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Genetically Engineered Salmon: What's the Impact?

Genetically engineered salmon: are the dangers of genetically engineered foods worth it? Genetically modified fish is part of a growing trend towards genetically engineered food. What's the environmental impact?

Dangers of Genetically Engineered Foods

As food consumers we have a responsibility for ensuring that not only do we manage our food resources for sustainable production but that we also minimize the potential impact of 'engineering' food. Why do food producers look at genetic engineering or modification as a viable option? Because engineering food can minimize the cost of food production and can maximize the output; it's a numbers game!

Food producers are looking for cost reductions and production efficiencies to improve and/or maximize their profitability. However what these producers don't consider is the longer term impact on the planet; sustainability costs are not included in their plans.

Why do companies look at farming fish in our oceans (lakes or rivers) and producing genetically modified fish? What is the push to produce more food (including salmon) in a shorter time frame? Because we are rapidly depleting our sea foods by over-fishing and by polluting our oceans, lakes and rivers. Additionally, climate change is having a negative effect on land and on our waterways and impacting food production and costs.

Are Genetically Engineered Salmon Next? Yes.

Companies are starting to work on getting the required approvals to sell the first genetically engineered fish for food. Genetically engineered salmon is being developed to grow to market size in half the time of natural salmon; 16 to 18 months instead of three years.

How is the salmon developed to grow faster? Well, one company is using a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon and adding the genetic switch (gene proteins and DNA sequences that the proteins recognize) from the ocean pout (an eel-like species) that results in the continuous production of the hormone. The company promotes the advantage of these genetically engineered salmon as being that they grow twice as fast, are safe to eat and not expected to have an impact on the environment.

What is the Government Doing About GE Salmon?

California is developing new legislation that would, at least, require all genetically modified fish to be clearly labeled so that consumers could make educated decisions.

The concern of other governments is that genetic modification of fish stocks could hurt wild fish (in other words, fish that grow naturally in their environment). Typically, genetic modification or engineering of foods has an impact on the environment; and many times that impact is irreversible.

Additionally, a number of government departments are concerned that there are only limited existing controls and powers to manage the risks and dangers of genetically engineering foods.

Genetically engineering food is a risk to the existing food chain; food producers should instead consider how to develop healthier habitats, improved fisheries, and robust environments for salmon and other fish to grow.

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