News / USA

US Government Considering Genetically Modified Animal for Human Consumption

Normal salmon (below), compared to a genetically-modified variety
Normal salmon (below), compared to a genetically-modified variety
TEXT SIZE - +
Zulima Palacio

The US government is considering, for the first time, the approval of a genetically-modified animal for human consumption.  The animal being considered is salmon, but approval could open the door for other animals as well.  Those who favor the move say it would help feed the world's rapidly-growing population at a time that depleted rivers and oceans are becoming unable to fulfill the demand. 

After years of consideration, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reported to be ready to approve commercial sale of a genetically-modified salmon for human consumption.   The controversial decision - which has been years in the making - could open the door for other genetically-modified animals as well.  

AquaBounty - a company with roots in the United States and Canada, has been studying and modifying the genetics of salmon for more than 20 years.  Ronald Stotish is the President of AquaBounty Technologies.

"It's a salmon that grows approximately twice as fast as a conventional salmon and it grows at that rate simply because we have given it a second copy of the growth hormone gene from the salmon," said Ronald Stotish. "It's a salmon gene in a salmon."

Stotish says AquaBounty chose salmon because of its high nutritional value.

"We expect as the world population increases, the requirement for high quality protein sources will increase," he said. "Fish are among the most efficient converters of feed to edible protein."  

Stotish says US approval is a very important step in the eventual commercialization of this fish for "aquaculture", or fish-farming, around the world.

"All we sell is an egg that produces an all female salmon, they are all sterile," said Stotish. "They will also be grown on land base contained systems, tanks or raise ways, similar to the way trout is produced now."

Stotish says producing only sterile females, and raising them in contained systems, avoids the environmental concern of escapes that could affect the biodiversity of wild salmon.  He says people should not be concerned that the fish are genetically modified

"In the US we're already consuming significant quantities of genetically-modified soy beans, wheat, sorghum and a variety of agricultural crops and that is true around the world," he said.

However, that is only partially true.  According to a World Bank Report, only 22 countries have planted genetically-modified seeds, on about eight percent of the global crop area.  The reason, the report says, is the public perception of health and environmental risks.

The European Union regulates genetically-modified crops strictly, allowing only a handful of their products.  Most recently, the EU proposed to give individual member countries the option to allow or restrict them.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration - which would make the decision on approval - declines to comment.  But the Department of Agriculture expresses concern about the depletion of wild fish stocks and the need for more food production.  Mark Mirando is with the Department's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

"The demand for seafood in the US and worldwide is rapidly increasing but the ability of the oceans to supply that food, even at the current levels, disregarding population increases and increases in demand; the ability of the oceans to supply that is diminishing," said Mark Mirando.

According to the Agriculture Department's figures, the value of aquaculture production in the U.S. has risen to nearly $1 billion over the past 20 years, mostly due to a growing demand for fish in general and harvesting restrictions on wild fish.

"If the genetic modification is shown to be safe and there is no concern that the animals would escape into the wild and outcompete the native stocks then I think this could be a valuable approach to improving the efficiency of food production," he said.

Regardless of population projections - given the reservations about genetically-modified crops around the world - it is easy to speculate that a genetically-modified food animal could encounter even greater resistance and controversy.

You May Like

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid