|The only problem with the horror show I'm about to reveal is that it's real. The FDA and the Obama administration have just cleared the way for the formal approval of genetically altered fish. Now your children and grandchildren eat food that has never been seen on the planet before. Of course, we have absolutely no idea how this will affect the health and lives of our children or the planet.
The new fish have genes from a variety of organisms, including other fish, eels, coral, mice, bacteria, and even humans. By doing this, the fish will have traits that are supposed to make them better suited for farming. They will be larger, grow faster, and be more resistant to all the diseases that go around in farming ponds. Are you hungry yet?
The makers of the new genetically altered fish, AquaBounty, say there are great advantages that all of us will enjoy from eating manmade fish. Actually, there is just one advantage. The price for these fish will be cheaper. That's it. But what about potential dangers?
I can't really comment on the health hazards because we don't know what they are yet. There aren't any studies. So let's just guess. Genes make proteins. So the genetically altered fish will have proteins in them that are the same or similar proteins that are in humans, coral, bacteria, and mice. Now maybe these proteins will turn out to be good for us. Maybe they will make us stronger and more resistant to disease. Or maybe they are not such a good thing to eat. Maybe they will create disorders similar to the way genetically altered plants do. The thing is we don't know what they will do. But health risks are not the only concern.
What if the genetically altered fish escape the ponds and get out into the oceans? This already happens all the time with farmed fish. When they mate with wild fish, their altered genes will be incorporated into the genes of the offspring. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes that a release of just 60 genetically engineered fish into a wild population of 60,000 would lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 fish generations. But don't worry, AquaBounty has that all figured out.
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They claim that they will only raise their fish in land-based facilities. The problem is that I don't particularly like the idea of trusting the entire world's population of natural wild fish to the ability of big business to prevent a few fish from escaping. That sounds like a really bad movie. And once they are out, the game is over. There will be no way to recover them.
For example, AquaBounty's salmon farming operation is on Prince Edward Island. It has already resulted in the contamination of 22 rivers with farmed salmon. What are the ecological effects of this? No one knows! Our rivers are already under attack by invasive fish species like the Asian carp and Northern snakehead. Do we need more?
AquaBounty responds to these criticisms by stating that they will create only sterile females. But the evidence they submitted to FDA shows that up to 5% of the eggs from these "sterile females" are in fact able to reproduce.
Unfortunately, this is not a movie. These people are for real. The greed of big agribusiness will not be satiated. They have to be stopped. Fortunately there is still hope. But there is not much time. Please go to www.ge-fish.org. You can learn more about what is going on. And they have made it easy to send your comments to the FDA and to your congressional representatives. Do it for our children.
Finding your Real Cures,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Wlliam Muir et al., Possible ecological risks of transgenic organism release when transgenes affect mating success: Sexual selection and the Trojan gene hypothesis, 96 PNAS 13853-13856, at 13853 (Nov. 23, 1999).
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