Frankenfish is coming! At least that is what we have heard from the media all week. After many years of testing and debate the FDA has approved genetically modified salmon. Thus the popular media and anti-gmo groups have adhered themselves to the term frankenfish. It is kind of hard to win the public opinion war when the first thing the consumer hears is frankenfish.
The true name of this salmon is AquAdvantage salmon. This gmo salmon is the first animal to come to the market as a gmo. It was developed using genes from a Chinook salmon and an eel. The main benefit of this salmon is a higher growth rate of somewhere around two times that of a non-genetically modified salmon. This development has been in development for years and this week the FDA approved it saying it poses no threat to human health or the environment.
Of course the anti-gmo crowd has come out in force to oppose this release and has asked for the gmo salmon to be labeled. The FDA was very clear in its statement on the AquAdvantage salmon saying that it isafe for human consumption as non-genetically engineered salmon and just as nutritious. However, this did not stop the anti-gmo groups from passing along unfounded fears and theories about the safety of gmo products like AquAdvantage salmon.
In addition to making sure the salmon was safe for us to eat, environmental concerns had to be accounted for also. Would this superior fish over run wild fish if it were to be released? The FDA also assured the public that this would not be a concern. The fish are to be raised inland were they cannot be released into the wild. The biggest safeguard to environmental concerns is the fact that more than 99% of the fish are rendered sterile because of the genetic modification. The very minute percentages that are fertile are not really a threat either because they are not nearly as fertile as native, wild salmon.
Of course fishermen were also opposed and very leery of the genetically modified salmon. I certainly understand their trepidation. This new fish will come to the market much faster and at a much lower price thus undermining their business. I have sympathy for their plight but I think that probably a strong market for wild caught salmon will always exist. How else would you make the menu at a high end restaurant sound sophisticated? I also think that it is important to have choices for the consumer.
However, just as with other foods that come from genetically engineered plants and animals, I wish people would do their homework and understand that it is perfectly safe and affords us many benefits. First, this allows us to produce more food, quicker and with fewer resources. We desperately need to increase food production in the near future just to keep up with demand. This allows us to do so while still be able to responsibly manage the wild population of salmon.
Secondly, from a nutrition viewpoint, it allows more people to purchase salmon. OK, this may seem odd coming from a beef producer, but I do appreciate the health benefits of fish and specifically salmon. Salmon at a lower price and greater abundance allows more people to purchase a safe, nutritious product. As for its competition with beef, I truly believe that we need to eat a varied diet.
The trick to this debate comes with the idea of mandatory labeling of gmo products. Here we walk the fine line of giving the consumer what they want and generating unneeded attention and adding to unfounded fears. GMO products and non-gmo products are no different when it comes to food safety or nutrition and therefore do not merit a difference in labeling.
The main issue with AquAdvantage salmon is the same as the issue of gmo corn or soybeans. There is a lot of misinformation floating around and many unfounded fears fueled by groups and individuals with their own agendas. We must continue to help the general population understand that food derived from genetically modified organisms is safe and is highly regulated, debated and researched before it ever comes to the market.
Finally, I admit that I do enjoy a good piece of salmon and I have no qualms about eating AquAdvantage salmon. In fact, I would bet that none of us could tell the difference in a blind taste test. Many grocery stores are now shying away from carrying this product in their meat case. I will give my business to stores that do not cower to the fear mongering of a few activists and I will have no problem purchasing and grilling that salmon for my family.