Genetically Modified Salmon Coming To A Store Near You

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

chinook-spawning-phaseIt is a truly blasphemous concept to a pescetarian–genetically modified, farm raised salmon. But, the United States Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday to allow for the marketing, and just as worrisome, the exemption from food labeling as such, of genetically altered fish that reportedly grows twice as fast as natural salmon. It once again shows how consumers cannot rely on politicians and the U.S. Government for informed choices on what we eat.

The producer of the fish, AquaBounty Technologies, received clearance to manufacture their AquAdvantage(R) Salmon after the FDA “determined that they have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat,” according to Bernadette Dunham director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. This culminates in a two decade effort for the company to gain approval to sell the fish to producers.

AquAdvantage is the first genetically modified animal to win approval from the FDA to sell to consumers. It is now up to these consumers to do their homework to determine if food products contain frankenfish, since labeling is not required. In a conference call to reporters, the FDA advised consumers wishing to avoid GMO fish will need to purchase Wild-Caught since the term Farm Raised will encompass natural and altered genome types.


Around December of 2013, Safeway and Kroger vowed they would not sell genetically modified salmon in their stores citing concerns of their customers. This was followed by Trader-Joe’s. Indeed this also shows potential for more grocers listening to consumers who overwhelmingly support mandatory GMO labeling and are increasingly likely to avoid such foods.

“Consumers deserve to know what type of food they’re buying –- and an overwhelming majority has told us that they want genetically modified food labeled in poll after poll,” said Michael Hansen, senior scientist with Consumers Union, in a statement. “The decision to not require a GE label for this product takes away the consumer’s ability to make a truly informed choice.”

In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would preempt the right of states to mandate GMO labeling or to regulate genetically altered “food”. The Senate has not taken up drafting legislation for this.

AquaBounty Chief Executive Officer Ronald Stotish stated,

“AquAdvantage Salmon is a game-changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats.”

I have to disagree. The company claims that its product is altered so that if it somehow enters the wild, it will not breed due to creating sterile, female only fish. There are countless stories in the world where invasive species caused disruption in local ecosystems. Both the manufacturer of the fish, and the FDA itself proffer AquAdvantage will only be grown within inland tanks to prevent contamination of natural fishing areas. That is going to be more of a empty promise because it is likely going to be difficult to control every entity that takes possession of the fish and resorts to hazardous manufacturing controls to save costs. Plus, if their product was so safe why would it be necessary to take up such measures to prevent the salmon from entering the wild?

AquAdvantage contains alterations to a Pacific Chinook Salmon genome that causes the fish to create a growth hormone at twice the rate of a natural fish. A concern is that if released into the wild it could crowd out natural fish and lead to imbalances in not only salmon species but other organisms will be both directly and indirectly affected. Moreover, once the box has been opened to genetically altered animals just about any other trait can be exploited or turned off which could lead to a race to the bottom for cost control that can introduce other forms of degradation of food quality and health. With regard to RoundUp Ready plant crops, Monsanto claims its GMO product is safe for consumption. Yet, the alteration allows for the use of a scorched-earth herbicide to be administered to the crops, a substance that studies are showing can lead to various pathologies in humans. We need to ask ourselves what the true cost of our food is. Cheaper is not always better.

By Darren Smith


Center for Food Safety

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

73 thoughts on “Genetically Modified Salmon Coming To A Store Near You”

  1. Karen S. The pastoral farm you describe sounds like heaven on earth. Yes, the book is a revelation and although it’s a radical shift of time and money we’ve taken a lot of our way of eating now from it. Glad you liked it.

    “And yet the other companies undersell his milk significantly, because their high density model is cheaper to produce.”

