GMO Salmon – Truth or Dare to Eat?

The war is on over the approval of GMO Salmon for US markets.  Being that I hate listening to the talking heads and uninformed people talk, I did some research this morning to find out the truth behind what is going on and why people are screaming in terror at these Frankenstein Fish.

Genetically Modified Atlantic Salmon GMO
The size comparison of a normal and GMO salmon at the same age.

What does GMO mean?

Simply put it is adding or deleting genetic traits to make a plant/animal more productive.  We eat GMO grain every day.  Virtually all of the wheat and corn produced in the USA comes from plants that companies like Monsanto have tampered with.  In the case of our salmon, they have had a gene from the Pout to allow the treated  salmon to grow all year round instead of just the summer.

This isn’t the first time the poor Pout has been in the headlines either!  Several years ago, the same cold water genes we no have in Salmon were introduced into yeasts to produce its anti-freeze proteins.  These were then used in turn to act as anti-freeze in ice cream.

What are the risks of eating GMO salmon?

People are scared of eating GMO meat.  Funny since we eat GMO foods every day.  The argument is that there is no proof that GMO proteins can’t pass through our intestinal linings and enter our body.  That can be said of all the foods we eat.  So why freak out over just salmon.  (HINT – It is because it is in the news!)

For a bit of researching, about the only real risk I have found for eating GMO foods is allergic reactions.  Mind you that this is with Soy Beans that have been altered with Brazil Nut genes.  So people that are allergic to Brazil Nuts were allergic to Soy Beans that had been altered.

Beyond this, the results I was finding were anecdotal and in my view, sketchy.

Environmental risks of GMO salmon

Here is where I am generally against GMO products.  Especially with plants, it is difficult or impossible to keep GMO plant genes from spreading in the wild.  This has the potential to cripple food production without chemicals to fertilize and kick start seeds.  With GMO salmon, Aquapure is saying that the salmon they produce are sterile, but the FDA says that up to 5% of them are not.

The risk being, as with plants, that the modified fish could escape and interbreed with wild fish, tainting the natural salmon stocks with the new gene.  This is a slim possibility, but one we must look at, and the one reason I would say that they shouldn’t be farmed at sea.

My conclusion on GMO salmon

Personally I almost never buy salmon in the stores.  If I can’t catch it, I have a hard time buying it, though it probably costs more to catch it per pound than just going to the store.  I can’t say that I wouldn’t eat it over health concerns.  Hell, people eat fish from Puget Sound all the time that have elevated levels of lead, mercury and PCBs and don’t bat an eye at it.  Some proteins from an eel don’t seem so bad compared to those.

Ecologically people ought to be happy about it though as I am willing to bet a beer or two that you get more pounds of salmon per acre of land than you do with beef and there is less environmental impact.  Aquaculture has the potential to feed a lot of people with far less environmental damage than what we are doing currently.

Do I support GMO salmon production? For now my answer is yes, so long as the fish are kept out of the general population.  I know that probably won’t happen, and at some point we will have GMO monster Atlantic Salmon swimming in our rivers, but honestly there is little that we can do to stop that.

Consider that if it isn’t our companies using GMO salmon eggs, then it will be foreign companies growing them out and shipping the frozen fish back to us.  Do we really want to be eating Chinese grown GMO fish?  I think not, because that is something that does gross me out.

What do you think?  Have a link to something I should know about? Post a comment and let me know!

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