Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Study Exposes AquaBounty’s Bogus Growth Claims on GMO Salmon

Food
Study Exposes AquaBounty’s Bogus Growth Claims on GMO Salmon

For those of you who have read the Mary Shelley novel “Frankenstein,” you remember that the name refers to the scientist Victor Frankenstein, not the monster he constructed from body parts found in the local cemetery. The story has captured the public’s imagination for nearly 200 years, and “franken” has become a common prefix—and a pejorative—for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are made with cut-and-pasted genetic material from different species of plants, animals and microorganisms.

GMO salmon is an Atlantic salmon whose DNA has been re-engineered with a “growth-hormone gene construct” made from genetic material of other fish. Photo credit: Steve Rhodes / Flickr

GMO salmon—or franken-fish, as it is sometimes called—is an Atlantic salmon whose DNA has been re-engineered with a “growth-hormone gene construct” made from genetic material of other fish. One of these fish, the ocean pout, is only as closely related to Atlantic salmon, taxonomically speaking, as a human is related to a porcupine or a platypus. This recombination of genetic material would never happen in nature.

Beyond being designed and engineered by humans and created in a laboratory, GMO salmon and Frankenstein’s monster may also share another defining feature—larger-than-normal proportions. AquaBounty Technologies, the company behind GMO salmon, has always insisted that its fish grow much faster than normal Atlantic salmon—but not larger. This is one of the most frequent claims the company makes—to journalists and even to financial regulators at the Securities Exchange Commission.

Protest march opposing FDA approval of GMO salmon, Market Street, San Francisco, Feb. 9, 2013. Photo credit: Steve Rhodes / Flickr

But, according to a recently released scientific review from the Canadian government, AquaBounty doesn’t have a shred of evidence supporting this claim. This is more than a little odd because AquaBounty calls GMO salmon the “most studied fish in the world.”

If it turns out that GMO salmon do grow larger than normal salmon, it would almost certainly provoke even further consumer opposition to the fish while also compromising the company’s pending risk assessment with the FDA. As Canadian government scientists note, a larger-than-normal Atlantic salmon would be able to eat larger-than-normal prey fish, and this expanded diet could expand the environmental impact of escaped GMO salmon.

Other important risk-assessment questions also emerge: What happens to the health of a GMO salmon that reaches ever-large proportions? What happens to the nutritional content of the fish for consumers? What happens to the hormone levels of this fish, which is engineered with a growth-hormone gene construct?

Again, we don’t know if GMO salmon do grow larger than normal salmon, but given AquaBounty’s track record of questionable claims, it needs to be checked out. The company’s claims about GMO salmon’s fast growth-rate have turned out to be bogus, as the preponderance of evidence indicates GMO salmon probably grow slower than conventional farmed salmon. Likewise, the company has long trumpeted its safe, biosecure production of GMO salmon, but independent sleuthing has revealed “lost” salmon, a major accidental disease outbreak and a $9,500 fine for failing to comply with environmental regulations.

If approved by the FDA, AquaBounty’s salmon will be the first GMO animal to enter the food supply anywhere in the world, so it’s scary to realize how little the world knows about the basic biology of this fish—a situation that is unlikely to be addressed if the FDA continues to ignore its role as a science-based regulator.

While there are sizable gaps in what we know about this fish, there is still plenty of evidence showing that AquaBounty’s salmon is totally unnecessary for our food system, presenting substantial risks to the environment and consumers but no benefits.

EcoWatch initially posted this blog with numerous editorial changes not authorized by the author. We deeply regret the error and have restored the blog to its initial content.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

3 Companies Say ‘No’ to GMO Arctic Apples

28 Most Inspiring Urban Agriculture Projects Around the World

86 Food Products Contain Possible Cancer-Causing Additive

Lawsuits Mount Against Monsanto’s ‘Cancer-Causing’ Weedkiller

Project goal: To create an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to leather, in this case using fungi.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Plastic waste is bulldozed at a landfill. Needpix

The plastic recycling model was never economically viable, but oil and gas companies still touted it as a magic solution to waste, selling the American public a lie so the companies could keep pushing new plastic.

Read More Show Less

Trending

54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Maria Symchych-Navrotska / Getty Images

By Pamela Davis-Kean

With in-person instruction becoming the exception rather than the norm, 54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Initial projections from the Northwest Evaluation Association, which conducts research and creates commonly used standardized tests, suggest that these fears are well-grounded, especially for children from low-income families.

Read More Show Less
A teenager reads a school English assignment at home after her school shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 22, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York. Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images

The pandemic has affected everyone, but mental health experts warn that youth and teens are suffering disproportionately and that depression and suicide rates are increasing.

Read More Show Less
In an ad released by Republican Voters Against Trump, former coronavirus task force member Olivia Troye roasted the president for his response. Republican Voters Against Trump / YouTube

Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch