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Who Dares Question the Industrial Food System Over GM Salmon?

Click here to take action on this issue! For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Resource Center on Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology or our Millions Against Monsanto Campaign page.

With fish stocks around the world depleted by overfishing and disrupted by climate change, farm-raised salmon stands as a viable if not entirely appetizing alternative.

Last Friday, though, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a potentially dangerous step. The agency ruled that salmon whose genes have been altered so that they grow more rapidly than their wild counterparts are safe for human consumption. In so doing, the FDA opened the door for salmon to become just another unhealthful cog in the industrial-food machine. And it may have foisted upon the public yet another cancer risk.

According to a report in the New York Times, FDA scientists found that the altered fish, developed by AquaBounty Technologies, based in the Boston area, were unlikely to escape into the environment and cross-breed with native schools of Atlantic salmon. The agency also found that even though the genetically altered salmon carry elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a suspected carcinogen, those levels are so minute that they pose no health risk.

Precautions aside, it requires considerably more than the customary level of naivety to believe wild salmon wouldn't be contaminated by their laboratory-designed cousins. If AquaBounty's progeny ever come to market, it would only be a matter of time before some unforeseen accident undid everyone's best intentions.

But it is the IGF-1 about which we truly ought to be concerned, because the FDA's finding is evidence of an unacceptably narrow focus. The substance occurs naturally in salmon and other animal products, and the agency tells us that the genetically altered fish contains only a tiny amount more. Yet, by considering such matters one at a time, the FDA may well be introducing us to many tiny risks that start adding up to a very real risk. 


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