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Is the Fast Growing AquAdvantage Salmon Safe to Eat?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

Many are hoping the AquAdvantage salmon (AAS), often referred to as a "Frankenfish," is not approved by the FDA. The genetically modified salmon, created by Boston-based AquaBounty Technologies, is created to grow twice as fast as wild Atlantic salmon--reaching its full size in 18 months instead of three years. It was created by inserting the coding sequence from a Chinook salmon growth hormone gene under the control of an "antifreeze protein promoter and terminator" from ocean pout into wild Atlantic salmon. No wonder it's called a Frakenfish.

Ninety-five to 99 percent of AAS are sterile, said AquaBounty at FDA hearings in 2010, so they are unlikely to breed and threaten wild salmon stocks if they escape. (If they did breed, though, it could Jurassic Park-like since AAS eat five times more food than wild salmon and have less fear of predators, according to background materials.) Nor is 1 to 5 percent a small amount considering the 15 million eggs AquaBounty plans to grow: that could amount to 750,000 fertile fish.

To prevent such risks, AquaBounty told an FDA advisory committee it plans to grow the eggs at a facility on Prince Edward Island in Canada, where escapees could not survive. "Water from the facility, including effluent from all floor drains, fish tanks and egg incubators, eventually discharges" into a tidal river that flows into the Gulf of Lawrence, says the AquAdvantage FDA briefing package. Because water temperatures in the winter months are very low and the water has a high salinity, "it is highly unlikely that early life stages of any Atlantic salmon at the facility would be able to survive if they were able to escape."

But escape into the Gulf of Lawrence is not the only risk. Aquabounty also has safety plans for the adult salmon, which it plans to grow out and slaughter in the country of Panama because that environment is also hostile to survival. "In the lower reaches of the watershed, the water temperature is in the range of 26 to 28 degrees C, at or near the upper incipient lethal level for Atlantic salmon," says the FDA report. "As a result, it is extremely unlikely that AquAdvantage Salmon would ever be able to survive and migrate to the Pacific Ocean."

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