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The Fish

Genetically Engineered Salmon?

While not on anyone's dinner table just yet, genetically engineered salmon are just a pen stroke away. GE salmon are being developed by a U.S. company called Aqua Bounty Farms and are preferred for their ability to grow two to four times faster than other farmed salmon:

"The goal of producing faster growing Atlantic Salmon for the commercial food market is well on its way at Aqua Bounty Farms, a research facility located in Fortune, Prince Edward Island, Canada. This experimental hatchery has been injecting growth hormone genes into fertilized salmonid eggs to produce fast growing salmon, trout and Arctic char."
Research at Aqua Bounty Farms, Aqua Bounty Farms webpage.

Research at both Purdue University and The National Academy of Sciences points to the "considerable risks" that genetically engineered (also called "transgenic") fish pose to nearby populations of native fish:

"Purdue University researchers have found that releasing a transgenic fish to the wild could damage native populations even to the point of extinction."
Sigurdson, C. (2000). Transgenic fish could threaten wild populations, Purdue News.

"The committee's review of ecologic principles and empirical data suggests a considerable risk of ecological hazards becoming realized should transgenetic fish or shellfish enter natural systems."
Board on Life Sciences (2002). Animal Biotechnology: Science Based Concerns, The National Academy of Sciences.

There is little doubt that transgenetic fish will, if raised, escape to the surrounding waters. Estimates of farmed salmon escapees in British Columbia total at least 400,000 fish from 1991 to 2001:

"According to the Canadian government, in the past decade nearly 400,000 farm-raised Atlantics escaped into British Columbia waters and began competing with wild species for food and habitat. (That number relies primarily on escapes reported by fish farmers; environmentalists put the actual figure closer to 1 million.)"
Barcott, B. (2001). Aquaculture's Troubled Harvest, Mother Jones, November/December.

Responding to consumer concerns, more than 200 grocers, restaurants, and seafood distributors have pledged not to purchase or sell genetically engineered fish:

"'If my patrons don't want genetically engineered fish, then I certainly don't want to serve it. My customers congratulate me for signing the pledge,' said Todd Gray, award-winning chef/owner of Equinox restaurant in Washington, DC."
Press Release (2002). 'Stop the Commercialization of Genetically Engineered Fish,' Say over 200 Grocers, Restaurants and Seafood Distributors, Center for Food Safety, Clean Water Action, Friends of the Earth, 18 September.

The Food and Drug Administration is currently considering an application by Aqua Bounty Farms to permit sales of genetically engineered salmon:

"If the application is approved, salmon would become the first genetically modified animal allowed onto American dinner plates, where it would sit alongside genetically engineered corn and potatoes, which have been available for several years."
Burros, M. (2002). Chefs Join Campaign Against Altered Fish, New York Times, 18 September.