November 22, 2010
A new type of salmon may become the first genetically modified animals which will be allowed to sell as human food.
Several researchers are strongly critical of the way the U.S. authorities have handled this situation.The company Aqua Bounty Technologies has applied for a permission to sell GM salmon in the U.S.
The U.S. Food Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the final application face right now.
But according to a group of scientists, the FDA's decision is based on too thin a foundation. In an article in the Science journal, they have made their own evaluation of the effects from the GM salmon.
"The procedure to determine whether salmon can be approved is the same as used when drugs should be approved, "said Frank Asch, a professor of economics at the University of Stavanger.
"The FDA based the decision on whether the product provides direct side effects, and the salmon is measurably different than other salmon," he says.
They have to take the effects int account.
Frank Asch and other researchers point to several conditions that the FDA should consider when deciding whether the genetically modified salmon must be legal.
Researchers stresses that the FDA must consider what the effects can bring by approving the GM salmon. They point to the possible beneficial effects such as better public health but also the possible negative effects such as additional environmental impact on wild salmon and the environment in general.
The purpose of modifying the salmon is to make them grow faster. This will enable lower production costs, so they can produce more salmon for less money.
"History shows that lower prices lead to more eating salmon. And it is documented that eating salmon have a positive health effect, "notes Frank Asch.
If multiple people, for example switches beef out with salmon it may also provide an environmental benefit.
"If people switch from red meat to salmon, most will say it is a positive environmental development. For example, beef creates a large carbon footprint because it requires more energy to produce, than salmon. If genetically modified salmon will outperform the appropriate products, it could provide a positive environmental impact, "says professor of economics and fisheries Atle G. Guttormsen.
GM food can lead to increased food production, because production costs is reduced. That way GM food will help fight hunger in the Third World, said the scientists.
Environmental challenges increases
On the other hand, the FDA does not account for the increased salmon production could lead to much greater environmental impact than today, the scientists underlines.
Today's farmed salmon contribute to significant environmental problems through leakage, spreading of parasites and sea lice. But the risk of spreading a fast growing and extremely aggressive eating new type of salmon, could create massive problems for wild salmon.
"The challenges associated with farmed salmon will increase. Other concerns are the unknown health effects of consuming GM food. GM animals are also more risky than that GM plants because they spread much faster, "says Ascher.
Breaking down the barriers
If the salmon is approved in the U.S., it can have consequences for foodproduction in countries like Norway and Denmark.
"An approval of the GM salmon would mean that a barrier has disappeared and that over the next few years it will become legal to produce other genetically modified animal species, including mammals," notes Frank Asch.
If the production of GM food increases, it will provide a higher proportion of such products in the Danish and Norwegian import, he said.
In 2009, 77 percent of the world's soya production were GM. Soya is used for many purposes such as cooking oil, milk, flour and meat replacement.
According to the Norwegian biotechnology boards, two-thirds of all Norwegian pre-cooked food, contain a soy-based ingredient.
"There is currently nothing to suggest that it will be legal to sell genetically modified animals in Norway. Nevertheless, if the production of GM animals increases in other countries, it will mean a higher content of GM ingredients in the products we import, "said Frank Asch.
Posted by Pool 32 Admin at 22.11.10