The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Genetic Salmon

See if you can determine which of the above animals is a genetically altered salmon.

Today, The New York Times has a piece on a genetically altered salmon that could be farmed and provide a bunch more food. Read it here. But an advisory panel wants rigorous examination by the FDA of the possible effects of growing genetically-altered salmon may have on who knows what.

The most vocal opponents are a professor of cattle production from Nebraska University and a professor of swine veterinary science at Iowa State University.

Aren't Charlet, Limousin and most other cattle sold for the table in the U.S. genetically designed? How about the vegetables we eat? The roses we grow in our garden. Where would the DeKalb be if they couldn't genetically alter our food supply?

The salmon, by the way, are sterile. No chance of mixing it up with a friendly trout swimming nearby.

Right here in South Dakota, you can find a fish, called "Splake" swimming around in Pactola. Those fish are crosses between Lake Trout and Brook Trout. People around here have been eating them for years, with no obvious ill-effects on our physical or mental health...although we did re-elect Tim Johnson...


Douglas said...

I'm not sure what to think about the so-called FrankenFoods. But, isn't selective breeding fundamentally different than injecting genes of one species into another?

This would seem to be more akin to doing something like putting hog genes into cattle so they can better digest garbage?

Bill Fleming said...

I'm just now reading a good (and pretty funny) book on just this subject. I think you'll all find it both informative and entertaining.

Here's a link to the authors' Facebook page.

Title of Book: "How to Defeat Your Own Clone."
— Kurpinski & Johnson


DDC said...

I've never understood why the same people that want federal funding for human genetics & stem cell research are so afraid of genetically engineered food.

Apparently they think the Creator screwed up when they made humans and can do a better job but think the Creator did a perfect job with everything else and we shouldn't mess with it.

Anonymous said...

from Igor

It's quite simple. Genetically altered species are entirely different than crossbreeding. The splake in Deerfield have not been gentically altered as the fish farm industry wishes to unleash on salmon.

Secondly, the statement that they are completely sterile and not able to reproduce under any circumstances is controversial and perhaps not the case. Before setting lose a new species that could devistate wild salmon stocks, don't you think it would be a good idea to make sure we haven't screwed up once again, ie carp in North America, and the many other species we have introduced that now destroy natural ecosystems?

Wayne Gilbert said...

My main problem with these fish, apart from the fact that I doubt that the flavor will even approach wild caught Alaskan salmon, is fish farming. It's kind of a piscatorial feedlot, except a little worse. The animals being farmed are prone to diseases which can spread to wild fish who happen to swim nearby, and the farmed fish are often fed great quantities of other wild fish, resulting in a feeding frenzy of non-sustainability.

Michael Sanborn said...


I believe these fish are fresh-water only fish and would be farmed on fresh water farms. There's no way they will taste the same as wild salmon. Farmed fish are never as tasty as wild fish, in my experience. The closest tasting to wild are farmed channel catfish, which eat garbage, usually chicken guts.

I don't know what the availability of fish food for genetically altered salmon is. But you may have a point.

Igor: Aren't Cornish Game Hens, genetically altered, then heavily dosed with hormones?

Wayne Gilbert said...

Michael-I think you're right about the farm locations-the website for AquaBounty (the company that developed the fast growing salmon)talks about "inland locations." You are certainly right about the flavor. Atlantic farmed salmon, which is mostly what restaurants serve, is not quite as flavorful as a Filet 0' Fish. That said, the sustainability of wild fish is a concern, and it would be fine with me if they developed environmentally friendly farms which grow good tasting salmon.

Barry Smith said...

I wonder if these fish are not all sterile, and some get into the wild, will the owner of the patent on this genetic material claim ownership of all salmon caught with the gene. Much in the same way as Monsanto has made such claims with soybeans and canola?

word verification "gensurel" :-)

Igor said...

from Igor

No, Cornish game hens have not had their DNA changed through genetic alteratnion. I think you need a refresher in biology 101. This genetic alteration is not the same as crossbreeding or hybridization. They are talking about direct alteration of the DNA of a species, to change it.

With these salmon will be changed genetically into a species that it has been stated will eat more, be more aggressive, and have consequences which can't be forseen. The fear is that when they eventually get into the wild salmon gene pool, it will devistate wild fish stocks. I know the promotors of this plan say that won't happen. My reply is that anything that can happen, will eventually. It is irresponsible and there is no way these fish should be put anywhere, despite promises, unless they are absolute and totally sterile. And they are not, at least from what I have read by scientists rather than from promotors.

My suggestion is that you listen less to the right-wing radio opinions, and base this decision upon science. An alien concept, I know, for supporters of Sarah and the angry Tea Party people. But then, that is to be expected if one listens to the hate radio very much. I would make be angry if I listened to that vitriol, as well.

DDC said...


Sounds like you're angry enough. I'd cut back on whatever you're listening to (NPR).

Here's an interesting opinion on this controversy.