GMO Frankenfish Coming to Dinner: FDA Approves Genetically Engineered Salmon

Dear Living Well Daily Reader,

I didn’t think it would happen.

But I’m also not surprised it did.

The FDA has approved genetically engineered salmon.

AquaBounty, the creator of the AquAdvantage salmon, has taken Atlantic salmon and added a growth hormone gene from Pacific chinook salmon along with a gene from ocean pout, an eel-like fish.

The ocean pout gene keeps the growth hormone continuously active, whereas a salmon’s normal growth hormone is active for only part of the year. This causes the salmon to grow rapidly, reaching market size in half the time it takes a regular salmon to get to the same weight.

So what’s the problem? Well, the main problems are probably the ones we don’t know of yet.

Will the added growth hormone activator gene influence human growth hormones? While supplemental human growth hormone may have anti-aging effects, such as improved skin and increased muscle mass, it can also cause headaches, vision problems, anxiety and dizziness, irregular heartbeat, joint pain, weight gain, depression, and many other problems.

Another big concern is that growth hormone raises the body’s levels of insulin-like growth factor 1, a protein that may increase cancer risk. And initial examinations of the GE salmon showed that they have higher levels of IGF-1 than normal.

While those potential effects are caused from therapeutic-level dosages of human growth hormone, we really have no idea how the AquAdvantage salmon will affect humans. According to a citizen petition to the FDA from Food & Water Watch, AquaBounty has not conducted a single toxicological study to investigate the health effects of consuming salmon with elevated levels of hormones.

Frankly, I don’t want to be part of that experiment.

The GE salmon may also have a reduced resistance to bacterial infections, causing the need for increased antibiotic use during farming.

Environmentalists have major concerns about the salmon as well. If the GE salmon were to escape into the wild, they could have a devastating impact on the wild salmon population, plus an untold effect on the surrounding ecosystem.

On the surface, it seems AquaBounty has this covered — the salmon can only be raised in tightly controlled enclosed inland water farms. The fish have also been bred to be sterile.

But a deeper look exposes flaws in this guise of safety.

First, the salmon eggs are grown in Canada and then have to be transported to Peru, where the farms are. That transportation coupled with potential natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes that could destroy the salmon enclosures present the potential for the eggs or fish to escape into the wild.

And the sterilization isn’t foolproof.

Plus, let’s not forget the lessons learned from the great Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park:

This isn’t all just speculative what if, though. A similar scenario occurred with regular farmed salmon, when the hardier, nonnative Atlantic salmon were raised in British Columbian fish farms.

As Jennifer Lash, director of the Living Oceans Society, told Mother Jones in 2001: “We were told they wouldn’t escape. They escaped. We were told they wouldn’t survive in the wild. They survived. We were told they wouldn’t get upstream. They got upstream. We were told they wouldn’t reproduce. They’ve reproduced.”

Rather than help reduce pressure on wild salmon, farmed fish have become a threat.

The GE fish won’t be on store shelves for another two years, but there’s one huge problem when they do arrive: They won’t be labelled.

That’s right. Even though nine out of 10 consumers want GE foods to be labelled, the FDA won’t require it.

In a laughable statement from their press release, the FDA says:

“We recognize that some consumers are interested in knowing whether food ingredients are derived from GE sources… food companies that want to voluntarily label their products can provide this information to consumers.”

I don’t know what the FDA is thinking, but they certainly aren’t living in reality. Thinking that only some consumers want to know if their foods are GE and that companies will voluntarily label the fish proves just how out of touch they are. Or perhaps blatantly bought and paid for.

But when the time comes, there is an easy way to be sure you aren’t eating GE salmon.

Look for wild-caught Alaskan or sockeye salmon. Avoid farm-raised salmon or “Atlantic” salmon unless it is labelled as non-GMO.

Wild-caught salmon is a better choice anyway because it has lower amount of omega-6 fatty acids compared against farmed salmon, which are typically fed GM grains or animal byproducts. Too many omega-6 fatty acids in the diet can contribute to chronic inflammation and disrupt cellular membrane stability.

You can easily spot sockeye salmon by its bright pink color, which is caused by its high content of astaxanthin, a strong antioxidant that has shown to have eye, brain, and skin benefits.

In addition, some stores have already vowed to not sell AquAdvantage salmon, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Target, and Kroger. If you buy your salmon from those stores, you won’t have to worry about the GE variety.

To living well,

Jasmine LeMaster
Health Researcher

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