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Frankenfish? No, It’s Just a Salmon

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My many mentors over the course of my lifetime thus far have advised me, to a person, to be more optimistic and less cynical. The glass, they told me, always should be perceived as half-full regardless the circumstances. Remembering this advice, I’ll forego reprimanding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its dithering the past 19 years whether genetically engineered salmon should be sold and, if so, labeled. Instead, I celebrate their long-awaited affirmative decision to allow the sale of AquaBounty Technologies GE salmon and refrain from requiring it be labeled. The glass is half-full indeed, and there’s a big ol’ salmon swimming in it.

Try telling that to the worry warts over at Green America, the environmental group surreptitiously affiliated with religious shareholder activists. Just before Thanksgiving, Green America spammed my email inbox with the following missive:

Dear Bruce,

The Food and Drug Administration just made a really bad decision.

The FDA approved the sale of genetically engineered (GE) salmon.

Even worse, the agency has said the GE fish does not need to be labeled, so consumers won’t even know that it’s genetically engineered.

This decision puts our fish stocks, environment, and health at risk and ignores the concerns of millions of American consumers, grocery stores, fishing groups, environmental groups, restaurants, and chefs.

The fight doesn’t stop here. Green America will continue to fight for our right to know when foods have GMOs, and against the creator of GE salmon, AquaBounty.

Do Green America and its affiliates even know what they’re agitating against? It’s quite apparent they don’t, and they should be ashamed of themselves for such a ridiculous exhibition of anti-science hubris while AquaBounty and the FDA collaborate on providing the public with safe and plentiful food. Fortunately, my friends over at the American Council on Health and Science sent me an email with a link to a story by Hank Campbell, the organization’s president, in which he wrote:

The AquAdvantage salmon has been under federal regulatory review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 1996 and has now gained approval. How is it different from legacy Atlantic salmon? It carries a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon that speeds growth and improves feed efficiency by up to 100 percent.

It does so by using a ‘promoter’ stretch of DNA from an Ocean Pout which allows the Chinook gene to be expressed. That’s it. And yet adding this one gene to the 40,000 the Atlantic Salmon has led to anti-science groups raising money by calling it “Frankenfish.”

The FDA has completed a legendarily-long scientific review and determined what everyone in science knew – it’s no different than any other fish, it just grows bigger faster thanks to genetic modification. The FDA review showed this fish met all of the criteria for approval; the inserted genes remained stable over generations, it’s no different than any other salmon when it comes to being eaten by humans or animals, it’s safe for the fish, and faster growth is not just a marketing claim.

Campbell continued:

And it’s good for the public. We all know that more fish in our diets is beneficial but there are limits to what wild fishing can accomplish. The U.S. currently imports 95% of the Atlantic salmon we consume. A science approach and better farming offer the opportunity for much more domestic aquaculture industry and satisfies dietary health concerns without wondering how many other fish were killed to import salmon.

Want locally grown and sustainable salmon? This is the way to attain it.

This win for science by AquaBounty Technologies on salmon follows on the heels of similar victories for apples and potatoes. We have always been promised that the 21st century would be the Age of Biology when it comes to agriculture, and we are starting to realize that vision.

Standing in the way are lobbyists and lawyers for the anti-science groups who have been demonizing this for years – they have promised they will use their giant coffers to tie it up in courts, regardless of what data have already shown to be true.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid, Mr. Campbell probably is correct. How any religious group can boast an affiliation with a group such as Green America that is anti-science and works against the best interests of improving the methods of providing nourishment to the world at large is beyond all humanitarian comprehension. More’s the pity.

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Bruce Edward Walker has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.

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