Is Something Fishy Going on in the the Food Industry?

Allie Harrill, Editor in Chief

For years, genetically modified grains such as corn and soybeans have been on the plates of Americans.  However, because of a decision made on December 26, 2012, by the FDA, Americans may soon also be consuming genetically modified salmon.

Based on research conducted over the past 10 years, the FDA finally made the decision to declare genetically modified salmon safe for human consumption.  The FDA backs up its decision with two reasons: it is safe for people to consume and it does no harm to the environment.

In the creation of these new genetically modified organisms, scientists used two new genes to ensure faster growth for the fish.  These new salmon grow at twice the rate of ordinary farm raised Atlantic Salmon.  Taking a gene from Chinook salmon allows the new breed to grow at an increased rate.  Also the addition of a gene from an eel-like fish, an ocean pout, ensures the growth gene will remain active all times.

With the combination of these genes, the new breed will grow twice the size at twice the rate of ordinary farm raised salmon.  This unnatural growth pattern has some people nervous about the new fish.

On, Whole Foods spokeswoman Beth Krauss discussed the new fish saying, “Our farmed seafood standards require farm-to-fork traceability and require producers to provide detailed information on farming practices and pass independent third-party audits. These standards prohibit the sale of both genetically modified or cloned seafood and their progeny.”

Others also worry that the genetically modified fish could disrupt the balance of nature if accidently released into the wild.  In making the new species of fish, scientists thought about the issue.  In order to avoid this potential problem, scientists engineered the fish so that they are grown from eggs into sterile females, preventing the problem before it happens.

Another thing people find troubling about the newly genetically modified food is that companies are not required to clearly label the food as genetically modified. This leaves people uneasy and reluctant to buy salmon at all unless they are completely sure they know where it came from.

The FDA, otherwise known as the Food and Drug Administration, is a functioning part of the federal government. If companies are not required to label their foods “genetically modified,” people are at greater risk of involuntarily eating foods they would not otherwise eat.  People depend on the government to keep them safe, but if they lose trust in the government, it will stir up great discomfort between them.

People are often hesitant to try new foods—especially genetically modified ones. The sense that the food was made in a laboratory does not sit well with many people.  According to human-made food is scarier than naturally hybridized food to most consumers.

Avid environmentalist groups are against the genetically modified food for other reasons.  They do not like the fact the fish could potentially create a large, pollution-heavy, industrial corporation like Monsanto that would possess influential power over interest groups and government lobbyists.

Overall, people are reluctant to eat genetically modified foods.  They evoke a sense of unfamiliarity.  Humans are less likely to eat what is less familiar to them.  Since companies are aware of this, they do not want genetically modified foods to be labeled.  However, the American people want the labeling.  As of now, food on the market does not have to be labeled as genetically modified. Because the FDA deemed these genetically modified salmon as safe to eat, they could very likely be turning up on the seafood shelves of grocery stores across the nation without consumers ever being aware they are eating a new type of salmon.