279 Days To Mt. Kilimanjaro – Genetically Engineered Salmon

The Food and Drug Administration is currently considering an application by a US company to permit sales of genetically engineered salmon. Does this sound right? Does this feel right? How on earth can the FDA approve this with little to no research on what the long term effects could be on our health?

I can just picture it now, you dress up for date night, go out with your significant other to a fine eatery and order up a genetically engineered Salmon fillet with a side of genetically engineered corn and potatoes. As I am sure you know, both of these vegetables have been available for several years now in their GE state.  Does anyone have a clue as to the long term effects of eating genetically engineered food?

If approved, salmon would become the first genetically modified animal allowed onto our dinner plates. Then what is next? I am sure with this initiative already in application to the FDA, other animal growers will follow suit, if they have not already.

Genetically engineered salmon are being developed by an offshore- US company with the goal of producing faster growing Atlantic Salmon for the commercial food market. The experimental fish hatchery is injecting growth hormone genes into fertilized salmon eggs to produce salmon that grow two to four times faster than other farmed salmon. I am obviously not a scientist, my total knowledge of salmon comes down to the different recipes that we use when cooking it. In my limited knowledge I would just have to think if hormones make salmon age and mature more quickly, it could have the same effect on us if we are eating it? Surely that is just too simple and the FDA will not miss that point!!

I find it interesting that this US company is located not on US soil, but in Fortune, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Now why would this be? My first thought would be that there are less legal loop holes to negotiate in Canada versus the US. My second thought would be that an offshore company would not be as legally liable in the event GE fish proves to be unhealthy for those who eat it.

There is another significant risk to genetically engineered salmon being approved and sadly, we are one pen stroke away from this risk becoming reality.

Research at both Purdue University and The National Academy of Sciences points to the “considerable risks” that genetically engineered (also called “transgenic”) fish pose to nearby populations of native fish:

“Purdue University researchers have found that releasing a transgenic fish to the wild could damage native populations even to the point of extinction.” Sigurdson, C. (2000). Transgenic fish could threaten wild populations, Purdue News.

“The committee’s review of ecologic principles and empirical data suggests a considerable risk of ecological hazards becoming realized should transgenetic fish or shellfish enter natural systems.” Board on Life Sciences (2002). Animal Biotechnology: Science Based Concerns, The National Academy of Sciences.

There is little doubt that transgenetic fish will, if raised, escape to the surrounding waters. Estimates of farmed salmon escapees in British Columbia total at least 400,000 fish from 1991 to 2001: “According to the Canadian government, in the past decade nearly 400,000 farm-raised Atlantics escaped into British Columbia waters and began competing with wild species for food and habitat. (That number relies primarily on escapes reported by fish farmers; environmentalists put the actual figure closer to 1 million.)”
Barcott, B. (2001). Aquaculture’s Troubled Harvest, Mother Jones, November/December

Natural Salmon In The Wild - This Is What I Want On My Plate!!

Perhaps you’ve heard about the difficulties that salmon face in places along the West Coast. What you may not know is that many rivers teem with salmon, filling spawning beds and fishing nets alike. The salmon fisheries in Alaska, for example, haul in more than 700 million pounds a year and have been certified as well-managed and sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, an independent international organization.  92 % of salmon hitting our dinner tables come from Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California.  If GE Salmon are approved and enter into the waters currently producing our Salmon, what happens to those making a living from fishing wild salmon?

In 2009, 25 new drugs were approved by the FDA, this number was up from 22 and 18 respectively for years 2008 & 2007.  There is currently a nearly 2,000 generic drugs caugh in a back log in the office of generic drugs awaiting approval.  The median approval times range 26.7 months, up from 21.6 months in 2009.

I’m sorry – those figures are just unacceptable in my mind.  How can a government agency holding such a critical position in the future of healthcare in our nation be allowed to have more than 2 years to approve drugs generic drugs?  And how does Genetically Engineered Salmon swim up stream ahead of all of the applications for new generic drugs?

I hope someone will come to their senses when considering the risk factors of approving this request currently in front of the FDA.  And I hope someone will stand up and take notice that the current drug approval system is not working in our country.

The MJFF has supported approximately 90 companies to date who develop therapies that address the progression of PD, treat symptoms and side effects, and develop critical tools such as biomarkers.  I am very thankful that the Fox Foundation continues to fund and drive research of treatments for PD, until a cure can be found.  After successful trials are performed they will also be responsible for pushing this through the FDA approval process to ensure that it does not take two years for approval.

We have so much work to do and some days it just feels like everyone has gone fishing!

The time is always right to do what is right.

Martin Luther King Jr.



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