Not only is it possible that the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of AquaBounty’s GM salmon will harm the environment, Alaska fishermen are concerned the GM fish could tank the fishing industry.

AquaBounty’s salmon have been genetically altered to contain growth-promoting genes from Pacific chinook and an eel-like fish called the ocean pout. They are said to grow up to 4 times faster than regular salmon, which might seem like a boon to the fishing industry, but fisherman are concerned of another outcome which could damage their livelihoods.

It is possible that the GM fish could escape farms and outcompete or breed with wild fish. There is already evidence that they could easily breed with a close cousin, the brown trout. To reduce that threat, AquaBounty plans to grow its creations in terrestrial tanks in Panama and Canada, and will only rear sterile females. [1]

Sterilization isn’t a surefire practice, especially in the hands of hubristic genetic engineers, so if just a handful of GM salmon escape, the entire non-GM fish population, not just salmon, could be endangered. With massive amounts of consumers turning their noses up at the GM fish, this could mean the end of a very lucrative career for many fishermen.

Though the FDA says the technology “would not have a significant impact on the environment of the United States,’ the agency has not ensured that AquaBounty’s fisheries are fool-proof, and it is not within their regulatory jurisdiction to do so.

The entire Alaskan National Wildlife refuge could be at stake, along with Alaska’s $6.4 billion commercial fishing industry.

State politicians are voicing the concerns of the fishermen as well. Senator Lisa Murkowski said she was “livid” at the approval, with her sentiments echoed by Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young.

Ironically, the congressman who has tried to open the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to drilling 11 separate times doesn’t want GM salmon. Murkowski even threatened to block the appointment of the next FDA commissioner.

What does AquAdvantage salmon actually mean for Alaska’s fisheries? If consumers keep their voices loud enough – no one will want to but GM fish or wild-caught fish that could have possibly been contaminated with GM genes.

This article originally appeared at Natural Society.


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