Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Trout Unlimited: Biotech Salmon Would Endanger Wild Salmon and Ecosystems

A Trout magazine story on the threats posed by genetically
modified salmon-often called “Frankenfish,” says that such a plan
poses grave risks to wild salmon fisheries in the U.S. and around
the world.

The article, which will be published in the magazine’s upcoming
winter issue, shows, based on interviews with fisheries experts,
that if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives approval
to the biotech salmon, there would be no way to ultimately prevent
the fish from escaping and breeding with wild salmon and harming
valuable fisheries.

The article, written by Susan Q. Stranahan, also notes that if
the company, which is promoting the biotech salmon, wins FDA
approval to commercially market the fish, trout will become the
next fish to be genetically modified for commercial purposes.

Trout Unlimited (TU) is assembling a panel of scientists and
fisheries experts to independently assess the impact on U.S.
fisheries and may use litigation to challenge the FDA’s review
process.

“Even though TU is not a litigious organization, legal action
would not be out of the question to slow this process down so an
informed analysis and decision can be made,” says Chris Wood, TU’s
President and CEO.

For the last 15 years, AquaBounty, the Massachusetts-based
company that is seeking FDA approval to create and sell biotech
salmon, has been working on creating a fast-growing salmon by
combining the genes of a Chinook salmon and an ocean pout-an
eel-like fish. In September, an FDA staff analysis concluded that
the genetically-modified salmon is safe to eat and poses little
harm to the environment.

However, as the Trout magazine article notes, that decision was
made by an agency with little expertise in biology or fisheries
management. “…It’s like asking the Department of Interior to help
figure out the Troubled Asset Relief Program,” says Wood.

TU and its 140,000 members have strongly objected to
AquaBounty’s request for FDA approval and have asked for a full
environmental impact statement in consultation with the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration.

“We must be assured that this decision to modify salmon genetics
be grounded in science,” said Jack Williams, TU’s senior scientist.
“The FDA was designed to regulate food and drugs, not salmon
populations and fisheries around the world,” Williams said. “And
this one decision could change wild salmon fisheries around the
world forever.

The article points out that confinement of genetically modified
salmon where they are raised is the lynchpin on which this entire
plan hinges. Anne R. Kapuscinski, professor of sustainability
science at Dartmouth College and a co-editor of “Methodologies for
Transgenic Fish,”says in the article that AquaBounty’s plan “brings
the risk of escape [from these two facilities] down to zero.”

But, she says that there is a critical question that has yet to
be answered. “Who will ensure confinement as the use of these fish
proliferate in global markets?” she asks. “That’s the question to
ask.”

And right now, nobody seems to know how that oversight would
occur. Buyers of the genetically modified eggs will have to sign
contracts with AquaBounty guaranteeing the fish will be raised in
carefully confined conditions. In overseas markets, enforcement of
those contractual guarantees would be left to the appropriate
foreign authorities.

TU finds neither of those assurances protective enough.
“AquaBounty may do everything in its power to keep these fish out
of the wild, but as the technology becomes well known and as
production ramps up with other people handling the fish, they may
not be so good about following the rules,” warns Williams.

 

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