Avoid This Kind of Salmon
In November 2015, the U.S. FDA approved the sale of a genetically modified (GM) salmon by AquaBounty Technologies.
The FDA ignored more than 1.8 million people who submitted comments opposing approval.
Worse, the FDA won’t require a “genetically modified” label on this poorly researched animal.
Details of the GM salmon
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are food you eat that were manipulated in a laboratory by forcing DNA from a completely foreign species into them.
AquaBounty – the company behind the AquAdvantage GM salmon – created it by splicing two bits of foreign genetic material into Atlantic salmon eggs.
One was a growth-hormone gene from king (chinook) salmon, and the other was a genetic switch from an eel-like fish called ocean pout, which keeps the king salmon gene turned on.
The fish were also genetically engineered to be sterile, via changes that cause them to carry three copies of each chromosome instead of two.
However, AquaBounty’s own documents reveal that about one percent of the fish may remain fertile.
The company claims their GM fish can grow to market weight in 18 to 20 months, compared with 28 to 36 months for conventional farmed salmon.
And AquaBounty says that the genetic changes sharply reduce the amount of feed required to bring the fish to market size.
But there are already signs that their fast-growing claim isn’t proving true at the company’s land-based salmon farm in Panama.
If the GM salmon don’t grow significantly faster on less feed, the expected wholesale price advantage will vanish … along with any interest from retailers or restaurants.
Problems with GM Salmon
- This foreign DNA may include a virus, bacteria such as e coli bacteria, an insect, an animal or even humans resulting in traits that would be virtually impossible to obtain with natural processes.
- Animal studies have shown GMO foods cause infertility, accelerated aging, dysfunctional insulin regulation, changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system, and immune problems such as asthma, allergies, and inflammation
- GMO food poses higher risks for children – Adolescent rats showed damaged immune systems and digestive function, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, atrophy of the liver and pre-cancerous cell growth in the intestines after only 10 days of GMO feed.
- GMO foods offer absolutely no benefits to consumers. GMO food is less nutritious & does not taste better.
- GMOs are not researched or regulated. GMOs are unsafe for human health and our environment. According to the FDA, “… an exhaustive and rigorous scientific review” led the agency to decide that AquAdvantage GM salmon is “as safe as non-GM Atlantic salmon, and also as nutritious. One of the most credible critics is Professor Anne Kapuscinski, Ph.D., of Dartmouth College, who – among many distinguished appointments – served on four U.S. National Academy of Science committees that studied salmon conservation and proper risk analysis of GM foods. As she told NPR in 2011: “My main concern was that the kind of data presented [by AquaBounty] had gaps, and the quality of the analysis of the data, especially the statistical analysis, was really quite a low bar … if this application is approved with these low standards of science … it sets the precedent that this is what the U.S. government will expect.” (NPR 2011). (Her critique remains relevant, because the FDA did not require any significant additional safety assessments between that interview and the agency’s recent approval of GM salmon.) Michael Hansen, senior scientist for Consumers Union, echoed her concern: “This sets the bar incredibly low for engineered animals. There were serious problems with the safety assessment.”
- Risk of GM salmon interbreeding with wild Atlantic salmon. AquaBounty is currently producing the GM salmon eggs in Canada, and shipping the fry (baby salmon) to its onshore farm in Panama.The company asserts that raising their GM salmon on land will prevent the fish from escaping, or reduce the risk to near zero. But if fish farmers everywhere will be able to purchase the company’s eggs, they’ll be growing the salmon in very different environments, and it’s hard to imagine that many will have the capacity to put in place the rigorous and costly control system that AquaBounty has installed in Panama. There’s good reason to believe that AquaBounty’s real goal is to sell their eggs to conventional, ocean-based salmon farms. As Dr. Kapuscinski told Outside magazine in 2012, “They’re saying that they’re going to be land-based. I’ll believe it when I see it. Right now all the capital in the salmon farming industry is invested in [open-ocean] cage culture, for some good reasons, because that’s much easier to make financially viable [compared with land-based salmon farming].”
- Risk of GM salmon interbreeding with wild Atlantic salmon. Credible research shows that GM Atlantic salmon can interbreed with wild Atlantic salmon, and the resulting hybrid can out-compete the wild salmon (Oke KB et al. 2013).
Problems with Farmed Salmon: GM or Otherwise
- Farmed salmon has three times the total fat of wild salmon, but a large part of these fats are Omega-6 fatty acids.
