The Dangers of GMO Salmon - What to Look Out For!

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What was once the central theme on sci-fi television shows and movies is now slowly but surely making its way to your dinner table, coming first in the form of GMO salmon. In January 2013, the FDA released a statement indicating that it had found genetically modified salmon to have “no significant impact,” which, in FDA speak, means they’re one step away from approving the mutation created by AquaBounty for sale.

This company, based in Canada yet US owned and run, has been pushing for 17 years to get approval to sell GMO salmon in grocery stores. These fish, grown in on-shore tanks somewhere in Panama, reach full size in half the time as their natural counterparts in the Atlantic ocean, features genes from the Chinook salmon, eel, and other fish and seafood.

So what dangers does this franken-fish pose? Let’s start with the environmental impact. If the salmon manage to escape their enclosures, they’ll begin competing with wild Atlantic salmon for food, space, and mates, which could cause the complete extinction of wild salmon within 40 generations. Although AquaBounty claims that the salmon are sterile, and therefore even if they did escape that it’d be just fine, even the FDA has concluded that up to 5 percent of the eggs used by AquaBounty may not, in fact, be sterile.

Of course, there’s also the question of whether or not people should even eat GMO salmon. To start, the vitamins and minerals found in GMO salmon versus wild salmon differ by over 10 percent, which could make managing food quality issues between the two products tricky. Preliminary data shows that GMO salmon may pose a greater food allergy threat due to a much higher level of allergy-producing compounds in the fish. And then there’s the IGF-1, insulin-like growth hormone, found in GMO salmon, which is not only a known carcinogen, but could also have other long-term effects that we’re still unaware of.

As with any of these GMO issues, there’s always the question of when does it stop. And as GMO salmon would be the first modified animal approved by the FDA, where this could eventually lead is the epitome of the oft-mocked slippery slope argument. Between the environmental impact, potential health issues, and where this all leads when it comes to other fish, or even our livestock, in the end we’re left pondering ethics. Is mixing the genes of various species okay? What are the potential consequences of doing so? Are we prepared to deal with things that we cannot even comprehend at the beginning of this debacle? Hopefully, the FDA takes at least some of this into account before allowing GMO salmon to make its way to your local fish department.