One would think that the USA, the inshore lakes and rivers of which are under increasing threat from invasive species would have learned that fish wander about and spread their fins.

Although salmon do have a tendency to spawn in the place of their birth, they roam the world’s oceans – mostly in places that, so far, man has failed to identify.

So here’s the thing: after Canada approved genetically modified salmon eggs in November last year, the USA has followed suit. But the USA version are not salmon, at least not as we know it. They are not cross-bred naturally, they are genetically modified creatures made up of the DNA of Atlantic Salmon, Chinook Salmon and eelpout, a relative of the eel and therefore not even a fish. Moreover, male DNA will be excluded and only female salmon will be born from the product of the egg factory.

The Canadian scheme starts with fertilising eggs at Bay Fortune which, its owners must certify, is impossible for fish to escape from. But as the American experiment shows, it’s as often people as pets that result in the escape into nature. At Bay Fortune, the GM fish are in a landlocked pen, connected to the sea by a single pipe with a one-way valve for water ingress.

No country would allow the import of GM fish so they are either eaten or killed as they mature at twice the rate of a natural salmon.

Whether that’s a good thing, in and of itself, remains to be seen. After all, forced growth, out of season, fruit and veg is pretty miserable in both taste and texture compared to its natural original cousin. And fast-grown chicken is generally watery at best.

Canada’s science says there are no discernible threats to the environment or to humans consuming the product.

But reports say that in a uncontrolled experiment in a controlled environment, the GM salmon bred with a brown trout, demonstrating that there are unpredictable effects.

So now the USA, the country that (is it a coincidence) has to keep widening aircraft seats and finding new ways of reducing the gross weight of aircraft while keeping the number of seats (which is how profits are made) as high as possible started to run into trouble soon after the USA FDA approved the use of growth hormones in chicken and beef, the two most widely eaten meats in the USA?

Given the number of countries that reject US GM meats (and the number of individuals that reject it even in countries where it is permitted), it is mind-blowing that the USA now seeks, if one takes a conspiracy theory view, to export GM meat by the simple expedient of putting into a species the nature of which is to roam the world. It’s not very different to infecting migratory birds with a disease: they go where they go and they do what they do and whatever results from that results from that.

It’s a truly bad idea. It is almost impossible to say that these fish will never, ever, find their way into rivers, streams or the sea. And as the USA has found with its carp problem, once they do, their spread cannot be controlled.

The USA’s decision this week is both stupid and dangerous. The possibility that the world’s stocks of salmon will, eventually, be contaminated by the designer salmon is not improbable, and we do not know what the effect on those fish that are accidentally infected and then go to sea might be. It is impossible to research unless the very risks that are being researched are in fact created.

This unilateral action by both the USA and Canada is dangerous and should not be permitted.

© 2015 Jefferson Galt
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words by JG - The Blog