    Yes, death and sickness are very cheap if you can ‘afford it’. I’ve made myself an outcast due to my dietary commitments which may or may not be a good thing. Just today I was invited to the company holiday potluck and saw what they were having; ham with sugar sauce, green beans bathed in a questionable white sauce with those canned fried onions on top and other ‘goodies’. I told the inviter that I’m so fussy about food it would just be awkward, then I told my boss the same thing and went home for lunch where I had organic lentil barley parsley salad with homemade cornbread covered in grass fed butter and raw organic neem honey and organic chai tea with honey and whipping cream. It beats having ‘eaters regret’. Then of course because the way I eat is so “expensive” I opted out of the $25 company Christmas gift exchange….GLADLY. I don’t even know these people that well! It seems that the less main stream I am the happier and healthier.

  2. I believe that wind-pollinated GMOs should not be released at all, regardless of safety studies, because as you’ve said, they cannot be contained. Any neighboring farmer for miles around cannot “opt out”. His crops would be contaminated. The GMO farmer cannot control where the GMO pollen blows. That infringes on the rights of other farmers who do not want to grow GMOs.

    And yet Monsanto lawyers successfully sue those farmers for patent infringement.

    1. Karen S. “And yet Monsanto lawyers successfully sue those farmers for patent infringement.”

      Hmmmm I smell a $conspiracy$, plot, machination, scheme, ploy, racket!! [Dons tinfoil hat.]

      Obama Signs The Monsanto Protection Act – Seeds Of Death- Full Movie

  3. BFM:

    You are absolutely right. And I am convinced that the source of the confusion for most people is Monsanto itself.

  4. BFM:

    It’s interesting that you hypothesized about wiping out plankton, a keystone species. That reminded me that the vast majority of Earth’s oxygen is produced by marine phytoplankton and algae. God forbid we ever pollute our oceans enough to wipe out phytoplankton. That’s a keystone species for us .

    1. Karen S: “Actually, we already have developed animals that glow.”

      That is exactly right. We have created some glowing animals: “Fluorescent proteins have also been used to engineer some truly strange beasts (and the odd plant), such as the glowing puppies, monkeys, mice, fish and other animals on the following pages.”

      My point was that no one selected, or could select, to develop strains of glowing puppies, monkeys, mice, fish or other animals.

      The genetic capability to produce glowing proteins had to be inserted into the genetic material of the animals – using techniques that you have mentioned in your previous posts.

      This is not a subtle point. Yet some readers can’t seem to distinguish selecting for traits that are already present in the species – tradition methods – and inserting completely different genetic material into an animal through modern GMO techniques.

      Inserting new genetic material in an organism presents several questions:

      1) how do we know the expression of genetic material remains harmless. The advocates claim that the genetic material will perform much as it did in the source organism. It probably will – but that is not a certainty. We know that gene expression is influence by several factors including other genetic material in the organism – which in a GMO is completely new and different.

      2) how do we determine what other effects might occur. We have already seen the example of the Monarch butterfly. The issue is not whether butterflies are good and deserve to survive or whether they are expendable and don’t matter. The issue is that no one anticipated that effect. Even when we carefully study GMOs, we may miss real, wide spread effects. The world can probably continue, much as before, without Monarch butterflies. But greatly reducing the population of bees might make a very important difference. We need better methods to understand the effects of GMOs – before we make wide spread use of them.

      3) How can we contain GMOs after we place them in commercial production. The facts is that both the plants and their genetic material tend to spread despite our best efforts at containment. The implication is that we should be very sure we understand the effects of GMOs before we let them loose in nature where they may have no natural checks and a multitude of niches in which to propagate.

      These are serious questions. They deserve serious thought.

  5. ModernMinor:

    “You’ve all been eating GMO foods since a monk named Gregor Mendel crossed different colored pea plants in his greenhouse in the mid-1800s, and really, long before that, when you consider prehistoric farmers who’d preferentially use the seeds from the heartiest plants in his harvest for the following season.”

    No. Let me explain. “Genetically modified” is defined by gene splicing, using a virus to insert a gene into a chromosome, sometimes using genes from two different kingdoms, such as inserting bacterial DNA into a plant chromosome.

