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Genetically engineered fish is answer to seafood crisis

October 3, 2010

Genetically engineered fish is answer to seafood crisis
By James Greenwood
CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization

Right now, the government is deciding whether it’s safe for us to eat genetically engineered salmon. The fish, called AquAdvantage, is being developed by a Massachusetts biotech firm and is in every measurable way identical to Atlantic salmon—except it grows to normal size twice as fast. If officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) give it the green light, it would be the first time that a genetically engineered animal is approved for food use.

Genetic engineering usually conjures up images of Frankenstein. But modern day biotech researchers are anything but mad scientists. Their ground-breaking work has the potential to address world hunger and protect the environment. The AquAdvantage salmon in particular could ease pressure on wild fish stocks, reduce the environmental impact of traditional fish farming, and help feed the growing world population.

Overfishing and pollution are quickly wiping out the native global fish supply. Already 80% of fish stocks world-wide are fully exploited or overexploited, according to a May 2010 U.N. report. If current trends continue, virtually all fisheries risk running out of commercially viable catches by 2050.

Fish farming has helped address this problem: About half of seafood consumed world-wide is now farm-raised. But it’s expensive. Shipping farm-raised salmon to the United States from Chile, where most of our fish originates, costs as much as 75 cents per pound.

Faster-growing genetically engineered salmon could help restore America’s domestic fish farming industry, trimming costs and reducing energy consumption. If the FDA approves the fish it would also spur investment in other food products. This could help meet the world’s growing demand for protein-rich food.

Through biotechnology, scientists at a firm in South Dakota have developed cattle that are resistant to mad cow disease. Canadian researchers have asked the FDA to approve their “Enviropig,” a pig genetically engineered to produce manure that is less polluting. Biotech researchers are also exploring ways to fortify food plants with enhanced nutritional content, which could help alleviate malnutrition and certain diseases in the developing world. And researchers are engineering animals that can better utilize nutrients in feed.

Critics contend that genetically engineered fish haven’t been sufficiently researched and could harm our health. But the truth is that these faster-growing salmon are the result of more than two decades of research. Plus, the FDA’s system to ensure the safety of such animals has been in development for over a decade.

There’s nothing peculiar about this fish’s genetic makeup. To create the faster-growing salmon, scientists took a gene from the Chinook salmon, which matures rapidly, along with a gene from a salmon relative called ocean pout, which produces growth hormones all year. Aside from these two tweaks, the AquAdvantage salmon is chemically and biologically identical to the salmon we purchase at the local grocer.

Critics also fear that these salmon could crossbreed with wild fish and pollute their gene pool. This is highly unlikely given the protections put in place and the realities of the science. By treating the genetically engineered eggs, all AquAdvantage salmon will develop as sterile females. And these fish will be grown in contained, land-based tanks, away from any interaction with wild fish and the ocean.

When genetically engineered crops were introduced 14 years ago, critics worried that “frankenfood” would hurt human health and the environment. Since then, farmers have grown corn, soybeans, cotton and other products that are resistant to disease and pests, and tolerant of herbicides. These innovations have reduced production costs, increased agricultural productivity and reduced agriculture’s footprint on the environment. To date, not a single adverse health effect has been caused by a food derived from genetically engineered crops.

Genetically engineered animals are the next intelligent step in food innovation. As Josh Ozersky, a James Beard Award-winning food writer, has observed, “There are no Black Angus cows grazing in the wild; they’re the product of breeding for size, marbling and fast growth, not unlike the genetically-modified salmon.”

Public dialogue on any new technology is important. But the discourse must be based on sound science. And regarding faster-growing salmon—and other genetically engineered foods of the future—science shows clearly that they can provide us with the safe and sustainable food source we need.

Mr. Greenwood is president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

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Discuss this article

tree123 October 3, 2010

If these engineered fish are the answer then boy-oh-boy do we have a problem on our hands. If our oceans are so unhealthy, that means we have utterly wrecked the 2/3 of the planet that we don’t even reside on.

Let’s have a little more hope and try to save our oceans and fisheries as functioning ecosystems that can support fishing and a reasonable level of human consumption.

The headline-level of debate about these engineered fish has been very poor. It’s all about human health while missing other critical factors, e.g.: what is the ecological effect of these fish if they escape into the wild? A: they will devastate wild fish populations through unfair competition. Also, what is the effect of fish farming on our oceans? A: Not good. They are pits of concentrated pollution, they cause unnecessary harm to marine mammals, seabirds, and schools of bait fish, and the prisoners are always escaping to wreak havoc on ecosystems.

Jason Merkling October 15, 2010

Sounds tasty!

