Some say "Frankenfish," others call it a solution
September 21st, 2010
10:00 AM ET
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Food and Drug Administration officials are meeting to decide if genetically modified salmon will be swimming their way into the US's food system.

Advocates both for and against the approval of AquaBounty Technologies' genetically modified AquAdvantage® Salmon as a food source met in Washington yesterday and today in a series of hearings orchestrated by the FDA. Dr. Larissa Rudenko of the FDA, stated that the group has not yet made a decision, but that they "are looking for good and constructive conversation."

Because this analysis is entirely new ground for the FDA, their Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee is using the regulations they would to evaluate veterinary pharmaceuticals, rather those used for than food safety. According to Section 5 of the group's overview of this engineered Atlantic salmon, "That rDNA construct meets the definition of a 'drug' under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act" as "an article intended to alter the structure or function of the body of man or animal." Aqua Bounty Technologies, the developer, has filed a new animal drug application under those guidelines.

Genetic engineering introduces desirable traits of one living being into another, using recombinant DNA , or rDNA technology. In the case of AquAdvantage® Salmon, scientists have injected the fertilized eggs of Atlantic salmon with a growth gene from Pacific Chinook salmon, as well as genetic material from an eel-like fish called ocean pout, which overrides the Atlantic salmon's propensity to stop growing in colder weather.

This allows the AquAdvantage® Salmon to grow to twice the size it normally would, in half the time, as well as effectively rendering the vast majority of the fish sterile - which both prevents the altered fish to breed with wild populations of fish, and protects the company's intellectual material.

"Both land-based resources and aquaculture resources are stressed as are wild-caught fisheries, and without improvements in productivity and efficiency, it's hard to imagine how we'll meet the protein needs of the developing population over the next 20 to 30 years," AquaBounty Technologies Executive Director, President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Ron Stotish told the committee on Monday.

Dr. Yonathan Zohar, chair of the Department of Marine Biotechnology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County agreed, saying, "There is no doubt in my mind that these kinds of technologies need to make it to the industry." He also noted he believes the research will lead to developing fish with higher disease resistance and more environmental tolerance. "And if we do it right, there will also be health benefits."

Opponents of this modified salmon's entry into the food system assert that while FDA members generally considered the fish to be safe for consumption, there simply has not been enough testing, nor a period of time enough to assess its longer-term impact on the ecosystem or the human body. "This is a dangerously limited set of data. Even the FDA acknowledges problems in the sample size, what's the rush?" said Wenonah Hauter, with the consumer watchdog group Food & Water Watch.

Catch up on all of Eatocracy's GMO coverage.

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Filed under: Environment • FDA • Fishing • Food Politics • GMO • News • Ocean • Sustainability

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soundoff (559 Responses)
  1. Personal Fitness Coach

    "This allows the AquAdvantage® Salmon to grow to twice the size it normally would, in half the time, as well as effectively rendering the vast
    majority of the fish sterile – which both prevents the altered fish to breed with wild populations of fish, and protects the company's
    intellectual material."

    Hasn't any seen Jessica Park? Mothers nature will not be denied.

    January 29, 2014 at 8:05 pm |
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    November 17, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  4. Meridia

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    October 1, 2010 at 12:14 am |
  5. KLH

    I agree with the comment that people over the world are starving because of politics. There is more than enough food to feed the planet, but it is not distributed evenly or as needed. What the issue of genetically altered salmon really points to is that population control is an emergency. If humanity is considering creating a product that is not found in nature because there are so many people who need food, it is clearly time to address the out of control populating of the earth. Only then will the world be in balance, only then will humans and nature be able to live in balance.

    September 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  6. Della

    First off, those who are starving in today's world are not starving because there is a lack of food, but because of politics. There is a huge surplus of both soy and corn (also genetically modified) which is literally found in almost everything packaged as "food" today. Shut down Monsanto at this point, and maybe you have an argument for world hunger. Secondly, salmon is not now, and I doubt it ever will be, marketed to the starving populations of the world. It is marketed to the middle and upper classes. And who says it WON'T ever be turned loose in the wild? You want to take that risk? Whether sterile or not, they are going to eat (and compete) with wild salmon.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
  7. Steph

    You eat the fish and you get vaccinated that should say it all, WTF giving vaccines to people in such a way that could be abused is disgusting and wrong.