    In a sense, anytime two parents have a child, they “modify their genes” by creating a child with a completely unique chromosome. But obviously that is not the definition that GMO refers to.

    Hybridization refers to two plant varieties that cross pollinate either naturally, through wind or pollinators, or by people hand pollinating.

    Human agriculture developed crops by carefully selecting seeds from parent plants that had the characteristics they desired, over enough generations that they developed new varieties. No lab was involved. This also utilizes the same natural process that evolution uses. For instance, plants evolve on their own due to environmental pressure and time. With the development of agriculture, those plant varieties evolved due to mankind selection.

  6. Aridog:

    “Like “free range” chickens…most are not really as you might imagine them wandering hither and yon…and if they really are “free range”…enjoy chewing the tough meat.” You are right that “free range” could just mean no cages and still so crowded the birds have to be debeaked. Also, many producers pasture their chickens and then grain finish them later. Chickens are omnivores and get optimal nutrition if they have access to grass, weeds, bugs, and grains. Surprisingly, they will also quickly shred and devour mice.

    Chickens that get plenty of exercise will have lean muscle, but can also be very tender if they are harvested at an appropriate age and cooked properly. After that age, any chicken, even in a battery cage, will taste tough. Different breeds are also bred for different fat content, and that also will affect the flavor. The typical provincial French farm would have loose chickens, and still produce delicious poultry. The Bresse, for example, is fabulously expensive and rare, reputed to be the most delicious chicken in the entire world. The butcher typically leaves the characteristic slate blue legs on so that consumers have proof for what they are buying. Strict French protocol demands that the birds free range on pasture, and are required to have at least 10 m2 per bird. After they get that lean muscle, they gorge the birds on milk and grain to increase the fat over that layer. Which is strange because the birds do not produce lactase.

    And I’m praying you get good news on your biopsy. I hope you keep us posted. I greatly enjoy reading your contributions to the blog.

  7. Aridog:

    “Today is if anyone can give me a specific list of 5 items not GMO’d or Hybridized (same thing mostly) to some degree, please list them. I’ve nearly stopped reading labels anymore.”

    Hybrids and GMOs are definitely different. This confuses many people. This is the best article I could find:

    In a nutshell, hybrids utilize what we’ve learned from Mendel genetics. If you want to develop a new variety of plant using traditional breeding techniques, culling for the traits you do not want and selecting for the traits you do, plan to take about 10 generations. You can skip this part if you hit on the perfect cross to create a hybrid. That is where you take a male of one variety and cross it with a female of another variety to produce the offspring that you want. To do so, you cover the flowers or tassels with bags to prevent wind or pollinator pollination, and then you hand pollinate to ensure you get the exact cross that you want. To arrive at the perfect cross, you typically experiment with a whole bunch of different crosses until you strike on the perfect one. The reason that you cannot save seed from these hybrids is that a hybrid has one gene from the mother and one from the father, like Rr. One dominant and one recessive. If crossed with itself, it will produce seed that tis RR, Rr, and rr, so not all seed will breed true to the parent.

    All of this just involves controlling pollination by hand. We have been using this technique since the monk Gregor Mendel discovered it in the 1800s.

    Hybrids also are produced naturally if you plant one non-hybrid next to another variety of non-hybrid that flowers at the same time. Then a pollinator or the wind crosses the pollen between the two. That’s why you have to be careful what you plant next to each other, and when, if you plan to save seed from non-hybrid or heirloom varieties. So this is an entirely natural process that we learned how to emulate.

    GMOs, on the other hand, are produced using gene splicing, typically using genes from completely different species, if not animal kingdoms. A virus is used to insert genes into the chromosome, sometimes combining plant with bacteria genes.

  8. Hildegard:

    Thank you for the cookbook recommendation. I’m intrigued, just based on the title alone.