- Farmed salmon has much higher concentrations of contaminants than wild salmon
- Standard and GM farmed salmon alike are treated with pesticides and antibiotics, and fed an unnatural diet heavy in grains and soy.
- Most farmed salmon are fed synthetic, chemically altered forms of the red-orange antioxidant called astaxanthin, which wild salmon get from the tiny crustaceans in their diets.
- Fish farms pollute the environment and damage the local ecosystems
- Fish feces harm coral reefs
- Farmed fish escape
- Farmed fish may spread disease to wild fish
- Farmed salmon practices pose serious risks to coastal environments and to wild salmon.
- Fed unrestricted feed from non-organic, potentially unsustainable sources, as opposed to the 100 per cent organic feed requirement currently in place for all other organic livestock.
- Unlimited wild fish in feed.
- Farmed salmon are nutritionally deficient. The fat profiles of regular farmed Atlantic salmon are clearly inferior to those of wild salmon. (See “Differences in Nutrition Composition”, below.) 1 and 2
- Those living in communities that are directly and negatively impacted by salmon farms. These community members include scientists, marine biologists, local fisherman and others who may rely upon their local waters for a living.
- Salmon certification standards are too weak to protect wild salmon.
Toxic Salmon Portrayed as Wild
So many restaurants with great intentions are selling farmed raised salmon as wild caught salmon salmon farming operations. Skuna Bay is one perfect example of supplier of sustainable salmon. With even a small amount of investigation, it is easy to see that the salmon being touted is farm raised: not wild. They claim sustainable, clean, and pure farm raised salmon.
Skuna Bay follows a standard salmon farming operation, with a lot of spin on their website, designed to make it sound special. But if you read closely, they don’t say how their aquaculture practices are any different from standard industrial salmon farms.
Salmon certification standards too weak to protect wild salmon. It’s not that hard to obtain the sustainability certifications now being awarded to salmon farms by several organizations.
Markets are opting out
Consumers deplore FDAs decision to approve GM foods and not requiring labeling … and major food and restaurant chains have also refused to sell the newly approved GM salmon.
According to Friends of the Earth, retailers including Aldi, Giant Eagle, H-E-B, Kroger, Marsh Supermarkets, Meijer, Raley’s, Roundy’s, Safeway, Target, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market all have policies not to sell GE seafood.
Only a few large grocery chains – notably Walmart and Publix – remain undecided about GM salmon.
Accordingly, it will be many months – if ever – before any farmed GM salmon is sold in American stores or restaurants.
Buy Pacific Wild
GM Atlantic salmon cannot interbreed with wild Pacific salmon.
Fortunately, even if some GM Atlantic salmon escape and make their way thousands of miles north, Atlantic salmon cannot interbreed with any of the 10 species of Pacific salmon.
This is because Atlantic and Pacific salmon belong to different genera (genus Salmo versus genus Oncorhynchus), and have different numbers of chromosomes (PSF 2015).
To be assured that you will never receive farmed GM salmon – or any other farmed salmon , here are some guidelines to follow.
Purchase from a Trusted Source
I buy my wild caught Pacific Salmon from these 2 sources:
Purchase online through Vital Choice *
The only salmon they purchase and sell are four species of wild Pacific salmon.
Vital Choice assures no radiation PLUS they meet the EDF’s guidelines for eco friendly fishery practice AND lowest contaminant level and more.
Westlake Village Farmer’s market
Patrick Ashby Fishermans Daughters Salmon sells his catches at the Westlake Village Farmers market on Sundays. He is working on his site. You can visit him at the Westlake Village Farmer’s Market or email him at info@FishermansDaughterSalmon.com
Ask for Wild Pacific Salmon at Restaurant
If the menu says organic, please know that it is farm rasied. If it is from Wild Pacific Salmon from Skuna Bay, know that it is farm raised. Tell them kindly that you choose not to eat farmed fish. If you feel comfortable, ask for the owner/ manager/ chef’s email address and send them this article. Most people want to do the right thing and they will appreciate you sharing this information. No need to get into a discussion with them at the restaurant.
Help fight GM salmon in court
The Center for Food Safety is mounting a court challenge to the FDA’s approval of GM salmon.
The organization also announced intent to sue the FDA to block public sale and consumption of the AquAdvantage GM salmon.
Consider donating funds to the legal challenge being mounted by CFS.
Vote with your dollars. Eat consciously. It is not just for the benefit of the planet. It will benefit your health.
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