One More Reason to Avoid Farmed Salmon
Prince Edward Island bills itself as a bucolic haven of pristine beaches, white clapboard farmhouses, and quaint fishing villages. But the province is also home to one of the scariest places I've ever visited. There, in 2002, I toured a small warehouse-like building housing a dozen aquariums containing salmon that were genetically modified to grow twice as fast as normal salmon.
A biologist showed me fish in one tank that were about the size of hot dogs. In an adjacent tank, salmon easily the size of my forearm paddled in listless circles. The fish in the two tanks were exactly the same age and had been fed identical diets. The giants, however, carried a gene that came from a cold-water-dwelling ocean pout, an eel-like fish from the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. That gene enabled them to continuously produce a growth hormone. Normal salmon stop excreting growth hormones when water temperatures cool.
So far, the Frankenfish have been confined to the laboratory. But that may change. Last week, AquaBounty Technologies, the company that bioengineered the salmon, told the New York Times that it had completed most of the steps required for Food and Drug Administration approval. "Perhaps in the next few months, we expect to see a final approval," company president Ronald Stotish said.