Paul C October 15, 2010

I dont trust any genetic modified food in spite of what scientists or experts say. Humans can not even reproduce a mosquito or an ant. They must stay off the building blocks of life. What they do in their arrogance to think they have control over life is very naive.
You dont even know WHY life exists. That is the gap the biologist deal with.
Monsanto is the example how messed up the genetic modified foods leads to. They patented many genes which is rediculous. No one can is allowed to patent any lifeform. To patent a modified gene is proving they commit white collar crime.
Mr Greenwood is under the same corrupt umbrella as the Monsanto company and he knows that. Stop messing with genetics, because the real motives are not to resque mankind, but the stinking money. Greed is the evil motive and is so recognisable present in this slimey talk of the Biotechnical Industry.

Dav October 15, 2010


The problem is overzealous fishing beyond what the atlantic salmon’s population can handle. boosting the dwindling numbers of these fish is a *GOOD* thing. we want them to grow and get out into the wild. that means that we can return to harvesting decent catches of fish while doing as little distruption to the ecosystem as we can. the fact that we need to eat means we will do extensive damage to the environment no matter what, but by replacing the fish with ones that grow to maturity quickly as we catch more adds some counterbalance.

and, also, it has very little to do with pollution.

actually, in fact, pollution isn’t even mentioned in the article. so I have no idea where you got that from. but, to jog your memory, the fish being produced are in every way identical to normal atlantic salmon, but only they reach maturity twice as fast as normal salmon. there is zero pollution produced by any of this.

look, I know you are afraid of what your imagination cooks up by hearing the term “genetically modified”. when you first hear the term, hollywood and TV shows have already made you relate that term with things like Spider-Man and a whole slew of horror movies. (Splice comes to mind. even with the creepy sex scene.) but the most crucial part about all of this is that the correlations you’ve already made in your head before educating yourself on what actually goes on in a lab or how testing is carried out is what you’re expressing, here.

there is no solid evidence after extensive testing in world class facilities to suggest that GM food is dangerous in any way whatsoever, and when people like you are confronted to show evidence and documentation of the same caliber to prove your counter points.. all you have to offer are hypothetical horror stories built around hearsay and rumors, with zero tangible evidence to back any of it up.

JLM October 15, 2010

These fish are sterile, only two gene modifications, many cases of “genetic engineering” are based on changing how the genes express themselves in development rather than the actual genetic structure, so the babies of such animals will be the same as the unmodified members of the species. How are these fish going to get into the regular population and ruin the ecosystem? I swear some of you don’t even believe in evolution. Read a book.

conor October 15, 2010

if they were using hormones or proteins of some sort that could be absorbed by our bodies i would be concerned. if you take a look at people who eat large amounts of chicken treated with hormones to boost breast and thigh size you’ll understand what i mean. seeing as they are merely mixing genes from other types of salmon i see this as being not much different from cross-breeding.

Collin October 15, 2010

Yeah screw the oceans, all we need to do is genetically modify all the animals, patent them, then destroy the existing fish with pollution like PCBs, and heavy metals, and farm runoff. Then everyone will have to buy from the companies that patented the fish, and the company will be rich! Monsanto has to be behind this. I am glad the person who wrote this works for the biotechnology industry. After all he would have nothing to say bad about genetically modified animals. That would hurt his income.

Shreya October 15, 2010

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Shreya October 15, 2010

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amolpatil2k October 15, 2010

The establishment has been trying to push genetically modified stuff for the longest time irrespective of whether it is better or worse. They simply love the moral dilemma it puts the hoi polloi in. It is also true that genetically modified food is far more profitable both to make and from the medical needs it results in. The powers that be have figured out a way to depopulate – Don’t prevent, make sick. Same effect, more profit.

fairlyUnbalanced October 15, 2010

Let’s test the safety of gen-modding by say introducing an ethical switch in to the gene pool of business leaders… hmm, making them sterile is a good idea, too.

jim October 15, 2010

Paul C October 15, 2010
I dont trust any genetic modified food in spite of what scientists or experts say. Humans can not even reproduce a mosquito or an ant. They must stay off the building blocks of life. What they do in their arrogance to think they have control over life is very naive.


Yes. We should stop having children. Also I don’t think we’re ever going to find out “WHY” there is life. Whys seem a little subjective to me.

Eric October 15, 2010

“Genetic engineering usually conjures up images of Frankenstein. But modern day biotech researchers are anything but mad scientists. Their ground-breaking work has the potential to address world hunger and protect the environment.”

This is already the case. Millions in africa and parts of asia are alive now because of genetically modified crops. Those places in Africa that do not benefit from this are the ones that restrain their farmers from using these crops because environmental groups pay their oppressive governments not to. It is smart to keep an eye on those producing the new strains and to watch for long term harm but don’t overlook the very real and valuable benefits already made for dangers that have yet to surface. Weigh all factors equally. At this very moment, lives are saved because of human genetically modified food. The harm required to justify rejecting these foods would have to be extremely high.

