Well, we have come a long way in establishing a new all-time low in the world of food as to what is safe or unsafe to eat! The FDA has just announced approval (Nov 19, 2015) of the new genetically modified salmon – Franken-fish (ref 1).
When the new norm benchmark for food safety is at the bottom rung, such as food products produced in laboratories that appeal to our taste buds but have little nutritional value, round-up ready (Monsanto) crops deemed to be safe for us , factory raised animals raised on round-up ready GMO grains, packaged foods preserved and enhanced with chemicals we can’t pronounce and grains and crops such as wheat, soy, corn, barley, rye and potatoes that have been GMO’d and substantially altered through enhanced hybridization causing a variety of diseases and damage to our organs, ….it only stands to reason that the next step would be Franken-fish.
It is curious that the FDA have deemed the new Franken-fish (the new species of genetically modified salmon) considered not less ‘safe’ than farmed fish. Hmmm …. Perhaps they are right ………….. Let’s take a look at that.
First, let’s understand if ‘farmed salmon’ is safe or healthy for us (after all – we have been told to eat more salmon for the Omega’s 3’s- right)? Here are some facts on ‘farmed salmon’:
- Industrial (farmed) salmon is usually a grayish-white in color. Since market researchers determined that consumers buy with their eyes, artificial coloring is used to turn the factory farmed salmon from grey to pink by adding a dye called canthaxanthin which has been linked to human eye defects and retinal damage. However, the good news is- the FDA requires companies selling farmed fish to indicate that dye has been added! Thank you FDA.
- Farmed salmon operations use a number of other chemicals to raise marketable fish. All of these pose known and potential risks to human health. These substances include oxytetracycline, an antibiotic that may lead to antibiotic resistance. Similar to the controversial use of antibiotics by the poultry and livestock industries, factory salmon farms must prevent fish from infecting one another with diseases since they are farmed in high density pens. Because of the high prevalence of drugs on salmon farms, unwary consumers may ingest untold amounts of antibiotics. (ref 2).
- Malachite green,” a fungicide, was banned internationally in the 1990s, but still illegally used in some salmon hatcheries and for juvenile fish. Scientists have found that exposure to malachite green may raise the risk of cancer, cause genetic mutations, and harm the human reproductive system ( ref 2)
- Levels of critical omega-3 fats may be reduced by about 50 percent in farmed salmon, compared to wild salmon, due to increasing amounts of grain and legume (e.g. soy) feed. Farmed salmon, for example, is much fattier than wild salmon, but it contains FAR LESS healthful omega-3 fats and less protein. Factory farmed fish can be as high as 27 percent fat and contain 15 percent less protein. ( ref 3)
- Despite efforts by governments and international agencies to limit antibiotics, harmful chemicals, and toxic substances in farmed salmon, the danger persists. Millions of fish—raised in close confinement, eating an unvaried artificial diet, and constantly exposed to their own wastes—mean inevitable exposure to harmful chemicals. These compounds accumulate in the tissues of salmon and are passed on to humans. People who regularly eat farmed salmon face a higher, though still poorly understood, risk of retinal damage, cancer, resistance to antibiotics, and harm to reproductive and other organs. (ref 4)
Now back to the salmon Franken-fish.
- After five years of study, the FDA didn’t find any nutritional difference between the genetically modified salmon and conventional salmon, Durham said. The FDA isn’t aware of any information that foods from genetically engineered sources differ from their non-genetically engineered counterparts or are less safe, she added. ( ref 1) In other words– they have not found any difference between the ‘farmed salmon’ (which already carries health risks) and the new Franken-fish.
- Under FDA approval, AquaBounty Technologies cannot raise the salmon in the United States; it can only be raised on fish farms in Canada and Panama. Also, no other company is authorized to raise this type of fish for sale in the United States, the agency said. Curious? Now why is it being grown in Panama and Canada and not the USA?
- The FDA said it’s convinced that measures will be put in place to prevent the genetically altered salmon from escaping from the farms and into the wild, so they wouldn’t affect the environment. But some environmentalists point out to NPR that the company’s egg production facility, on Prince Edward Island, is near an estuary that feeds into the ocean and that the fish will be allowed to mature in a location in Panama that is located near a river, making escape a remote but nevertheless real possibility. (ref 5)
- While AquaBounty’s president once told Reuters that AquAdvantage is “an Atlantic salmon in every measurable way,” studies by researchers who have compared genetically modified salmon to their wild counterparts have shown that the fish behave differently. The genetically altered fish tend to eat more to support their growth–promoting genes, and prefer spending time near the surface of the water alone, as opposed to swimming in groups. They also show some reduced immune functions. (ref 5)
If we take the statement ‘we are what we eat, or we are what the animal eats’ … then it stands to reason that the growth hormones, chemicals and GMO will enter our body and affect our health and our children’s health in medium-long term.
Will we know which salmon is genetically modified and which are not? There is no regulation requiring that AquaAdvantage fish be labeled as being genetically altered fish. Any labeling would be voluntarily by the companies’. The FDA issued two recommendations asking manufacturers to voluntarily label their products, along with guidance about how to note the genetic changes. Even if a retailer chooses to label their GMO fish (which they probably will not as it may impact their sales), at the restaurant level you will not know what you are eating.
The good news is: Several chain retailers have already stated that they will not carry the Franken-fish (Whole Foods, Trader Joes is among them). A coalition called the Campaign for Genetically Engineered Free Seafood consisting of approximately 2000 stores nationwide and consumer groups will not be buying or carrying the Franken-fish salmon.
To be completely on the safe side, buy only Wild Caught Alaska salmon. Frozen the price per pound @ Trader Joes and Costco comes down to between $9.00- $11.00 per pound (most Alaska salmon is flash frozen at source during peak season and then sold to retailers throughout the year- so apart from peak salmon season June-mid August all wild caught salmon purchased at the supermarket is previously frozen).
Of course the larger issue continues to plague the public and the lobbyists …… the labeling of GMO foods. A new film called ‘ SECRET INGREDIENTS’ is being produced by Jeffery Smith (author of Genetic Roulette) with a trailer than can be viewed on youtube addressing this issue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnXG3-Vt2Ps
References: 1. http://news.health.com/2015/11/19/genetically-engineered-salmon-gets-fda-approval/ 2, 3, 4. http://www.puresalmon.org/ 3. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/21/9-farmed-fish-facts.aspx#_edn3 5. http://news.health.com/2015/11/20/gmo-salmon/