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By Chris Sovey, RN,BSN
NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS AN OPINION PIECE, AND IS FOR EDUCATIONAL AND ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. THESE OPINIONS ARE BASED SOLELY ON SPECULATION AND OBSERVATION OF PREVIOUS FOOD INDUSTRY PRACTICES.
The battle wages on. April 26th, 2013 was the last opportunity to submit comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding genetically engineered (GE) salmon. According to the Center for Food Safety, over 1.5 million objections were voiced to the FDA by concerned citizens, scientists, and activists. (1) GE salmon, if approved, will be the first genetically modified animal on the market for human consumption. Proponents of the industry claim that the fish will save the U.S. an enormous amount of money in foreign imports. They claim this is because the fish grows twice as fast as a wild, native salmon.
Significant Rises In Cancer and Other Chronic Ailments
Let’s pause right there. Does the phrase “grows twice as fast” throw up any red flags for you? The fundamental definition of cancer is “uncontrolled cell growth.” While my claim is purely speculation, I imagine the health consequences of GE animals will reach further than ever before. For the last several years, I have been deeply concerned about the rapid rise of GE technology without proper testing. Based on animal studies, GE plants are quite devastating to our health. They may damage every organ system in the body, and have significantly increased tumor growth in lab rats. (2)(3) I have to imagine that the flesh of another animal that grows twice as fast could … maybe … just MAYBE …. impact the rate of cancer in our country in a negative way. In addition, I am alarmed about the ever-rising trend of chronic diseases in America. When we alter the DNA of a plant by forcefully inserting genes, we still cannot accurately claim the true impact on our health or even the environment.What does this mean for the pioneering field of GE animals?
It is important to distinguish that GE technology is NOT the same as cross-hybridization. In GMOs, DNA is taken from one species and forced into another via gene “guns,” viruses, or other technology. When we apply this model to animals, it takes on a deeper philosophical and spiritual meaning. Some people believe that GMO stands for “God Move Over.” I think that this is more true than ever if we start tinkering with the basic building blocks of life inside a living being.
GMO-Fortified Omega-3′s In Your Food?
If you weren’t aware already, GMOs are in nearly ALL processed foods. They’ve even worked their way into organic foods if included in small amounts! Soy and corn may make up the majority of GMO-derived foods at the moment, but Omega-3′s are all the rage these days. Just like GM corn and soy, I can almost guarantee biotechnology companies will find a way to introduce GM salmon into an outrageous number of foods. It will be subtle. They will likely tout claims on cereal boxes, such as “fortified with Omega 3′s!” Of course, it will come from GM salmon, but who needs to know, right? Despite my creative imagination, I can’t even begin to picture the many Frankenfish projects that will come down the pike. Remember, this is only the beginning.
Gateway To Other GM Animals
Despite widespread rejection of GM salmon by consumers, release of this product onto the U.S. market would be a major victory for biotechnology companies. Long-term health effects are difficult to track (thanks to the near-absence of human-clinical trials) from GE foods, so you can bet good money that biotechnology industries will use GE salmon as a staging ground for the safety of future GE animals. That is the name of the game.
A recent article published in the Australian Veterinary Journey revealed the true tip of the iceberg. GE animals will almost certainly be marketed as a means to combat the ever-expanding human population. It is highly unlikely that GE technology will solve this issue, though. As outlined in Jeffrey Smith’s documentary, Genetic Roulette, there is not a shortage of food, but a lack of access. This occurs due to corruption and other factors. Despite the recent (hilarious) Wall-Street Journal article, The world does not need GE foods! We have survived many years without them, and will find other ways to overcome our greatest challenges. GE technology has made many promises, and failed to deliver. The data doesn’t support their claims. Higher crop yields? It is usually the opposite. Less use of herbicides? The U.S. continues to increase herbicide usage annually. Feed the hungry? I think this speaks for itself.
Research is already underway into GE poultry, livestock, and other aquatic species. (4) It will be interesting to see how the public responds to GE animals upon the likely release of GE salmon. It very well may spread in awareness much quicker than GE plants. (The vast majority of the population is still completely unaware of the presence of GMOs.) There are a greater number of organizations, ethics, and morals involved regarding GMOs once we start to involve animals. It may also be the tipping point necessary to successfully introduce labeling within the U.S.
Concerns Of GE Salmon Escaping Into The Wild
One of the most alarming aspects of GE salmon production is the likelihood of escape into the wild. While the parent company, AquaBounty, maintains that this will not occur, they cannot guarantee this with any certainty. If this happens, the GE salmon may breed with native population. The results will be unknown. Wild salmon populations will be forever tainted. Many are concerned about GE salmon release in the wild. As a result, several legislators have proposed bills to limit the sale, transport, or distribution of GE salmon. The most prominent is the PEGASUS act by Senator Mike Begich.
If you take into consideration past legal battles with biotech industries, we are in for a bumpy ride. In the past, companies such as Monsanto have sued small farmers for “patent infringement.” This happened several times (and continues to this day) when accidental cross contamination occurred from adjacent GM crops to non-GM crops. This often happened without the knowledge of farmers due to cross-winds carrying seeds.
Now, imagine the potential consequences of GE salmon escaping into the wild. Does it not seem likely that companies who patent seafood will attempt these same tactics in the future? I speculate that restaurants, grocery stores, and distributors will all be future targets of GE litigation. Since GE seafood is “property of” a particular company, anyone unknowingly purchasing, selling, or distributing these products may be subject to monetary or criminal punishment.
What Can I Do To Help The Movement Against GMOs?
If any of this bothers you (I sure hope it does), there is a lot you can do.
- First, subscribe to our mailing list (top right sidebar) for continual updates on this concerning matter.
- Keep up on pressing bills and legislation at the Institute for Responsible Technology.
- If you happen to be a Michigan local, please join us in educating others through NoGMO4Michigan.
- Learn about the dangers to your children and get fired up with informative documentaries, such as Genetic Roulette or Seeds of Death.
- VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLAR! Learn about genetically-modified products and ingredients. Read labels. Stop buying GE products! Lets hit them where it hurts: their pocketbooks.
(1) Over a Million Comments Filed on GE Salmon as New Evidence Emerges of Deeply Flawed Review: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2013/04/12078/over-million-comments-filed-ge-salmon-new-evidence-emerges-deeply-flawed-review
(2) Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize by Seralini, et. al: accessible at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512005637
(3) A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health Vendomois, et. al. Accessible at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793308/
(4) Role of genetically engineered animals in future food production: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/avj.12024/abstract