Konic October 15, 2010

The majority of GM crops were modified to allow additional pesticides and herbicides. Plus they make farmers dependent on seed companies because they are no longer allowed to store seed from the current crop for the next year.

patricia tursi October 16, 2010

Independent Research on genetic engineering (GE) has been stifled. Adverse effects, from hair growing in the mouth of animals, to increased cancers, to decreased reproductive abilities abound. The results are too numerous to list. Brave scientists, who oppose GE, have been fired, ridiculed, unable to obtain research grants, and some even killed, in order to maintain the illusion that genetic engineering is something that is good for our planet. We don’t need genetic engineering. We need population control…and that does not include extermination as is presently being carried out with chem trails, bad food, vaccinations (Bill Gates says vaccinnations can be used for population control?), etc. While advocating genetic engineering, “conservatives” in the US government have cut off funding for all methods of population control. Figure that one out. Due to their size and growth-rate, the Frankenstein fish will eliminate ALL natural salmon. In Missouri, thanks to Round-UP ready corn, etc., we now have three Frankenstein weeds that farmers can’t control. The spraying of poisons on the land have increased ….not decreased as promised. The failures of GE seeds have led to suicides all over India. We need to eliminate all toxins. GE benefits only Monsanto and other GE companies, (and their stockholders and sell-out employees. These BIO companies used to be chemical producers (remember Dow and Agent Orange?). They then reinvented themselves into BIO companies (they saw the anti-chemical movement). They manipulate our food supply and endanger our planet with mad science and produce nothing but greed, profits and destruction. Follow the money!

Alex October 16, 2010

Bottom line… it is arrogant and ignorant to believe we know better than nature. This is all about MONEY. There are liars, damn liars and the BIOTECH Industry.

Genetically Engineered Fish Is Answer To Seafood Crisis - whitewalls's posterous October 16, 2010

[…] James Greenwood, CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, argues that genetically modified fish are safe and can help protect the environment, as well as helping alleviate world hunger.Source: […]

United Kingdom October 16, 2010

No way, fish should be fish!

Jacek October 16, 2010

Genetic engineering is quite misunderstood. Most of the drugs that we use today are genetically engineered through one process or another. The fish will have a form of a gene from another fish expressed. It already has this gene it just get turned off when its cold outside. While the new gene remains on all the time and so the fish grows quicker.

Scientists may not be able to reproduce higher forms of life (bacteria maybe) but this is not production of a new life form its augmentation.

Patent law is crazy in the states but that does not mean that this is dangerous in anyway to the individual.

alena b. October 17, 2010

Umm yummy frankenfoods! why not save the fish and the marine life instead. GMO’s and genetically modified foods are not safe. Years from now lawyers will be offering settlements to those people that have gotten diseases from GMO’s just like FDA approved medications that have all these weird side effects.

brian October 18, 2010

hes the CEO of a biotech org, so naturally(or is that UNnaturally) he is biased. But where do guys like him come from? Where does he get these ideas that humans can trash nature and then replace it with their own creations?! Hubris? Greed? Our society thru its universities has engineereda strange creature…Highly educated yet incredibly blind and stupid. As he destroys his nest, all he can think of is how to build a better nest.
But it aint gonna happen….

IOwnMyDNA October 18, 2010

@anybody who thinks this Frankenfish is a good idea.
Are you that stupid? Really?
Haven’t you been paying attention to all the problems caused by GMO plants? I won’t list them here because I’m lazy. Just Google “gmo safe”

raw dog October 19, 2010

james greenwood = whore for monsanto

Thesillymachine October 24, 2010

Screw the oceans!?!? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! The algea that’s at the bottom of our oceans produce so much of our oxygen, you just have no idea how important it is that we keep our oceans clean and unpolluted!
I really wish people would do their research, I mean really do thir research before they say something like, “screw the oceans”. Because you really just have no idea until you do, do all of the research. Just like it’s impossible for someone to completely understand someone else without knowing the whole story.

On another note, I’d like to see somebody engineer a meat that still has all of it’s nutrients after it’s been cooked. That way any disease that is in it will be killed and you’re still getting all of the nutritious benefits from it.

My question is, why does only the FDA have to approve of it? When really the heatlh department should have to approve of engineered fish too.

I love how we’re comparing fish to drugs here. -_-

SAM January 23, 2011

Does anyone know any company any where in the world, besides Aqua Bounty, that deals with & supplies Genetically Modified or Engineered Fish?????

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