NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"We Just Thought We Were Making A Better Fish"

October 18, 2000

Opponents of genetic engineering have found new terrors in a salmon spliced with genes that make them grow two to four times faster than nature's best -- and which therefore can be sold at lower prices. Those who have sampled the delicacy say they taste the same as ordinary salmon.

The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing an application to sell the fish. The agency's decision will likely influence the fate of scores of other biotech animals being developed in labs around the world. Anti-biotech activists are sure to express their opposition to approval.

  • A scientist involved with the salmon project in Canada was amazed at the opposition -- saying he thought "we were just making a better fish."
  • The contributions of biotech engineered animals are potentially enormous -- pigs with less fat, chickens which resist bacteria-causing illnesses and beef that can grow twice as fast on less feed are all at risk.
  • The process of improving the salmon involves scientists splicing into their eggs a growth gene from the Arctic pout -- a fish that thrives in very cold water.
  • The gene allows the salmon to act like a colder water fish -- which means its growth-promoter genes remain more active than a normal salmon.

Canadian officials report that research is underway worldwide to genetically modify at least 25 aquatic species -- ranging from flounder and carp to lobster and shrimp.

The stakes are especially high in the case of salmon, since wild Atlantic salmon and some species of Pacific salmon are depleted or even officially endangered.

Source: Marc Kaufman, "'Frankenfish' or Tomorrow's Dinner?" Washington Post, October 17, 2000.


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