Salmon Swimming

When I first wrote about GM salmon two years ago, the genetically engineered fish created by AquaBounty Technology appeared ready to hit the market. The FDA had just pronounced the salmon safe to eat and final approval was expected that summer. Combining genes from 2 species of salmon with a peculiar looking pouter eel, the GM salmon were said to grow at double the speed of wild salmon.

Since then, however, resistance to GM products has been growing. California voters have been especially vociferous in pushing for labels on GM foods.

And this past week, three influential food companies, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Aldi’s, banned genetically engineered seafood from their shelves. That’s 2000 outlets between them.

Additionally, a spokesperson for PCC Natural Markets, a health food chain in Washington State announced: “We won’t sell genetically engineered fish because we don’t believe it is sustainable or healthy.”

This does not bode well for AcquaBounty, a company that has struggled for twenty years to get their salmon on American tables. Operating money became so scarce last year, the company turned to Soviet billionaire Kakha Bendukidze for a bailout.

In all the recent hoopla, no one mentioned the factor that has always concerned me most about these GM salmon. Hatched on a Canadian ISLAND (surrounded by WATER), they’re then transported thousands of miles to grow in tanks located in the boondocks of Panama presumably to prevent their escape into the wild. To further minimize any intermix with wild salmon, over 98% of the all-female GM salmon are sterile. HOWEVER that leaves 1% of the Gm salmon that CAN reproduce. Regarding percentages, here is where scoffers usually jump in and say, “But that’s only a tiny little one percent. What are the chances of any salmon ACTUALLY escaping? And how could a lone fertile female GM salmon out of thousands of sterile ones make a clean getaway, then have a fleeting rendezvous with a wild salmon that could result in the eventual demise of all wild salmon?” True, the possibility is extremely remote. But it exits. People make mistakes all the time and it could take just one human error and one brief interaction between a GM salmon and a wild salmon to send wild salmon on their way to Dodo-Bird Land.

 

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