It seemed that AquaBounty’s GM salmon was dead in the water so to speak, until recently when the USDA revived Frankenfish with the help of some generous funding. Much of the public turned out to be largely opposed to GM salmon hitting the market, fearing the environmental and health repercussions. But a recent story on Grist shows the USDA hasn’t been listening to the public’s call.
Grist reported that on Monday the USDA awarded AquaBounty $494,000 so that the Frankenfish inventor could adjust the techniques that they use to render the GM salmon sterile. It’s critical that the fish not be able to reproduce so that it can’t mate with non-GM salmon and therefore contaminate the wild salmon population considering the generous modification of the species.
According to Ars Technica:
These genetically modified Atlantic salmon have two foreign DNA sequences inserted into their genomes. One encodes a growth hormone from Chinook salmon. The other is the on-switch used by an antifreeze gene from ocean pout, an eel-like fish found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. When placed alongside the growth hormone, this on-switch makes the salmon produce the growth hormone in cold weather when they otherwise wouldn’t. Importantly, the GM salmon do not grow larger than regular salmon; they just achieve their size in sixteen to eighteen months rather than three years.
U.S. Lawmakers Respond to Criticism
In August lawmakers started to push back on the passage of GM salmon, heeding the call of their people. Seventy-eight percent of the 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed opposed approval of the fish until more research is completed, according to a story A.K. Streeter wrote. So it seems lawmakers are listening to the call.
"FDA hasn't considered all of the potential negative impacts of genetically-altered fish and the strong opposition in Congress to approving something that could decimate wild salmon populations," said Sen. Begich (D-AK) in a statement Friday. "Recent scientific evidence shows that if genetically-modified salmon escape, they could successfully breed with wild stocks, potentially destroying the genetic adaptations that have allowed fish to thrive for millennia. Alaska wild salmon is abundant and sustainable."
So if Americans are rejecting it and lawmakers are following, why can't the USDA let it go as well?