So are genetically engineered salmon a good or bad thing? AquaBounty’s cofounder, Elliot Entis says their genetically engineered product could help address future food shortages and reduce the pressure on wild fish stocks. The genetically engineered salmon are grown inland, rather than in the ocean pens often used in salmon farming. The benefits of AquAdvantage salmon for fish farmers: the faster the growth rate, the sooner the fish can be sold, and the lower the feed costs. Critics have declared it “Frankenfish’’ and dispute many of AquaBounty’s claims. There are other ways to provide food for future generations without genetic engineering. AquaBounty is also in the process of developing advanced-hybrid trout and tilapia also designed to grow faster than traditional fish.
What will happen if these salmon escape from fish farms into the wild? People are concerned about whether they would mate with wild fish, out-compete them for food or irreversibly change their habitats. AquaBounty says not to worry, “There is virtually no possibility of escape and interaction with wild populations.” That’s because the fish eggs would be sterile, and they would all be female. Plus, they’ll be grown in tanks on land, rather than nets or pens floating in the ocean, the way most conventional farmed fish are raised.
The AquaBounty salmon won’t be the first genetically engineered animals approved in the USA, though it would be the first meant to be eaten. Already approved are GloFish, a small aquarium fish (actually a zebra fish) genetically engineered to glow a fluorescent shade of red, green or orange under black light. Another genetically engineered animal already in use are goats that make an anticoagulant called ATryn in their milk. The drug is used to treat a rare disease known as hereditary antithrombin deficiency. The goats themselves and their milk cannot be sold for food. There is only one small colony of 200 or so goats in a guarded facility.
Next may be approval of the Enviropig, created by scientists at the University of Guelph in Canada. These are Yorkshire pigs which have been genetically engineered to be able to digest plant phosphorus more efficiently than normal pigs. Because of this, they don’t require expensive supplements in their diet and their manure is much lower in phosphorous — a potent polluter of waterways.
The majority of Lehigh Valley residents polled would not eat genetically engineered salmon if they were made aware of it. But others say fish are fish and it doesn’t matter. Would local restaurants serve this type of salmon and would they let their customers know the species of the fish they serve? My recommendation is to eat only wild caught salmon; not farm raised. In fact only eat wild caught fish or shrimp. Never eat farm raised fish or shrimp which are unhealthy being raised in polluted waters and in countries lacking regulations. But that’s a story for another day.