    FDA should say NO and MAKE GMOs lable their foods.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  8. Carl

    If it looks like a fish ,swims like a fish, and smells like a fish, it's probably a fish.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  9. Julie

    any animal finding its self in an unknown env will have adaptations to survive and reproduce. Life will find a way these fish might be the answer but when you tinker with genetics it will come back to bite you in the butt. How do we know what is going to happen the answer we do not. i would not want to eat genetically tinkered fish not here in the florida sunshine state. something will happen it always does.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  10. MC in TX

    I don't have a problem with using technology, such as genetic engineering, to help solve some of the world's problems. My fear, though, is that the modern capitalistic drive causes us to keep using technologies that we still don't understand the full ramifications of. With respect to genetic engineering, science's understanding of genetics is miniscule at this stage. Modification of genes is really not a whole lot more sophisticated than "see what works." And yet we are well aware that subtle genetic anomalies could have horrific consequences ranging from creating a genetic disease that wipes out a species to inadvertly creating a virus that wipes out many species. And once these things are unleashed its nearly impossible to stop them (in large part because once you realize there is a problem it is too widespread to undo). The same issue exists in many other modern industries as well.
    Although I doubt it will actually happen, it seems prudent to say that for technologies with the high potential for catastrophic consequences due to subtle unknown side-effects there should be a minimum number of years (think decades) before the new product is allowed to come to market. If during that time the technology becomes better understand to the point that the risk potential becomes negligible then the process can be accelerated.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:07 am |
  11. Dave

    I wonder if it taste fishy?

    September 22, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  12. bailoutsos

    Any farm raised fish? PASS ON IT.

    September 22, 2010 at 9:22 am |
  13. Jen

    Next you will hear that fishing for wild salmon is illegal..endangerd species...All you will get is fatcat farm fish.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:00 am |
  14. Jen

    Well, when all the wild life has been patented by big corporations, you will only be getting what you deserve..Controlled economic conditons..that's about how it is now anyway. Why fight, right?

    September 22, 2010 at 5:55 am |
  15. Pete

    We cant even write computer programs that dont have bugs ... now we are going to "recombinate" DNA and expect it to be safe???? Let the inventors eat it a few years and tell me how it goes.

    September 22, 2010 at 2:46 am |
    • publius enigma

      Wait till the food industry that cant even keep chicken eggs clean gets ahold of this tech.

      September 22, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  16. Dragon

    This is directed to our GMO pusher Jim with the PHD.

    Hey genius... perhaps you missed something here.. these are genetically Atlantic Salmon with added genes from Pacific Chinook (another Salmon species), and an eel like fish called a pout. While the genetic difference makes the majority sterile.. there is a small percentage that are not, and these non sterile fish are what? Atlantic Salmon.

    Now tell me something Mr. PhD... If the majority of the genome is what again? (Atlantic Salmon) That means they can breed with what fish again? (Atlantic Salmon) This means what? It means that if any of these genetically modified fish manage to escape into the wild and come into contact with wild species of Atlantic Salmon they will do what? Need a clue? Perhaps some assistance in making the mental connection to reality here that you seem so disconnected from?

    Yes Mr. genius.. they will BREED and REPRODUCE. Contaminating wild populations with unnatural genetic sequences that nature never intended to happen. You have a percentage of viable fish. SOME of that material will survive and be passed on, and on, and on. Mutations will occur. Some young from these fish will survive, most will die out, but the survivors will be more likely to have the genetics to survive as well, and thus their genetic material... contaminated by an un-natural inclusion of DNA from another species.. will also continue.

    So Mr. PhD... while you might be smart... You are obviously not thinking things through far enough to understand the potential ramifications this can have. If even ONE of these fish produce any viable young in the wild should they escape (and the potential is there because there is a percentage of these fish that are NOT sterile), then the wild populations of Atlantic Salmon will be irrecoverably contaminated with an un-natural genome that WILL propagate itself throughout the entire species eventually.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:02 am |
  17. publius enigma

    Do you really want to eat something that was genetically manipulated by a minimum wage worker? If the fish dont breed on their own (theyre sterile) thats the only way it will be economically viable.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:47 am |
  18. Mac

