Did you know that on December 21st the FDA took steps towards approving the first-ever Genetically Engineered animal intended to end up on our dinner plates. Genetically Engineered Salmon (GE Salmon) were created by scientists to they grow twice as fast as natural salmon. Salmon are carnivorous and eat other fish. Currently farmed salmon require about 4-9 lbs. of food for every pound of salmon produced. Natural salmon also grow slowly taking about 3 years to reach normal adult size. This is one reason farm supplied salmon is costly to purchase.
Salmon have always been known to be an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA, EPA). Omega-3s help protect against heart disease, promote healthy skin and joints and are essential to proper neurological development in unborn babies and young children. Because of the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids , the American Heart Association’s (AHA) dietary guidelines recommend that adults eat at least two servings of fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids per week.
Since the Omega-3 content varies widely in fish, it is important to note that ocean-farmed Atlantic salmon, at 1.9 grams per serving, and species of wild salmon, provide higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids than most other fish sources (tests have indicated that GE Salmon have lower levels of Omega-3s and other vitamins). Fresh yellow-fin tuna, for example, provides 0.2 gram per serving, swordfish provides 0.6 gram per serving and flounder provides 0.2 gram per serving. Mackerel, at 2.5 grams per serving, is another high-level source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
So what is so bad about GE Salmon?
The approval of GE salmon is being classified as a “new animal drug” not a food additive and is not subject to a through safety review. Although there is some concern, regulatory agencies do not require studies on human health. There are also environmental concerns. Just a few escaped GE salmon pose a serious threat of overtaking the entire wild population of Salmon in less than 40 generations. Finally, GE Salmon will not be labeled as such so consumers will be unaware of what type of salmon they are purchasing. Approval of this GE fish will open the door to new, unlabeled genetically engineered animals into our food supply.
Science — Naylor et al. 282 (5390): 883