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Genetically Engineered Salmon's Fishy Promises

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Food Safety Resource page, and our Information on Fish and Sustainability page.


For those who follow the theater of food politics, particularly the underwater portion of the drama, AquaBounty's AquAdvantage genetically engineered salmon has played something of leading role for two decades, dating back to the 1990s when the fish was first conceived. The AquAdvantage salmon, in case you haven't heard about it, is an Atlantic salmon with a (much larger) Chinook salmon growth gene inserted into its DNA. This is coupled with a promoter from a third fish, an ocean pout, that keeps that growth gene more or less permanently in the "on" position. This makes for a fish that grows faster than an unmodified salmon -- something which its creators hail as a key to providing more fish for the world and easing the crisis in overfishing.

I have long opposed the AquAdvantage salmon, taking pretty familiar positions that any member of the local/organic/wild food community would recognize: Positions that include the fear that the fish will escape and contaminate wild populations of salmon, and that the fish requires much wasteful transport since it would be cloned in Canada, grown in Panama, and then flown back to the U.S. for consumption. But at a recent lecture when I was laying out these old chestnuts, it suddenly occurred to me that the non-fishy public might be missing one monumental fact about the AquAdvantage salmon, with all its attendant risks:

It is completely unnecessary.


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