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Radio of the Week: Ronnie Cummins on Genetically Engineered Salmon

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If the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first ever genetically-modified salmon, the so-called "Frankenfish" could soon be coming to a plate near you. The transgenic salmon was engineered by a Massachusetts-based company AquaBounty, and can reach market size twice as fast as regular salmon. Growth hormone genes from the Chinook salmon and a gene from the ocean Pout that causes fish to eat year-round were spliced into Atlantic Salmon genes to create the fast-growing fish. Wild Atlantic Salmon take up to three years to mature, while AquaBounty's fish mature in only 16 to 18 months. Other than the extreme growth-rate, AquaBounty claims the transgenic salmon is exactly identical to Wild Atlantic salmon. Industry experts believe the fish will bring advantages to both farmers, who will be able to cash in on their bounty quicker, and the environment, since wild salmon populations are dwindling. AquaBounty won't sell the fish, but plans to sell the eggs to farmers instead. However, there is a dark side to the "mutant" fish. Like genetically modified fruits and vegetables, the health-related effects of GM fish are largely unknown. Additionally, as is the case with GM produce, the FDA would likely not require transgenic fish sold in stores to be labeled as such. Furthermore, if accidentally released from farms the fish could potentially further decrease, or even wipe out, the wild salmon population. According to a Purdue University study, just 60 transgenic fish bred in a population of 60,000 wild fish could cause the wild variety to go extinct in 40 generations. AquaBounty counters these allegations with the claim that they will market only sterile, female salmon. But it comes as no surprise that advocates of organic, non-GMO food are seriously concerned about the impending approval of GM salmon by the FDA, which is has announced public hearings this Fall.

Listen to the interview here.



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