While Americans are still debating the merits and potential drawbacks of using genetically modified (GM) food sources, Canadians are taking the leap and opening their kitchens to the next frontier in aquaculture. AquaBounty, a Massachusetts-based company, first grew GM salmon in Panama in 1989 and applied for FDA approval in 1995. The next 20 years were filled with uncertainty, financial strife, and possibly political interference while AquaBounty awaited the FDA’s response. In November 2015, the US FDA decided the GM salmon were safe for human consumption, and Health Canada came to a similar decision in May 2016.
While the fish have been ruled safe to eat, a law included in the 2017 US Fiscal Budget prevents the sale of any transgenic organism until rules are set in place for informing the consumers about the details of the food. However, no such law prevents sales in Canada, where the fish can sell without any specific ‘GM’ labels. AquaBounty has sold roughly five tons of fish to our northern neighbor.
With fishing industries facing the problems of massive over-fishing, GM fisheries are the most likely solution. The salmon themselves are engineered to over-express growth hormone and can grow to full-size in just 18 months versus the normal 3 years. Because the GM fish are grown in terrestrial tanks rather than sea-cages, they are separated from many of the natural parasites and diseases they would encounter otherwise. Additionally, supporters argue that bringing these aquaculture farms to the US would create many needed jobs, thus bolstering the economy.
Managing Correspondent: Zane Wolf
Image Credit: AquaBounty Technologies, Inc.
Original Articles: First genetically engineered salmon sold in Canada; Salmon approval heralds rethink of transgenic animals; Transgenic salmon nears approval –Nature|News