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marble falls

(58,793 posts)
Sat Apr 9, 2016, 12:54 PM Apr 2016

What Will Happen When Genetically Engineered Salmon Escape Into the Wild?


What Will Happen When Genetically Engineered Salmon Escape Into the Wild?

The FDA has failed to fully examine the risks this new species of salmon would present to wild salmon.

By Brettny Hardy / AlterNet
April 8, 2016

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On the Lower Stanislaus River in California's Central Valley. The chinook salmon is an anadromous fish that is the largest species in the salmon family. Chinook salmon range from San Francisco Bay in California to north of the Bering Strait in Alaska, and the waters of Canada and Russia. They are highly valued, mostly due to their relative scarcity, compared to other salmon along the Pacific Coast. Nine populations are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act as either threatened or endangered, including the fall runs found in California's Bay-Delta. USFWS photo/Dan Cox

Photo Credit: Dan Cox/Pacific Southwest Region USFWS/Flickr CC

In late 2015, the Food and Drug Administration gave the greenlight to AquaBounty, Inc., a company poised to create, produce and market an entirely new type of salmon. By combining the genes from three different types of fish, AquaBounty has made a salmon that grows unnaturally fast, reaching adult size twice as fast as its wild relative.

Never before has a country allowed any type of genetically engineered animal to be sold as food. The United States is stepping into new terrain, opening Pandora’s box. But are we ready for the consequences?

In order to answer that question, we must first look back on how we as a nation arrived at this point. Historically, the United States has enjoyed a rich bounty of seafood from the ocean. When I lived in Alaska, I always loved the late summer months when wild salmon would fill the rivers, making their way to spawning grounds. Fresh, wild salmon filets were delicious and abundant. And they still are.
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Unfortunately, outside of Alaska, our poor management of an enormous fishing industry and important habitat has depleted fish stocks all along our coasts. Salmon species, in particular, are sensitive to environmental changes. The development and industrialization of our coast has polluted and dammed the rivers they depend on to breed. Although salmon used to be abundant on both the east and west coasts, large, healthy populations of salmon now exist mostly in Alaska.

Instead of fixing the environmental problems we have created or investing in the protection and recovery of our existing wild salmon resources, some have decided to create a new, genetically engineered fish that brings a host of its own problems and further undermines the sustainability of our food supply.

The genetically engineered salmon that the FDA approved will undertake a journey that stretches halfway around the globe in order to arrive at your dinner table. AquaBounty plans to produce the salmon eggs in a lab on Prince Edward Island in Canada, fly them to Panama to be raised, slaughtered and filleted, and then bring them back to the U.S. so they can be sold to your family. How many tons of greenhouse gases are emitted during that 5,000-mile trip?

That’s a far cry from the farm-to-table experience of eating seafood caught and sold by your local fisherman. Even worse, the FDA has so far refused to require food labels, so you won’t even know if the fish you’re eating is genetically engineered.

The waste and secrecy inherent in this process is bad enough, but the environmental consequences of this decision are potentially enormous. The FDA has failed to fully examine the risks this new species of salmon may present to wild salmon—and the environment—should it escape into the wild, which even some supporters of the FDA decision acknowledge is inevitable.

Once free, these fish will enter a world where wild salmon are already in a precarious state. In this fragile environment, genetically engineered fish would compete with their wild counterparts for food and space, and could even potentially interbreed with them. They will also bring new diseases and cause changes to basic food webs and ecosystem processes that are difficult to anticipate.

Even more concerning is that the FDA does not have the expertise to properly understand the environmental devastation a release of genetically engineered fish could cause. The FDA exists to ensure that the food and drugs we consume are safe for humans, but does not typically evaluate the environmental impacts of putting new types of engineered foods into the ecosystem. The two agencies with actual biological expertise in fisheries and ocean ecosystems, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, were not given the chance to formally review FDA’s approval.

Congress has not created a comprehensive statutory scheme to address the management of genetically engineered products. As a result, agencies are left trying to regulate genetically engineered products under a patchwork of ill-fitting statutes that do not comprehensively address associated environmental and other risks of these new creatures.

This new breed of fish does not herald progress. Instead, it highlights the ways we have devastated many of our wild fish populations and our continuing failure to recover this once-abundant natural food source.

We are opening Pandora’s box, and we are completely unprepared for the consequences.

Editor’s note: The author is the lead attorney on a lawsuit filed in federal court by the non-profit Earthjustice to challenge the FDA’s decision to approve AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon. Read more about the case at Earthjustice.

Brettny Hardy works with the Oceans program in the California regional office of Earthjustice.
8 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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What Will Happen When Genetically Engineered Salmon Escape Into the Wild? (Original Post) marble falls Apr 2016 OP
NMFS and USFWS not even given the chance to review. enough Apr 2016 #1
Same thing in Idaho and the 2naSalit Apr 2016 #2
fish spiced with other fish, safe to eat. Viva_La_Revolution Apr 2016 #3
But it's SCIENCE !!!!! So it must be safe. eom zalinda Apr 2016 #4
The draft environmental assessment contains letters from both NMFS and petronius Apr 2016 #5
What Will Happen When Genetically Engineered Salmon Escape Into the Wild? AlbertCat Apr 2016 #6
To the streams they were spawned in? marble falls Apr 2016 #7
To the streams they were spawned in? AlbertCat Apr 2016 #8

enough

(13,309 posts)
1. NMFS and USFWS not even given the chance to review.
Sat Apr 9, 2016, 01:06 PM
Apr 2016

It's hard to get outraged any more, but this is absolutely outrageous.

2naSalit

(87,838 posts)
2. Same thing in Idaho and the
Sat Apr 9, 2016, 01:25 PM
Apr 2016

Columbia River species. Idaho wanted, and USFWS approved, modified fish to be released into the system and the W admin. made it okay to count the modified population as native species thus skewing all population counts over all from that point on. The tribal agencies at least mark their fish so they can be identified when they come back from the sea but with such a multi-layered admin. clusterf8&k, it takes years to explain the whole mess.

Bottom line, as with "Dolly" the cloned sheep, this will probably end up being a major miscalculation and possibly destroy the fishery all together. If these modified fish are sterile, it could end many populations of native fish and render them extinct.

Viva_La_Revolution

(28,791 posts)
3. fish spiced with other fish, safe to eat.
Sat Apr 9, 2016, 01:29 PM
Apr 2016

What it will do the the already unbalanced ecosystem is a different kettle of fish

petronius

(26,621 posts)
5. The draft environmental assessment contains letters from both NMFS and
Sat Apr 9, 2016, 03:22 PM
Apr 2016

USFWS (in Appendix D), indicating that they were consulted and concurred with the FDA's conclusion:

http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AnimalVeterinary/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/GeneticEngineering/GeneticallyEngineeredAnimals/UCM333102.pdf

The final FONSI specifically references this consultation with FWS and NMFs:

http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AnimalVeterinary/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/GeneticEngineering/GeneticallyEngineeredAnimals/UCM466219.pdf

So I'm not sure why this author suggests that these two agencies were left out of the loop...

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