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
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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs