GE sugar beets was prohibited, although USDA allowed some of the crop to be planted.

2009 – Start of Obama Administration

  • 2009 – Food and Drug Administration approved ATryn, an anticlotting agent that is produced in the milk of transgenic goats. This was the first U.S. approval of a GE animal.
  • 2009 – GE papaya strain developed by University of Florida approved by USDA.
  • 2010 – USDA approves Syngenta’s “stacked” corn variety (MIR162) that contains multiple GE traits, including resistance to a variety of corn pests.
  • 2010 – Pioneer’s GE soybean, modified to produce increased amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic) and decreased amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic) approved by USDA.
  • 2011 – Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa is approved by USDA, with no planting restrictions.
  • 2011 – USDA allows planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets despite unresolved legal challenges to the department’s approval of the crop.
  • 2011 – Syngenta’s corn variety, genetically engineered to produce an enzyme that facilitates ethanol production, approved by USDA.
  • 2011- Monsanto announces its intention to bring its stacked Roundup ready and insect-resistant sweet corn to market in 2012.
  • 2011- Syngenta’s insect-resistant Bt cotton is approved by USDA.
  • 2011- Monsanto’s insect-resistant Bt soybean, the first of its kind, is approved by USDA.
  • 2011- USDA approves Bayer CropScience’s stacked herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant cotton.

I’m told that the general size and accelerated maturation of young men and women throughout the GE-developed world can be directly connected to a number of things, including hormonally stuffed meats, like the turkey many of us will be eating tomorrow night. Bigger, better, stronger faster… Doesn’t that fact and the lack of critical discussion about it bother you? Talk about a slippery slope…

—Tom Finn

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