A new study has some biologists worried over the implications of genetically modified (GM) salmon. The study specifically mentions GM salmon provided by AquaBounty, a Canadian biotechnology company that had spent the last 17 years developing faster growing salmon.
According to The Telegraph, AquaBounty is expected be approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to sell the fish as food stock, grown in tanks and distributed to markets. The new, modified salmon can grow to full size in less than half the time it normally takes the fish to mature. This makes GM salmon a fast and easy-to-cultivate food source. In addition, a recent FDA ruling stated that the fish is unlikely to a negative impact on humans.
However, researchers at Quebec’s McGill University believe that this wonder food plays host to a number of risks, and not only to our diets. In a study published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers found that the GM salmon –and which were of Atlantic salmon stock – were capable of breeding with wild brown trout. This in of itself is not surprising, as interbreeding between the two closely related species have been recorded in the past. However, these hybrids were not only found to be viable, but also highly competitive and even faster growing than GM salmon.
While the study suggests that such occurrences would be rare in the wild, the researchers believe the new hybrid species could pose a threat to other wild fish, especially salmon. In simulating a stream environment, the study found that the new hybrid expressed a “competitive dominance” and succeeded in eating most of the food, suppressing the growth of wild fish and GM salmon. Worse yet, the hybrid with GM parentage is expected to be capable of breeding, unlike its natural counterpart.
Some conservationists are increasingly concerned that the GM salmon will find a way to escape from fish farms and into the wild where they could become a major ecological problem. The study’s authors have themselves suggested that the occurrence of such hybrids should be taken into account when considering possible ecological damage. AquaBounty has since responded to the concerns raised by the study and proposed only marketing sterile females.
Due to restrictions on genetically modified meat, the GM salmon is not expected to be sold in Europe.
You can read the study here.