Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Swimming Upstream, Bigger Faster

I've been loosely, but with some horror, following the issue of genetically modified salmon. If you haven't, the basic story is that a company has spliced some genes to make a "super-salmon" that grows twice as fast as its wild brethren. The FDA has said that the salmon meat is essentially the same, and is safe for human consumption, but have not yet entirely approved the fish and fish eggs for to be sold yet.

(This picture, stolen from AP, shows a GM salmon in the back, and a "regular" salmon in the front. No one has mentioned the GM salmon being giant, so I assume, that given its full lifespan, the salmon in front would grow to the size of the one in back.)

My own instinctive "ewww" factor goes beyond the food on my plate to the "what if" scenario, of what happens if these new salmon somehow migrate--either via Disney style escape, or through someone's greed--from their inland homes into the ocean. A fish that grows faster eats faster, and would have an advantage over the slower growing fish. The bigger, faster growing fish could eventually take over the population, which is disturbing in itself, without even considering how such a skew would affect the whole ocean food chain. I don't know much about marine life--but I lived in Australia for long enough to know that whenever unfairly advantaged species are introduced to an environment--even with the best of intentions--it tends to wreak havoc in unforeseen ways.

The other thing the FDA must rule on, is whether the fish must be labeled as genetically modified on its consumer packaging. The company, AquaBounty Technologies (sounds like a name from a Philip K Dick novel, doesn't it?) argues that they shouldn't have to label, that consumers might interpret the label as a "warning," putting the GM salmon at a disadvantage.

In other words, people might not want to eat food if they know it has been genetically modified. Wow, really?

In other arenas--mainly human social interaction--I pride myself on being rather a free thinker, and so I feel a bit knee-jerk conservative when it comes to modification of our food. As if I'm too rigid to see the progress we are making toward feeding the worlds population. "Those damn scientist-kids with their GM rice and fish and cloned meats!"

Be that as it may, however...I don't have a good feeling about this.

You can draw your own conclusions. Some recent coverage appears on NewsDaily, and the website for The Independent, but if you want to read just one article that give a sense of the broader context, you should read this from The Guardian, and if you are still interested, check out the related stories in the sidebar.

1 comment:

  1. Ahh! Don't they know that's how salmon zombie apocalypses start???