    These genetically modified things are farm fish. Fish farms are great if they are well away from rivers which empty into the sea or into major lakes and if they are fed farm products. If they drain into natural waterways they are heavy polluters and sources of disease. Fish farms almost all feed fish or foods made from fish! The amount of sea fish used will eventually be more than anyone ever dreamed of being caught for human food-fish fishing. That will deprive larger fish including wild food fish of their prey. It will also starve some kinds of whales, seals and other marine mammals. Tens of millions of dollars of the funding for environmental attacks on small fishing boat operators come from investors in the fish farm business. They are attempting to eliminate family fishing and to leave the market to the fish farmers. That does not mean that the environmentalists necessarily understand this motive, but I hope some read this and investigate.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  19. Keith1952

    I don't want to eat anything that is someone’s intellectual property. Something that is alive shouldn't be patentable. If you can't create one in nature you shouldn't do it artificially. A pout and a salmon are not kin folks so hybridizing couldn't be done naturally.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
    • Mac

      Great post. I wish I had said that.
      There are even companies which want to release their patented fish into the sea and sue any fishermen who catch them.

      September 22, 2010 at 2:57 am |
    • Jen

      I figure that is how globalist work..take over everything, everyone fed..control of everything..everybody beholden.

      September 22, 2010 at 11:23 am |
  20. Silas M

    "as well as effectively rendering the vast majority of the fish sterile – which both prevents the altered fish to breed with wild populations of fish, and protects the company's intellectual material."

    My concern, and I readily acknowledge this may be a bit out there, is that this becomes regular practice and much of our food is a company's 'intellectual material'. Decades down the road, when wild animals and plants survival is further stressed beyond the point of being harvestable, suddenly our entire food supply is beholden to a few corporations.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
  21. Frederique

    Well, it's easy to spot the industry plants it seems, they're not even trying, lol.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  22. TD

    Would be great to see the long term effect of this... one possiblity: those who eat them start aging twice as fast. LOL

    September 21, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
  23. TrademarkontheRocks

    YESSSS, FINALLY. The world needs more salmon. Opponents, I don't get how fish+fish+fish=cancer. It's not like they're injecting bat genes or something. Please explain why big fish that grow fast and take the strain off the wild population is such a terrible thing ("it [can be] bad for the environment" is not an answer).

    September 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
  24. pet breeder

    Only a small percentage of the diet becomes salmon meat. Why we do not become vegetarian and thus have less impact. Otherwise we should breed octopus or alligator or other poikilotherm, more than 66% of their diet is used for growth.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
  25. Kevin Kunkel

    People have opposed genetically modified food from the start at the expense of the starving. I'm sure people who are starving don't give a damn if it's been genetically altered. IF YOU'RE IN FAVOR OF LETTING STARVING PEOPLE CONTINUE TO STARVE PLEASE OPPOSE GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD.

    September 21, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
    • Keith1952

      I will continue to oppose genetically modified food and I will do everything in my power to keep it from the market place.

      September 21, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  26. ibewmarv

    Whats the big debate? If you eat corn, cereal, bread, or drink most bottled beverages you have consumed a genetically altered food or food product. Many of man's produce had to evolve through genetic experimentation. Put the holier than thou stuff away or starve.

    September 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  27. Chrispi

    Wow.. this poll is a sack of trash.

    What happened to the poll that was at the top of this article before? Was it not effective enough in coercing people into accepting GM salmon?

    September 21, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  28. Genetically Modified Salmon

    Do we the Salmon get a say in this? While you humans haggle over GMO's the economy and Jersey shore we are getting poked, prodded and gene reconstructed. Personally the majority of you sound amateurish. You have a choice.
    Keep us "real"
    I don't mind if you eat us just let us be normal. Please and thank you! (shhh please don't tell on me I am just a fry still in the redd and can get into a lot of trouble for this.)

    September 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
  29. Bill

    I'm not too worried about eating it, more-so what happens if these things get into the wild and out-competing native species. As a society we've demanded unlimited rights to reproduce without any restraint and as such need food sources that can sustain this. However well current methods of agriculture suffice, ultimately the problem may require this type of engineering. There are also risks inherent with using growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and the like with mass-farmed foods but despite the myriad number of diseases and disorders we are hearing about the average life expectancy remains high. That said, these risks are nothing to ignore but they are one of the costs of sustaining the current lifestyle of modern humanity.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  30. Marcus

    STILL HERE WITH ONE MORE THOUGHT. Do you remember those radium dial watches, the ones that "glowed in the dark"
    long before digital led watches? Little old ladies would paint the watch dials with a very fine paint brush dipped in a solution containing low levels of radium. The Government said there was no health hazard. Soon those little old ladies began to develop mouth cancer and other radiation caused illnesses.


