At the close of 2012 a huge spark ignited debate among many environmental, consumer, health and animal organizations around the United States. Why? The Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) has taken a step toward approving the sale of genetically modified (GM) salmon. With nearly 300 organizations and 400,000 outraged consumers bringing well deserved attention to this matter it is important to evaluate the pros and cons that genetically modified salmon pose to society. This month as we draw more consciousness to what we consume and how we use our consumer voice, let’s take a moment to evaluate what the genetically modified salmon brings to the (dinner) table.
The fish have not been tested well. The FDA is ready to put GM salmon on the market. Many researchers and scientists argue that it needs to be more thoroughly researched and given more time to determine any possible side effects or physiological repercussions. Without a proper test sample or a reasonable amount of time, the consequences could impact society on a wide scale.
Environmental side effects. Aside from the lack of testing, the effects of GM salmon have not been examined in relation to the environment in Canada or Panama, sites where the eggs are produced and grown, respectively, according to the NY Times. While the fish have been asserted to have little impact environmentally in the U.S., the potential market for the fish, a more encompassing study should include all sites and scenarios that are related to the production of the fish.
Additionally, there is the possibility that the GM salmon could escape to a natural habitat which could dramatically impact the wild species. With increased competition for food and mates the already endangered wild Atlantic salmon would be in a critical situation. Threatened by the significantly larger GM salmon the wild salmon could face extinction.
Another con is that there are no mandatory labeling requirements or transparency with GMOs currently, therefore diminishing consumer trust, which will be difficult to boost. With sixty-two countries worldwide (including all of Europe) having either banned or making labels mandatory on GMO food products, according to the Huffington Post,the U.S. is behind. GMOs hit the markets in the U.S. unbeknownst to consumers in the 1990s and since the country has seen a rise in allergies, bowel-related diseases, and autism compared to other non-GMO consuming countries.
Despite any cons the most obvious benefit is that the GM salmon grow to market weight in 18 months instead of three years. With the ability to produce salmon in half the time as nature, this could generate a more consistent and abundant fish supply aiding food shortage crisis.
Also, as a by product of an increased fish supply the price of fish would theoretically be lowered due to an increase of supply in the market. With more of an abundance of salmon the price should drop based on the increased yield that GM products allegedly provide.
The FDA refutes the possibility of an impact on the environment with relation to wild salmon due to the fact that the GM salmon will be raised inland, in tanks, the fish will be sterile and furthermore unable to survive in natural water bodies as these would be too hot or salty. Raising the fish in tanks inland could also spare our oceans further degradation.
One of the main arguments behind GMOs is an increased scientific knowledge base and ability to modify food to benefit the overall food supply. Researchers and scientists believe that, aside from offering the promise of an abundant supply of food, modifying certain aspects of the gene code can improve the quality of food and control the ebbs and flows of the global food supply.
No matter which side of the coin you fall on there are sixty days wherein which the F.D.A.’s draft environmental assessment will be open for public comment. Four hundred thousand public comments, three hundred organizations and forty congressmen have already voiced their opinions. Have you? Visit the F.D.A. website or voice your opinion to your local representative to share your opinion. We also welcome your comments here.