    And you are right, there are many loopholes in organic and grassfed meats. Even grassfed meat can still be grain finished, so you want grassfed through the whole life cycle. And “access to the outdoors” required for organic livestock can mean different things to different producers. For large corporate conventional producers, “access to the outdoors” means a stinky feedlot where they are fed grain based diets that produce an unhealthy Omega 3/6 ratio. I completely agree with you about the benefits of grass fed, although you have to learn how to cook that lean meat correctly.

    For comparison, a good friend of ours is an organic dairyman, 4th generation. To get to his house, you drive past feed lots where the smell just makes your eyes water. The cows stand in dirt and manure all day, which makes their legs dirty. Yet they have “access to the outside.” You can see tractors scraping manure and piling it into huge refuse heaps. If you go grocery shopping in those towns, the smell of manure is strong inside the store. Which I know from experience. And then you get to our friend’s place. He has rolling green hills, famous for his perfected blend of forage. His herd is very low density. They stroll in all by themselves to get milked, single file, no pushing, take a ride on a hydraulic carousel while they eat their goody supplement bucket, and then they stroll on out. His cows live on grass and are clean. It’s peaceful and bucolic. There is absolutely no comparison in living conditions. And yet the other companies undersell his milk significantly, because their high density model is cheaper to produce.

  9. BigFatMike:

    Monsanto has its fingers in a surprising number of pies. Unfortunately, it has great influence among both Republicans and Democrats. Former Monsanto employees are currently in the USDA under Obama’s administration.

    That is one of the reasons why I want to reform special interest, lobbying, and campaign finance contributions. Every political party is bought by someone, be it Monsanto, Big Unions, or whatever. I prefer them to be beholden to their constituents.

  10. It should be sold if at all with a big red label. The FDA is a patsy for corporations. The federal regime has pathetically whored itself out to big banks and MNCs.

  11. You’ve all been eating GMO foods since a monk named Gregor Mendel crossed different colored pea plants in his greenhouse in the mid-1800s, and really, long before that, when you consider prehistoric farmers who’d preferentially use the seeds from the heartiest plants in his harvest for the following season. We’re lucky that science keeps coming up with ways to produce more food for more people using less land and resources than ever before in the history of mankind. When the consumption begins to outstrip the production, you’ll be begging for science to come up with crafty ways to meet demand. Until then, complain away.

    1. “You’ve all been eating GMO foods since a monk named Gregor Mendel crossed different colored pea plants in his greenhouse in the mid-1800s, and really, long before that, when you consider prehistoric farmers who’d preferentially use the seeds from the heartiest plants in his harvest for the following season. ”

      Actually this confuses some important concepts and does not illuminate the subject.

      Mendel selected for traits, gene expression, that was already in the organism.

      The recent GMO techniques are different because they allow us to add characteristics to an organism that were never before in the organism.

      You will never, never be able to select for humans that glow in the dark, or sharks that can climb out on the land and walk around, or pea plants that have an eyeball in the middle of the bloom.

      But with GMO techniques, in concept at least, we could add the genetic material to grow glowing babies that would not need night lights, or sharks that could win the Kentucky Derby, or pea plants that could keep watch on the garden.

      The argument for safety has been that since that genetic material was present and expressed in the source organism, it must be safe when placed it the target organism. That is probably true. But not necessarily.

      The expression of genetic material can and does influence the expression of other genetic material in the organism. Since GMOs, by definition, implement genetic material never before in the organism, we don’t really know how the newly added genes will present themselves. Further, we don’t really know how the genes already in the organism will express themselves when the new genetic material is added. .

      It is all a bit of a crap shoot. As I mentioned before, the big risk is unintended consequence. We have already seen how GMOs contributed to the decline of Monarch butterflys. Now, I am not arguing that you should care about Monarch butterflys.

      The point is that no one anticipated that protecting human food corps would reduce the stocks of plants that the butterflys depended upon. No one did a study and decided the butterflys were expendable for the greater good. No one expected the butterflys to die out.

