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Salmon Stranger Than Sci-Fi

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2010-09-11-kidsalmon.jpg

Now I'm not sure about you, but these headlines about our food supply are getting pretty tough to stomach. From egg recalls large enough to feed every American two scrambled eggs to meat recalls warning us about E. coli in our hamburgers, I can't help but yearn for simpler times.

But the latest food headline sounds like it's out of a sci-fi movie: "Genetically Modified Salmon Safe to Eat, FDA Report Says." A fish designed to double eats weight in record time. And it comes with an "on switch."

Could things get any stranger?

Now if you're anything like me, you may not have been aware that about fifteen years ago a new technology was introduced into our food supply called "genetic engineering" since it hasn't gotten a whole lot of attention in the U.S. media. But from corn to milk to fish, the United States started manipulating the DNA of our food using all kinds of wild sounding tools and technology beginning in the mid 1990s in an effort to drive profitability for agricultural companies.

Using instruments like "gene guns" that sound like they are out of a sci-fi movie, scientists began to manipulate the DNA of our food supply and insert things like new proteins and insecticides into the genetic makeup of about 90% of our soybeans, 60% of our corn and even some of the animals that we eat.

No long-term studies were conducted as to what the implications might be of eating this "technofood" with manipulated DNA, so most developed countries (like all of Europe, Australia, the UK, Japan and others) exercised extreme precaution and either did not allow these biotech ingredients into their food supplies or insisted on labeling them so that consumers could make an informed choice when it comes to feeding their families.

But here in the U.S., we took a different approach: We simply assumed that these foods were safe and didn't label them.

And now 15 years later, no long-term studies yet conducted, and with the jury still out (especially on the role that these foods and their novel proteins and allergens play in the epidemic increase in food allergic reactions), the U.S. is about to introduce the first genetically manipulated animal into the food supply: salmon. A salmon designed to double its weight in record time.

With the insertion of an "on switch" gene into the DNA of salmon, scientists at a company called AquaBounty Technologies have manipulated and patented the genetic makeup of salmon and engineered it to eat year round so that it can grow twice as fast. As a result, salmon producers will be able to grow salmon more quickly, driving profitability and capitalizing on the growing demand for fish.

But in the midst of our nation's growing health crisis, what will eating this mutating salmon with an insatiable appetite do to our widening waist lines? The answer is, we simply don't know.

Sure, genetically-manipulated foods have been on the market in the United States for the last 15 years, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, but no long term studies have ever been conducted to see what their health impact might be, and unlike other developed countries, no labels were ever put on these products to alert American eaters of these new ingredients in their food supply.

As a result, there has been a fair amount of controversy around this new technology which created some tension back in 2002 at a government meeting of the Food Biotechnology Subcommittee of the Food Advisory Committee in which the committee's acting chair, Edward N. Brandt, Jr., MD, PhD, said "Of course, we haven't worked into this some kind of test for allergencity, per se... " prompting an almost allergic reaction from renowned allergist, Dr. Fred McDaniel Atkins, who said, "To me, the logical problem is that we are going to take that stuff and feed it to the public without their informed consent."

Yes, Dr. Atkins, that is a problem, a very big problem when you consider that the Centers for Disease Control has reported a 265% increase in the rate of hospitalization due to food allergic reactions since the introduction of genetically engineered foods whose labeling was never required in the US.

Now I'm all for fish, as it is full of Omega-3s that contain anti-inflammatory benefits as well as an ability to affect insulin sensitivity, making it an important part of a well-balanced diet. But given that the United States Department of Agriculture currently has no organic guidelines in place for seafood and the jury is still out on what the long term impact might be on our country's ever expanding waistlines and increasingly allergic children of eating genetically manipulated salmon that contains an "on switch" triggering an insatiable appetite, I am going to sit this experiment out and not only get to know the details about the salmon that my family eats and how it is grown, but also opt for fish like tilapia, cod and halibut whose DNA haven't yet been manipulated to eat year round.

To learn more about food that has been genetically altered and steps that you can take to protect your family, please visit The Non GMO Project .

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