If the Food and Drug Administration is going to take the unprecedented action of approving the first ever genetically engineered (GE) food animal, GE salmon, shouldn’t the agency should have a pretty good idea of what this fish can and can’t do?
AquaBounty Technologies, the makers of GE salmon, have managed to convince everyone that GE salmon can grow two times faster than non-GE salmon, which is supposed to revolutionize aquaculture.
Unfortunately, AquaBounty can’t prove any of this. And independent salmon growers and scientists have called these purported growth rates misleading.
The data AquaBounty submitted to the FDA indeed shows that GE salmon can grow faster than non-GE salmon—but only up to size of 100 grams, which is one-fortieth of the typical 4 kilogram market weight for Atlantic salmon. And this growth advantage only exists in comparison to what appears to be a particularly slow-growing non-GE salmon, which makes GE salmon’s growth rates look phenomenally fast.
Infuriated with AquaBounty’s hype, and in response to a graph the company promoted on their website (top, right), the salmon industry has fought back, with one company, SalmoBreed, releasing the devastating graph (bottom, right), showing that GE salmon actually grow SLOWER than non-GE salmon. Compare these growth rates to AquaBounty’s public-relations graph at top, which compares GE salmon to an unidentified (but apparently slow-growing) “standard salmon.”
Salmon growers have spent decades selectively breeding salmon for faster growth rates (and a host of other commercially relevant characteristics, like disease resistance), coaxing fast growth rates out of farmed Atlantic salmon. A public-private research institute in Norway says that the years of breeding work have produced growth rates twice as fast as wild salmon, reaching market weight in as little as 20 months. Read the full article…