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Issue 101: That Sounds Fishy

Genetically modified (GM) foods are a hot topic these days, especially for those who want to steer clear of them. So, you’d think that genetically modified (GM) salmon would come with a label that clearly states, “Genetically modified salmon,” but that’s not the case. In fact, the FDA has indicated that it will not require any special labeling of genetically modified salmon even though many people want to know what they’re eating.

Why no labeling? The FDA believes it is unlawful to demand labeling, citing that GM salmon is “identical” to regular salmon, so they can’t require it to be labeled any differently.

Another interesting rationale comes from David Edwards, the director of animal biotechnology at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, who says, “Extra labeling only confuses the consumer. It differentiates products that are not different.”


On the contrary, most consumers want to know about their food, especially if it is different—as in genetically modified. How can Edwards say it’s not different? It is. The bottom line for genetically modified salmon comes down to the fact that they are modified with extra growth hormone genes to make them grow larger more quickly. That’s different.

What's more is that GM salmon is more allergenic than other salmon, and these "Frankenfish" can also reproduce. A report in Mother Jones indicates that AquaBounty Technologies, Inc., the company responsible for making this GM fish, have their own studies showing that GM salmon is at least 19% more allergenic than natural salmon. In some cases, it can be up to 40% more allergenic if the genetically modified fish becomes a “triploid” female, rather than the intended “diploid” female.

So what’s the big deal about a triploid (with a triple set of chromosomes) and a diploid (with two complete sets of chromosomes), you ask? AquaBounty says it wants to create triploid females because they’re sterile and show “only” the 19% increase allergenic-wise—which the company considers “statistically insignificant,” by the way. Reports indicate, however, that up to 5% of the GM salmon can become diploids instead of triploids, meaning that they’re fertile and likely to breed with wild salmon if given the opportunity.

The independent, not-for-profit organization Consumers Union also blows the whistle on the testing AquaBounty has done on the fishes’ safety. They say AquaBounty's testing was insufficient (using only six triploid fish) and was not a double-blind study, which means that the researchers knew which fish were GM and which were not.

The whole GM food fiasco sounds fishy—including the new GM salmon—so don’t be fooled.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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