    September 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • MadMax

      Face it Marcus, the world is ending. If I were you, I'd lie down and die right now.

      September 21, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  31. MadMax

    Now if they could breed them with in ingrown alder wood board for smoking, that would be something!

    September 21, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  32. Marcus

    I wonder if the fact that these Salmon are sterile will impact the human race at some time in the future. It will take several generations to realize something is terribly wrong and not a whole lot anyone can do about it.


    September 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  33. Marcus

    Calm down America. Think of it this way; when you eat your genetically modified salmon along with a side dish of genetically modified corn while having a drink of growth hormone infused milk loaded with trace amounts of antibiotics the food industry will get rich, you'll get full and human beings will start to assimilate the modified DNA into their own bodies. I can't wait to see what it does to the human race!


    September 21, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
    • Unconscious

      If you eat food, you eat GMOs, It is estimated that 70% or more of the convenience foods contain GMOs because they contain things like soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, cottonseed oil, which are made, get this, from GMO corn cotton and soy. Have you grown a corn cob on your head yet? How is that DNA assimilation working for you?

      September 21, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  34. Robert

    Hey brainphreak, considering your comments regarding intelligence, perhaps you should lower your own rating for yourself. It was Soylent Green, you idiot.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
  35. John

    I love how people are already assuming it tastes bad before they've eaten it.

    My feelings are mixed on the issue – I really have yet to see a particularly logical argument FOR or AGAINST it. Most against it claim either "it's unnatural", which has been answered – many crops are unnatural as well. These Frankenfish are also genetically modified so they can NOT breed, so people don't need to worry about it infiltrating wild salmon. As for Jurassic Park as mentioned... these aren't dinosaurs. Fish aren't going to kill you. HOWEVER, those in favor of it point out it could help world hunger – this claim is used ALL of the time.

    A few intelligent PhD students and college professors have pooled in actual, logical discussion, which is something wonderful, but like all modern issues, this clearly looks to be mostly one side versus another. Great people can cause terrible things, and terrible people can cause great discoveries. The world is not black and white, it is shades of gray.

    My honest thoughts right now is to continue testing the product for an extended period for a superior study of the possible health benefits and also to study in a controlled environment the possibility of escape and affects on wildlife. If the studies are successful, go for it in five to ten more years. If not? Modify the genes, fix the problem and try, try again.

    September 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
    • publius enigma

      My problem with them is precisely that they cannot breed. The fact that they cannot breed implies that every single one of them is the product of a process of gene manipulation. Imagine an industry that hires minimum wage workers to handle this process. It would be better if they made a small set of fish that they knew were good then bred them to make more.

      September 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  36. Not a Scientist but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express

    The issue isn't whether or not genetically modifying an organism is possible. It is, we consume drugs, hormones, food from transgenic organism all the time. The question is, do I trust *this* company to perform this correctly? I've read the VMAC Briefing Packet. I wonder if the scientists who posted comments here have read this packet and trust that this company will not make a mistake in the areas that it says it will not make a mistake in (choosing the correct insert location, making sure they aren't breaking other genes, etc)? What is this company's track record? What other transgenic products does this company have under its belt?

    I hope that the FDA have experts who can take a look at this company's protocol and make sure that they aren't screwing something up...and that they institute a trial of sorts before releasing this product to the general public.

    September 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
  37. SERIOUSLY???

    Okay, first of all people if you are going to post a study conclusion or information, CITE THE ACTUAL STUDY!! That way those of us who are ecucated in the field can actually look at the study design, spot confounders, look at confidence intervals of statistics, etc.
    Second, remember when everyone said anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers would stop germs from spreading and were going to be the best thing that has happened to public health since vaccines? Anyone read about the SUPERBUGS lately? Anyone here know about MRSA? How about the over-antibiotic usage in animals pumpin us up with antibiotics and giving SUPERBUGS the opportunity to spread???

    Seriously people? Science isn't always for the better...and I shall quote a famous researcher now "If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be RE-search" Albert Einstein

    September 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
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