Trisopterus luscus or "pout," genes from which have been inserted into Atlantic Salmon for the purpose of making it eat all the time. Image credit:Wikipedia
This proposed commercial genetic trick - inserting the genes of a "pout fish" (as pictured) into Atlantic Salmon genes - has nothing to do with improved taste or texture or color or nutrition we'd appreciate as salmon-eating consumers. It's being done so farm-raised Atlantic salmon will eat year round, gaining weight through what would naturally have been the spawning season. Maybe, just maybe, consumer costs will be kept down if it is adopted.
At least Americans won't worry about ecological and human health risks, should sale of GM salmon be approved. FDA most certainly has an office full of
aquatic ecologists and geneticists with field experience, and who care about and understand biodiversity number crunchers and consultants who can easily baffle journalists lacking background in the biological or environmental sciences. McClatchy News has this coverage of the meaty part.
AquaBounty's fish grow faster but not bigger that normal Atlantic salmon. The company says that genetically modified salmon are identical to regular salmon in every way except for the genes that have been added.
Company researchers have added a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon as well as an on-switch gene from the ocean pout, a distant relative of the salmon, to a normal Atlantic salmon's roughly 40,000 genes. Salmon normally feed only during the spring and summer, but when the on-switch from the pout's gene is triggered, they eat year round.
The trust factor.
Industry lobbyists thought they were pretty crafty in recent years, getting product review committees and FDA administrators installed who were friendly to the 'industry point of view.' After recent headline scares with melamine, ecoli, and lead contamination, plus, several reports about unexpected drug side effects, there is little public trust left in the FDA decision process.. Add aquatic ecology to the mix and it's a joke.
My guess would be that the GM insertion business crowd is going to face an up hill battle on this approval. Nice going K Street.
If you find any of this concerning and you are a US citizen, get with Trout Unlimited, would be my recommendation. Blogs have no political clout, remember.
Related note: I recommend David's recent post Atlantic salmon retro virus infection discovery.