By Brandyn Murillo
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) caused intense debate with its decision to finally authorize consumption of genetically modified salmon this last week. The salmon in question are produced by AquaBounty Technologies, a company that alters the genetics of salmon and trout as a means of increasing the rate at which these tank-dwellers grow to fishable sizes.
GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are nothing new to the American pantry, but the FDA has only now approved a genetically modified animal, as opposed to GM crops, like corn, which have been on the market for years.
A 2010 American Academy for the Advancement of Sciences study found only 37% of the American public believes GMO’s are safe for consumption. This same study also reveals 88% of scientists from the organization, who are not all biologists, believe GMO’s are completely safe for consumption. This divide only gets worse overseas, where the International Food Information Council found that 56% of Europeans think GMO’s are dangerous.
Genetically modified animals cause political ruckus because people are largely concerned with their impact on the environment and human health.
The Food and Drug Administration, our government agency tasked with handling such issues, ultimately concluded that “AquAdvantage salmon is as safe to eat as any non-genetically engineered Atlantic salmon, and also as nutritious.”
Being that our government declares the food safe, what grounds do the anti-GMO activists stand on?
Combating this unwarranted GMO fear is an overwhelming body of scientific evidence by accredited institutions. In a twenty-nine year long study conducted by University of California, Davis’ Department of Animal Science, geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam, found that “the results have consistently revealed that the performance and health of GE-fed animals were comparable with those fed non-GE commercial varieties (of foods).”
In regards to the environment, the fearful speculate that these “Superfish” will escape into natural habits and outcompete those born in the wild. This fear is unwarranted, as by FDA regulations the salmon are required to be grown in above-ground facilities. This does not completely eliminate the possibility of escape into natural bodies of water, but regardless, the fish are effectively sterile, rendering them unable to reproduce with other salmon at all.
Despite concluding that the genetically modified “salmon (are) not materially different from other Atlantic salmon,” the FDA does neglect a requirement to label the fish as such. Staying true to the rights of the consumer, it is well within reason for consumers to understand what is on their plates, no different than the ingredient labels that are required of foods.
Despite the overwhelming evidence in favor of GMOs, consumers should remain skeptical of an organization that has approved transgulatime (commonly known as meat glue) and the hotly debated high-fructose corn syrup for consumption.
Finally, being that wild salmon are being fished nearly to a point of extinction, humans have a responsibility to assure our habits don’t destroy our environment or that of its constituents. Raising and feeding off of genetically modified fish allows native populations to restore themselves to healthy numbers and lessens our impact on the environment at large.
Brandyn Murillo is a first-year undeclared major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.