Mom and Agriculture, Two for the Price of One

10 04 2011

This weekend has been extremely wonderful-and celebrating Mom’s weekend at my university with my very own, one and only Mom (an alumnae of the same university and agricultural communications major to boot) has topped it off nicely. We partook in some shopping… including a trip to the Fannie May candy Store (delicious!).

However, the best part of the evening-okay one of the best parts of the evening-was a fabulous dinner at Jim Gould’s restaurant. Of course, it is a popular place so dinner was at the bar and in true mother-daughter fashion we split a fillet of salmon (but not dessert!).

Now, let’s pause this story. Salmon. Now if this agricultural product makes you wary of what’s to come in agricultural biotechnology, I ask you to read a blog post I wrote several months ago when salmon were cropping up in the news quite often as they sought approval from the FDA to enter the food supply chain as the first transgenic animal. It is lengthy-so bear with me and feel free to post where you stand on the issue. Personally, I think the world could use a food supply that regenerate itself faster, which would hopefully be fast enough to keep up with the population of 2050 (and the hungry months agriculturalists will have to feed):


Salmon: Up a Creek?

Genetically engineered Salmon may be up a creek when it comes to approval not from the FDA but from the public. AquaBounty, based in Waltham, Mass, has combined genes from two other fish, a growth hormone from the Chinook salmon and a genetic on-switch from ocean pout, to create salmon that mature four to six times faster. The gene allows salmon to grow all year long whereas ordinarily their biological clock would inhibit growth as winter approaches. The FDA has determined genetically engineered salmon are just as safe as the salmon we know and love today. This decision by the FDA was ten years in the making as this maturation phenomenon waited for approval.

However, others raise important concerns that should be properly addressed by FDA and AquaBounty. Some worry that this salmon may enter natural populations and natural selection may take its toll. This seems unlikely as salmon are produced inshore and those that are sold to fisheries are infertile. Other causes for concern are how little research has been done to see the effects of trans-genetic on food alergies. While I am far from an expert, I doubt that these fish would effect one any differently from regular salmon as the genes are not promoting the production of any new proteins but rather encourage a salmon’s regular growth process to continue. An article by the European Federation of Biotechnology states, “Of the hundreds of thousands of different proteins we take up with food and drink, only very few, perhaps one in 100.000, could actually be allergenic,” and goes on to say, “a new protein can only be an allergen if it remains stable for a long time in a  solution that is both acid and contains digestive enzymes, a liquid similar to the one present in the stomach. This test is applied to new transgenic crops to be put on the market and has proven reliable with all the
transgenic plants that are widely commercialized today.” As a plug for a trans-genetic crops, the article als sates,”Conversely, genetic engineering will, in the future, be able to remove specific genes from crops which may lead to less allergenic foods and thereby improve the life of those suffering from food allergies.”

That being said, for biotechnology enthusiasts like me, delaying this product from reaching supermarket shelves seems ridiculous. These trans-genetic salmon would protect dwindling wild varieties from entering our food supply. Not only are they more efficient in regards to time but also in regards to feed conversion. AquaBounty salmon gain thirty percent more weight per gram of food than ordinary salmon. Besides providing enough food to feed a growing population, these salmon produce thirty percent less waste which would ordinarily pollute the water column or the bottom of the ocean. See this super salmon for yourself!!! (refer to part five as well).

And what else do we have to look forward to? According to GMO journal:

If GE salmon is approved it will pave the way for ABT’s GE trout and tilapia. There is also Enviropig, a pig engineered with a mouse protein that affects its saliva, and, as the name suggests, the animal is mutated to create more environmentally friendly manure by reducing the amount of phosphorous the pig excretes after eating cereal grain.
Development is also underway for Mad Cow Resistant Cattle that would be resistant to “mad cow” disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). The GE cow is said to be developed by “knocking out” the prion protein gene that can trigger the mad cow disease.
GM Goats were approved in February 2009 to produce an anti-clotting therapy for people with a rare disorder called hereditary antithrombin deficiency. The drug, Atryn, is made with human protein from female goats bred to express it in their milk.
And finally, there is Glofish, a zebra danio genetically altered with fluorescent colors developed using a fluorescent protein gene that occurs naturally in other marine organisms. The FDA said it had no reason to regulate as it was not intended for food and allegedly caused no environmental threat.

Informal referencing:


Now, if you read all that (one of my first blog posts ever, mind you), I would like to conclude this story with my own ending (the FDA has not supplied one to my knowledge). My mom and I ate the salmon fillet and lived happily, ever after–at least up to this point, while I am writing this blog-for you to read.

Hope you were a little enlightened and as always, comment on your enlightenment, lackthereof, or other thoughts, feelings, ideas…. well, you get the point…





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: