Frankenfish – Good or Bad?

Do you like eating salmon? I love it and have even had the pleasure of catching my own a couple of times. However, for the past ten years I’ve only eaten wild Pacific salmon that I buy online and have shipped. Once you’ve tasted it you’ll never want to go back to the farmed salmon.

But this is actually a story about a salmon marketing strategy. It seems that our wild populations are dwindling although not everywhere. Some places are seeing growth in the wild populations. However, farming salmon is a bit of a problem. Not only are there problems with disease but it takes 3 pounds of feed to grow 1 pound of salmon.

Enter AquaBounty Technologies with a simple solution – the AquAdvantage® Salmon. Yes, not a King, Chinook, Coho or Sockeye but an AquAdvantage. They describe it on their website:

The AquAdvantage® fish program is based upon a single, specific molecular modification in fish that results in more rapid growth in early development. This enables shorter production cycles and increased efficiency of production. In the case of AquAdvantage® Salmon, these benefits will permit the use of alternative production systems which have substantial environmental and fish health benefits which are not economical for conventional Atlantic Salmon.

Yes, you read that correctly, AquaBounty has produced a genetically engineered Atlantic Salmon. By splicing in a gene from Chinook salmon with DNA from an Ocean Pout which looks like an eel on steroids, the AquaAdvantage salmon can grow twice as fast.Ocean Pout eel like fish.

Kind of sounds like the 2004 horror film Frankenfish.

So what are the odds of a genetically engineered fish soon showing in your supermarket? I’d like to tell you slim and none but I’m afraid you might be seeing them very soon at a restaurant or market near you. According to the site and Time magazine, preliminary reviews by FDA officials suggest a bias toward approving this Frankenfish for consumption in the United States. Documents released by FDA staff said the altered salmon are “as safe to eat as food from other Atlantic salmon.” The agency said it found “no biologically relevant differences” in vitamins, minerals or fatty acids.

Putting aside the vitamin, mineral and fatty acid question you should also consider that the FDA report found the genetically altered salmon had high levels of tissue inflammation suggesting a problem with their immune systems which might mean the need for more antibiotics to be fed to the fish. And, they also contain higher levels of an insulin growth hormone than wild fish. Think about that as you enjoy that salmon roll or broiled fillet.

It seems like if the FDA had their way we’d already see this in the marketplace. But, there are some large organizations and legislators who are ready to fight to stop them. The American Council on Science and Health says it is fine to eat the fish and it is an unfounded health scare. But, I’m a little dubious when in the same article they also say high fructose corn syrup is not to blame for obesity – consuming too many calories is the problem. Huh? Really! Wow!

What’s your take on genetically modified fish? Shrimp are next on the list as well as other species of fish.

Are you ready to sit down to a dinner of Frankenfish?

Photo courtesy Andy Martinez and Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary

4 thoughts on “Frankenfish – Good or Bad?”

  1. This is scary as hell!! But not surprising. The other thing no one tells you about this is that the company that does the gene splicing owns the patent on the fish. When fishing for wild fish is outlawed, they’ll up the prices on their fish, making more money and outlawing us raising our own. It’s already happening with corn. Monsanto has filed lawsuits against more than 90 farmers for using their genetically altered seed – even when all the farmer did was happen to have a field where pollen or seed from Monsanto blew into their crops. Pigs are on the line for genetic alteration, and the patents have also been filed on them. Soon corporations will own all the food and the rights to grow it and we’ll be jailed for having gardens and chickens.

  2. Thanks for sharing this info Bob. It really is hard to believe what has happened and what will continue to affect to our food supply. Nothing is sacred anymore it seems.

    Cheers from down under,

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