Confusion Surrounds GM Salmon

caroline-attwood-301746 copyThe introduction of the first genetically modified (GM) salmon in Canada has not been so smooth, according to reactions from consumers. It has created much confusion for food shoppers.

Recently, tons of genetically modified salmon were introduced to Canadian consumers. In Canada, there are no GM food labels, so consumers cannot distinguish GM foods from non-GM foods. Consumers who oppose GM salmon may not be able to avoid eating them because they are mixed in with other foods on the grocery shelves in Canada. Some Canadians want there to be a distinct separation of the two food groups, so they can make choices accordingly.

The roll-out of GM salmon is a big deal to the global community because genetically modified salmon in Canada is the first GM fish/animal in the world to be a part of the human food supply and made available for consumers to purchase. The GM salmon was created by an American company, called AquaBounty Technologies in Maynard, Massachusetts and the company sold five tons of the fish to the Canadians.

Is GM Salmon Safe?

Well, it depends on who you ask. Despite some opposition to the notion of genetically modified foods, some experts and scientists claim that GM foods and GM salmon are safe for consumption. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes GM salmon is safe, as does Health Canada. The FDA approved its creation while Health Canada allowed its consumption in Canada. GM salmon have been approved for sale in the US, but labeling issues have kept them from appearing on American supermarket shelves. However, there are some skeptics, such as the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, who thinks GM foods and fish may be harmful to consumers.

What are Genetically Modified (GM) Foods?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be organisms such as plants, animals, or microorganisms whose genetic material or DNA has been changed or altered by humans and not created by a natural process.

Genes can be selectively transferred from one organism to another. This process is referred to as genetic engineering or modern biotechnology. Foods that are created by GM organisms are called GM foods.

What is the Attraction to GM Foods and Crops?

GM foods are marketed and created because some food experts feel they present advantages to the grower and consumer of the GM foods. They create a lower price for the grower and more nutritional value to the consumer. Of course, this is debatable.

Another reason for the promotion of GM crops is it improves crop protection with the creation of resistance against crop diseases, insects, and viruses and a higher tolerance of herbicides. For GM crops to be resistance against insects, they are injected with a food plant gene for toxin production that can reduce the need for large amounts of insecticide in certain instances.

Virus resistance is obtained through the incorporation of a gene from specific viruses that cause plant disease. Virus resistance can allow more crops to survive. Herbicide tolerance is achieved by using a gene from a bacterium that has resistance to herbicides. Herbicide tolerance reduces the need for large quantities of herbicides during crop production.

Why do Some People Oppose GM Foods?

Food activists, health-conscious consumers, and environmentalists believe GM foods and salmon should be banned and not allowed for animal or human consumption. They cite how creating these foods can harm the environment and threaten the health and well-being of people and animals that consume them.

Moreover, opponents of GM foods say that more scientific studies need to be made on the potential harm and risks of GM products. There are too many unknowns about the safety of GM food, and it is better to be safe than sorry.

(image courtesy of Caroline Attwood)