Frankenfish - yuk!

Lynda Brown - 22 January 2013

When it comes to social media, I’m a real laggard (OK, so un-cool, but honestly I’d much rather go for a walk or dance tango any day than whitter and twitter my life away). But even I admit, it can be awesomely powerful, especially when it galvanises public opinion into a nice juicy petition with thousands of names on it; so much so, it’s fast becoming the peaceful and effective way to voice your concerns over a particular issue.

And it doesn’t get more disgusting than the thought of salmon, genetically engineered to be obese (life is full of ironies, isn’t it?). The story so far is that the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved (on paper), GE salmon that will grow twice as fast as normal Atlantic salmon. Needless to say the scientists think it’s a great idea, and the FDA have pronounced it ‘substantially equivalent‘ to real salmon and therefore no risk to human health. Well, not quite. Gen up on it on the new Citizens concerned about GM website; if you don’t much fancy obese extra fatty salmon on your plate, you can then sign the online petition here.

Now, I’ve no idea why anyone would want to inflict this on this once noble fish anyway, but I presume it’s because farmed salmon is the new cheap chicken, and this is being hailed as the answer to all our fish stock nightmares. What I don’t understand is that the natural world is littered with examples of introducing non-native species into an eco-system which then create havoc and become uncontrollable pests - why should GE salmon thugs be any different? Equally worrying is what are these thugs to be fed on and consequently, what’s their fatty acid profile? Normal farmed salmon are already too fat (30-35% body weight) and not in a good way: they have a higher ratio of pro-inflammatory Omega 6’s than wild salmon and their Omega 3’s are apparently not absorbed as well - so these GE beasties could turn out not to be that healthy after all.

As for taste, obviously as far as science is concerned it doesn’t come into it, but not that many people like eel - which is what the salmon has been engineered with a gene from, though I bet it won’t be on the label - so why should we rush to buy these monsters-from-the-lab. And sorry to be simplistic but if salmon-eels were a good idea, I reckon nature would have engineered it by now; as she hasn’t, I’ll play safe and stay with whiting. In fact, fast forward 20 years and you can just imagine the Food Standards Agency (FSA) of the day giving out health warnings advising us to limit our intake of GE salmon, and natural farmed salmon prices rocketing. Which means we’ll be back to square one, which begs the question of why even embark on this GE food nonsense anyway.

Lynda is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster, and keen advocate for organic living. She is author of several food books over the last twenty years including Planet Organic: Organic Living, The Cook's Garden, and The Modern Cook's Handbook, as well as writing The Preserving Book that was published in 2010 in association with the Soil Association. Lynda is an expert on food and nutrition and a seasoned broadcaster, regularly speaking on food and farming both on the radio and television.

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