Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Salmon

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In November 2015, the FDA gave approval to AquAdvantage salmon, a type of genetically modified salmon that is produced by AquaBounty Technologies. The AquAdvantage salmon are Atlantic salmon that have three sets of chromosomes (whereas most animals have only two), and they contain a gene from the Pacific Chinook salmon that regulates the growth hormone. As a result, they grow faster than regular salmon; although they remain the same size as normal fish, AquAdvantage salmon grow to market size in just 18 months instead of the three years that it takes ordinary salmon to grow.

This is the first time that the U.S. government has allowed a genetically altered animal to be sold in supermarkets and be made available to consumers. The move earned praise from many people, but it has also been criticized by those who believe that breeding and eating genetically modified animals are harmful. If you’re not sure where to stand, read on and learn about the pros and cons of genetically modified salmon.

List of Pros of Genetically Modified Salmon

1. They’re very much like ordinary salmon.
According to experts, there are no significant biological differences from genetically modified salmon and ordinary salmon, apart from the fact that they have different amounts genes. Studies have shown that AquAdvantage salmon contain the normal amounts of nutrients (including mega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) that are expected in salmon, which means they can meet humans’ nutritional needs.

2. They can help improve health.
It’s a well-known fact that the omega fatty acids in salmon can help improve cardiovascular health. Since genetically modified salmon contain these fatty acids, it can be taken to mean that they can also help reduce the risk of heart disease.

3. They can help lower food costs.
The presence of genetically modified salmon can theoretically lower food costs since the amount of supply has increased compared to demand. This, in turn, can reduce the retail price of salmon in supermarkets.

4. They can help alleviate hunger.
If the retail price of salmon falls, it becomes more available to consumers, particularly those who have low income. As more food becomes available to this segment of the population, the hunger rate falls.

List of Cons of Genetically Modified Salmon

1. They can out-compete wild-type salmon.
Genetically modified salmon are raised in hatcheries but, if they are ever released into the ocean, they can wreak havoc since they’ll compete with ordinary salmon and make food scarce for them. The faster growth rate of genetically modified salmon also allows them to reproduce faster, which further increases their chance to overpower ordinary fishes.

2. They may promote allergic reactions.
Salmon belongs to one of the major allergen groups, which means they cause allergic reactions in many people. Those who oppose AquAdvantage salmon point out that the genetic modification they go through might increase their allergenicity and make them even more dangerous to those who are allergic to finfish.

3. They can cause health problems.
Genetically modified salmon contain higher levels of a growth hormone called IGF-1. This hormone has been found to have a connection with breast, blood, prostrate and colon cancer and may promote the development of these illnesses in humans.

4. They can create a monopoly in the market.
As mentioned above, the increase in salmon supply may cause its retail price to reduce. However, some economists point out that this may not happen right away since AquaBounty Technologies has a monopoly on the market. Since no other genetic modification company has been approved by the FDA, they have the freedom to set the price for their products, and this will only change once they get competitors.

Genetically modified salmon can bring many benefits. But, if you look closer, you can see that they also pose a few downsides that people should also consider.