Scientists propose to evaluate overall risk/benefit ratio of transgenic salmon
Stavanger/Durham – The current safety review of the world’s first transgenic fast-growing salmon is too narrow, according to a Norwegian-US research team (Science, 330 (6007), 1052-1053). Instead of limiting its assessment on health risk and the comparison of the nutritional profile of the GM salmon with conventional salmon that does not grow at low temperatures, the researchers from Stavanger and Duke university recommend to allow the FDA take into account the overall risks and benefits coupled to marketing of the GM salmon. Instead of focusing on the safety of a food taken one portion at a time or whether it was produced through genetic modification or through classic breeding, a more useful approach would be to evaluate whether society is better off overall with the new product on the market than without it, argue the researchers. One possible benefit could be improvement of public health as increased production of transgenic farmed salmon is expected to leads to lower retail prices. „Consumers would have access to a less expensive source of healthy protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which have well-documented health benefits“, according to the researchers. But professor Atle Guttormsen and colleagues also want to add an improved risk assessment to the current review process for transgenic animals. A broader review would also allow a fuller assessment of potential environmental impacts, such as pollution from farmed salmon waste; disease; increased harvesting of the wild fish used to feed farmed salmon. In the future, it would be better to include an evaluation of the overall safety of the new fish into the review process that compares the GM salmon to other protein sources that it might replace, such as beef. Currently, the FDA is carrying out a safety assessment for a GM salmon intended for marketing by the US firm Aquabounty Inc. The AquAdvantage salmon grows significantly faster as normal salmon, due to an inserted growth gene from Pacific chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and a switch-on gene from ocean pout (Zoarces americanus), and could become the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption.