24 December 2012

Is genetically modified salmon not dangerous?

Genetically modified salmon not harmful, FDA saysMary Clare Jalonick & Matthew Perrone, Christian Science Monitor, 22/12/2012

Translation: ИноСМИ.RuExperts of the federal sanitary supervisory authorities claim that genetically modified red fish, which grows twice as fast as the one that develops naturally, is unlikely to have a detrimental effect on the environment.

By doing this, they prepare the ground for the primary permission to eat animal products created by genetic engineering methods.

Last Friday, the US Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published an environmental assessment document for genetically modified salmon, known as AquaAdvantage, which grows twice as fast, and which has been the subject of many years of intense controversy in the department itself. As follows from the document, the fish "will not have a significant impact on the quality of the human environment in the United States of America." The Department's specialists also state that genetically modified salmon will not have a harmful effect on wild salmon populations, which, by the way, was the main cause of concern for environmental activists.

Before finally approving the expert opinion, the FDA will be ready to consider public appeals within 60 days.

More than two years ago, the FDA stated that, in all likelihood, genetically modified red fish does not pose a danger to human consumption, but since then it has not made any public statements on this issue. The management of the Aquabounty company, located in Maynard, Massachusetts, which is engaged in breeding genetically modified salmon, suggested that the authorities were delaying the decision on their application under pressure from organizations opposed to the use of genetically modified animals in food production.

According to experts, the publication of the environmental assessment report is the last stage before the approval of the permit.

In his speech, a representative of AquaBounty said: "We are encouraged by the publication of the environmental assessment and hope that the authorities will continue the process of creating regulatory documents on a scientific basis."

If, as expected, the FDA experts give their permission for the use of genetically modified salmon, this will be the first time in the world that an official permit has been issued for the consumption of an animal created with the use of biotechnology.

Critics call the genetically modified salmon "frankenfish" ("frankenfish"). They are concerned that it can cause allergic reactions in people, and subsequently, if this salmon gets into the sea and begins to interbreed with "natural individuals", this may eventually lead to the mass death of the wild salmon population. According to others, breeding animals using biotechnologies is an ethical problem.

According to AquaBounty experts, this genetically modified salmon is absolutely safe, and in order to prevent environmental problems, they have taken some precautions. They will breed only female salmon, and all of them will be unable to reproduce offspring, although a very small percentage of fish will still retain their reproductive ability. According to representatives of AquaBounty, the probability that salmon will be able to swim away and get into the open sea is small. In its report published in 2010, the FDA confirmed these claims.

Aquabounty has spent over $67 million on breeding fast-growing salmon since its founding in 1991. As follows from the company's financial report for the first half of the year, the company has only less than $1.5 million left in cash and assets. The company does not develop any other types of products.

Genetically modified animals, or GM animals, are not clones that the FDA has already declared safe to eat. Clones are copies of animals. As for GM animals, in order to obtain the desired qualities, their DNA is changed.

When breeding AquaAdvantage salmon, growth hormone was used, taken from a Pacific species of salmon – chinook salmon, which allows the fish to produce this hormone throughout the year. Biotechnologies were able to maintain the activity of this hormone by adding another gene from an eel-like fish called the American beldyuga. This additional gene allows you to "turn on" or activate growth hormone. Normal Atlantic salmon does not produce growth hormone all year, but only for a few months.

It is not yet clear whether people will want to eat such salmon if it is allowed to be eaten. Biotechnologies are already widely used in the breeding of new varieties of cereals, but until now the authorities have not given permission for the use of food products that can be obtained from GM animals. Despite the huge benefits (and, of course, profits), many have doubts (and nausea attacks) when it comes to interfering with the genetic code of other living beings.

If the sale of GM salmon is still allowed, consumers may not even know that they are eating it. According to state regulations, the labeling of GM salmon will not be mandatory if the FDA issues a conclusion that the biological composition of GM salmon does not differ from the usual one. According to the manufacturer AquaBounty, genetically modified salmon has the same taste, consistency, color and smell as ordinary natural salmon. And it seems that the FDA is not going to object to this.

According to Wenonah Hauter, head of the environmental protection group Food and Water Watch, the above-mentioned ambiguities with labeling are not only a violation of the right of consumers to know what they are eating, but also "will simply have a negative impact on trade, since many will refuse to buy salmon at all for fear of acquiring genetically modified fish"..

Hoter calls on members of Congress to block the decision on the upcoming and imminent authorization for the sale of GM salmon. Members of Congress who do not approve a permit for the sale of genetically modified fish are still acting under the leadership of representatives of Alaska, who believe that GM salmon poses a threat to the entire wild salmon fishery in this state.

Last Friday, Senator Lisa Murkowski, representing the Republican Party of Alaska, announced her intention to convince her Senate colleagues of the need to stop the procedure for issuing permits for the sale of genetically modified salmon.

Speaking about the preliminary authorization, she said: "It is particularly disturbing that the FDA ignores the opinion of opposition groups representing the fishing industry as a whole and companies engaged in salmon fishing, and also does not pay attention to the protests of more than 300 consumer organizations and representatives of health authorities."

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru24.12.2012

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