      It might not matter so much that butterflys were greatly reduced in number.

      But who can tell what the next unintended consequence might be. What if the next unintended consequence of GMO’s wipes out the bees or plankton? What happens to food stocks then. How do we protect against the unintended consequences that arise from technology that has been in existence for less than a historical eye blink?

      GMOs present a second kind of problem in addition to unintended consequence. They cannot easily be contained. Despite our best efforts the plants tend to spread beyond the fields where they are planted.

      In addition the genetic material, amazingly, can be transferred without propagation of the actual plant. The nomenclature for the non sexual transfer of genetic material is varied but horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is recognized. BTW, HGT is thought to be involved in the development of antibacterial resistance in bacteria. So we know that HGT among GMO’s should not be discounted or ignored.

      The plain fact is that if we make a mistake with one GMO that mistake is likely to be propagated through out nature either through normal plant growth or through HGT. We need to get GMOs right.

  12. Back to the article….and logic….the fda said if ppl don’t want gm salmon they can buy “wild” salmon.

    Why does farm raised salmon even have to be labled farm raised? What happens on a salmon farm that requires a distinction from caught in the wild? Moreover i notced at the market both the wild and the farm raised had a lable that the color was added. Why Is the coloring worth disclosure but not gm? And finally why can it be called a salmon?…if its been gm it is something else. Like a donkey and a horse make a sterile mule ….called a mule. And that unnatural but possible result has its own name. Just like plants got their own names a tomatoe isnt just a tomatoe you have grape, roma, big boy blah blah. By selective breeding.

    Is this the same outfit who wont let something be called chocalate unless it uses a specific recipe. But any recipe goes for salmon apparently.

    1. Hi J; You ask a lot of questions. Why does farm raised have to be labeled farm raised? Why can genetically modified salmon still be called salmon? Why put coloring on a label but not gm?

      The bigger question is, “WHY DO CRIMINALS RUN THIS COUNTRY?”

  13. thanks ningen. people have been eating “genetically altered” food for at least 20 yrs (e.g., papaya). there isn’t one documented case of harm from any GMO, including the LibertyLink corn that was introduced into human food chain in the late 90s. many foods that the commentators here believe are safe were created by irradiation (e.g., ruby red grapefruit) or by conventional breeding techniques in which no one knows what was introduced (e.g., cyanogenic potato that was released for consumption and then taken off market because of adverse health effects). the U.S. government does NOT regulate or require testing of any foods that were made by a technique other than “genetic modification”. I put that in quotes because all new varieties are made by genetic modification , such as cross-breeding or selecting for traits and mutants.

    1. lorac: “there isn’t one documented case of harm from any GMO,” Strange statement. Let’s examine that.

      Former Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out On The Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food”

      “In the last 10 years I have changed my position. I started paying attention to the FLOW OF PUBLISHED STUDIES coming from Europe, some FROM PRESTIGIOUS LABS and published in PRESTIGIOUS SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS, that questioned the impact and safety of engineered food.”

      Oh I’m sorry those are European studies done by scientists that haven’t been bought by Monsanto who in turn has bought our so-called government.

      And as far as not ‘one documented case of harm”? Read the following article and consider yourself enlightened. You might also notice that Americans are some of the fattest, sickest, dumbest people on the planet and we spend the MOST on healthcare, I’ve heard. Do you not believe that what we consider food might have something to do with it? When it comes to Alzheimer’s and Dementia, we may not be #1 in the WORLD out of 172 countries but is #2 good enough? I’d post a link but 2 is the limit!

      “Not one case of harm from GMOs”

  14. There is zero evidence that “genetically altered” food is harmful. The main source of concern in food safety remains bacterial contamination, an in many cases, GMOs potentially reduce the risk of this.

    1. ningen; Sleep much?? See above article and please do yourself and favor and read it. I cannot even believe people are so…… oh never mind.

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