Genetically modified salmon, some concerns answered by aquabounty technologies


Genetically modified salmon, some concerns answered by aquabounty technologies

AquaBounty Technologies Inc. has developed a genetically engineered (genetically modified) salmon that reaches full adult weight much faster than ordinary non-engineered salmon. This new type of salmon, called AquAdvantage® Salmon will provide compelling economic benefit to salmon farmers, the company says. Additionally, there will be less need for ocean pens.

An FDA (Food and Drug Administration, USA) advisory panel is currently reviewing the submission to have this GM-Salmon approved to enter the human food supply.

A significant number of people and organizations are concerned about the impact of a genetically modified animal entering our food supply, as well as what effect it may have on the environment and future survival and viability of existing non-GM (wild) salmon.

AquaBounty Technologies has attempted to address some frequently asked questions:

Question 1 - will the GM-salmon grow much larger than existing salmon? If so, could they have an unfair advantage regarding competition for food, space and mating?

    Answer - although the GM-salmon grows faster, it does not reach a bigger size than traditional salmon. A farmed salmon that escapes is not good at finding its own food after a life of being fed on dry pellets.
Question 2 - according to Purdue University scientists, the GM-salmon could drive existing salmon populations to extinction. It would not take that many GM-salmon to do this. If they managed to mate outside their farms, would the existing wild gene pool be destroyed or affected?
    Answer - the Purdue study, by Muir and Howard, did not look at the AquAdvantage® Salmon. It studied the Japanese medaka, a freshwater fish which matures in 56 days and breeds throughout its life. Salmon do not mature until they are three, five or sometimes ten years old, and they only breed once in their lives. The new GM-salmon is infertile, it cannot reproduce. All the new GM-salmon are female, there are no males.
Question 3 - you say your new GM-salmon are sterile. How can we be sure about that?
    Answer - stringent tests which monitor the fish's sterilization process are performed on every batch of fish to make sure they are not able to reproduce.
Question 4 - does this new GM-salmon produce higher-than-normal quantities of growth hormone? What about their production of antifreeze proteins?
    Answer - the new GM-salmon produces no antifreeze proteins at all. Only the molecular switch form of the antifreeze gene is used, and this has no effect on the production of any antifreeze proteins. The levels of growth hormones in the new GM-salmon is the same as that found in wild-type Atlantic Salmon.
Question 5 - is there existing legislation regarding genetically modified fish and marine creatures grown specifically for the human food supply?
    Answer - in 1986 the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) asserted jurisdiction over GM animals/fish on the grounds that the transgene and any expressed proteins affect the "structure and function" of the receiving animal analogous to the modalities of veterinary drug formulations. FDA jurisdiction has been upheld by the courts. GM-salmon are regulated by the Center for Veterinary Medicine under the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act.
Question 6 - does the FDA only cover the physical aspects of the GM-fish? What about the environmental impact, who deals with that?
    Answer - this is governed by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the regulations implementing NEPA adopted by the Council on Environmental Quality (40 CFR Parts 1500 to 1508) and by FDA (21 CFR Part 25). The NEPA and CEQ (Council on Environmental Quality) obligations imposed on the FDA are the same as those required of all federal agencies, including assessing the environmental impact. To quote the 1998 guidance:

    "FDA considers harm to the environment to include not only toxicity to environmental organisms but also environmental effects other than toxicity, such as lasting effects on ecological community dynamics."

Question 7 - regarding the FDA people who assess the environmental, ecological and biological impact. Are they experts in these fields?
    Answer - yes, they are experts in the fields of biology and environmental science who have risk-assessed hundreds of cases.
Source: AquaBounty Technologies Inc.

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