Brussels - Food & Water Europe released a report today outlining why the genetically engineered (GE) salmon currently being considered by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval as a human food will not alleviate global hunger.
GE Salmon Will Not Feed the World outlines several reasons why this transgenic fish is likely to be more expensive to produce than perceived, as well as problematic for the environment, fishing communities and consumers. The report was released a day after Scottish MP Rob Gibson motioned to petition the Scottish Government to monitor the FDA's approval process, noting that escapees are likely to occur through time and could easily reach the shores of Scotland, "altering forever the genetic integrity of wild Atlantic salmon and of quality Scottish farmed salmon."
"The company producing this experimental fish, AquaBounty, is the only one who will be profiting from it, despite misleading claims that this product could be a means to feed growing populations around the world," said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Europe.
Since GE salmon can require large amounts of food, display deformities and likely have higher oxygen demands, they can be costly to produce. These projected costs, combined with the various potential human health and ecological concerns associated with GE fish, will not likely add up to a more financially advantageous product for growers or consumers.
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Furthermore, farmed salmon in general may not be as nutritious or safe as wild salmon. They contain on average 35 percent fewer omega-3 fatty acids - which are important for human health, but not produced by the body. Also, farmed salmon often contain higher levels of contaminants in their fat (which they can have more of than wild salmon), including 10 times the amount of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). GE salmon are also known to have higher levels of insulin-like growth factor 1, which has been associated with increased risk of certain types of cancer.
These worrying food safety issues are compounded by the environmental damage GE salmon would add to the already unsustainable salmon farming industry. The small, wild fish used in salmon feed are a major food source for marine mammals, birds and larger fish as well as low-income, food insecure populations around the world. In 2006, the aquaculture sector alone consumed nearly 90 percent of small prey fish captured worldwide. GE salmon may require about five times the amount of feed as a non-altered salmon to grow faster. This will further exacerbate the decline of available wild fish for marine wildlife and people in countries that need it most. If fish are not used in feed, it is entirely likely that the fish would be fed on industrial soya-which is associated with serious environmental and human rights impacts as well. Escapes of GE salmon into the wild could also threaten wild salmon, by competing for food, habitat and mates.
"GE salmon is an inefficient way to produce food that comes with more costs than benefits," says Hauter. "We should be concerned about protecting consumers and our wild fish populations rather than pushing forward to approve this potentially dangerous product."