Monday 27 September 2010

News Article: FDA advisors urge more study of genetically altered salmon

First, let's start off with a video so you know roughly what this is all about before you read the text version of the news:

Wait, one more video, no hurry...

Now, do you think you know the story? If so, time to check out the printed text.

FDA advisors urge more study of genetically altered salmon

A panel debates the safety of the fish, developed by AquaBounty Technologies, that would be the country's first genetically engineered food animal. Instead of voting, it recommends more research.

By Andrew Zajac, Tribune Washington Bureau

September 21, 2010

Reporting from Washington

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel debated Monday whether to endorse the safety of genetically engineered salmon, but instead urged the agency to require more studies to demonstrate the fish's safety.

The North Atlantic salmon developed by AquaBounty Technologies Inc. of Waltham, Mass., would be the country's first genetically engineered food animal.

The Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee did not vote on the FDA's preliminary findings that the fish was safe for people to eat and did not pose a significant environmental risk. Instead, the panel offered a series of recommendations aimed at fleshing out information, including the possibility that the fish could trigger allergies or other health problems in some consumers.

The panel's chairman, David Senior of Louisiana State University, said he thought members generally believed the fish was safe to eat, but were concerned that some studies had a small sample size.

One panelist, Greg Jaffe of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, predicted after the meeting that the FDA would eventually approve the salmon, "but I don't think the agency's going to go quickly on this."

The salmon is produced by taking a portion of the gene that protects the ocean pout fish against freezing, transplanting it into the growth gene of a Chinook salmon and transferring the blended genetic material into the fertilized eggs of a North Atlantic salmon.

The resulting fish grows during the winter months as well as the summer, unlike an ordinary salmon.

Several panelists raised concerns about the fast-growing fish, saying there were not enough data to answer key questions about allergens and other potential risks.

"There are questions that have not been answered by the data that has been presented," said panelist James McKean, a veterinarian and professor at Iowa State University.

But other panelists argued there was no difference between the altered salmon and its natural counterpart.

"I would not feel alarmed about eating this kind of fish," said Gary Thorgaard, a professor and fish researcher at Washington State University.

The panel's conclusions are not binding, but the FDA usually heeds its recommendations.

The hearings continue Tuesday, when the FDA will hear testimony about what labeling, if any, should be required if the salmon was approved.

Reuters contributed to this report.

People love the North Atlantic salmon, and so people eat them, until there isn't enough for people to eat, people think of new ways to save the fish, or make them grow faster so as to meet the demand, thus helping the fish. Sounds very ideal of course, but will all people support gentically modified (GM) fish? What if eventually, most people go against GM fish? Then the native fish will still be consumed and eventually die out, kind of like the direction that the tunas are heading, and the biotech companies go bankrupt. The question is, will most people go against GM fish? Well, that is hard to say, people need hard data to support their switch from native fish to GM fish. No data, no talk. But there isn't enough data, so in order to save these companies, not placing GM labels on GM fish might work, so people eat the fish without knowing. By then, people turn into lab rats and if no one dies eating salmon, that's the data!

Is there another way to get data? Well, yes, need to hire some GM fish lovers to risk their lives and do the testing over a period of 3, 4 or even 10 years. By then, the biotech companies would have died out sooner than the salmon.

Is there a perfect solution? I guess not. Maybe we need some fast-eating, fast-growing GM humans to consume a large amount of GM salmons in a short time and test for cancers or rashes. Still, GM humans? That wouldn't be conclusive, we need real humans.

Okay, how about speed-eating competitions? Real humans there eat quickly, we can see how they react to GM salmon after consumption? Just make sure the researchers follow every other meals these guys have and make sure they don't eat another things that might mess up the results.

Okay, okay! How about this, how about asking those unfortunate, seriously underfed people who are still eating tree barks 3 times a day (while the rest of the world consumes their shares of food) if they are willing to try out some juicy, fat GM salmons? If they nod their heads, these biotech companies can donate thousands and even millions of fish to these people and get the data they want. Really unethical for me to say this? Well then, throwing away hundreds and thousands tonnes of unconsumed food into the bin each day is not unethical? Is not immoral? I eat up everything I order in every single meal, what about you?

And so I have heard that in every 6 seconds there is 1 person dies from hunger.

debate -- (vb) [I or T] to discuss a subject in a formal way
endorse -- (vb)  [T] to write something in order to give permission for something, especially your signature on the back of a cheque, in order to make it able to be paid to someone else
allergens -- (n) [C] [specialized] a substance which can cause an allergy (= condition of the body reacting badly to something) but which is not harmful to most people
altere -- (vb) [I or T] to change something, usually slightly, or to cause the characteristics of something to change counterpart -- (n) [C] a person or thing which has the same purpose as another one in a different place or organization
unethical -- (adj) not ethical (= based on moral beliefs)
immoral -- (adj) not within society's standards of acceptable, honest and moral behaviour; morally wrong