So, the new Genetically Modified (GM, sorry, troubled car manufacturer) fish is about to be approved by FDA for food purposes. And there we go again with all the howling about “Frankenfish”, how horrible and unpredictable mutations are, how people will die after biting a piece of sushi that contains meat from genetically modified fish. That is much bigger and grows faster, and through the winter.
I don’t think this panic is justified. I do agree with demand that food manufacturers have a label that explains if GM food sources were used in preparing whatever it is you’re buying. Except it has to be accurate and precise. Would they perform genetic testing on wild-caught salmon to see if it contains modified genes, that somehow slithered across the land (new fish supposed to be raised in inland farms, though I suppose we should never discount human stupidity and aggressiveness of eco-terrorists, who probably will try to sneak out some of the fish from farm and dump it into the sea hoping they can say “we told you so!”). Would the regular farming, and hybridization be considered “genetically modified” or just results of gene-recombination technology?
If the tests showed that fish meat is practically identical, does not contain bad things and has no known at this time allergens, do you really care how exactly the species were produced? Was it some scientist forcing different fish to mate in a tank, or take a somewhat more involved role with directly sticking genes into specific place, instead of waiting for Nth generation of hybrid fish? Probably not.
Beans and corn and many other vegetables are already genetically modified. You still haven’t sprouted soybeans from any body parts, despite consuming a sizeable amounts of it, though unknowingly. If humans so easily were incorporating genes from their food, that Fly movie would have been a silly weekend comedy, with planet being full of leviathans, changing with every meal depending on what was caught for dinner.
So, what about allergens? Well, it was tested for that. Did someone bother to test fish from each catch for allergens? You know, in that case that mother nature actually does that evolution mamba and fish starts to produce it just by itself? Of course not. Because who in their right mind would test all the fish? Mercury levels — yeah, once in a while. But all allergens? So in that aspect GM fish is safer.
Now, as the fish is larger, it does have more insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) (duh, hence its size). But I couldn’t find if there was any comparison to the source of the gene for its manufacturer, chinook, which humans eat. And would there be any sizeable difference between eating meat of similarly large chinook, that just took longer to grow. Hormons do exist in nature too, though in different quantities.
As long as IGF-1 levels are below threshold that makes FDA nervous, we’re good to go.
For those who are worried about the ecology, think about the positive side too — if this new fish species allows natural salmon not being fished to extinction, isn’t it a good thing? If land-based fish farm produces more meat more efficiently, thus reducing pollution inland and in sea, isn’t that worth allowing GM food to exist?