01/23/2013 10:47 am ET Updated Mar 25, 2013

Aquatic Toxic: 'Frankenfish', Gulf Seafood and Killer Prawns

This morning's toxic trackings on the increasingly complex relationship between seafood and our health...

  • As debate continues over the safety and merits of genetically modified grains and vegetables, a GM animal is making headway towards your plate. The U.S. biotechnology firm, AquaBounty, has designed a fish that would look like its natural Atlantic salmon cousin yet reach market size in half the time. In its recent assessment, the FDA declared that the all-female, sterile salmon would have "no significant food safety hazards or risks." Still, some environmentalists remain concerned, suggesting that the meat would be nutritionally inferior and contain harmful hormones. They also warn that a small percentage of the "frankenfish" could remain fertile and escape into the wild. The BBC reports:
  • There is still a brief period to voice objections, but Dr David Edwards of the Biotechnology Industry Organization is certain of the outcome: "From my read of the review it looks like it should be approved."
    The AquAdvantage salmon, reared from the eggs of wild Atlantic salmon, sports some extra genes from the Pacific Chinook salmon and an eel, the ocean pout. Together they make the fish grow faster and all-year round.

  • Nearly three years after a BP offshore rig exploded, spewing 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, skepticism remains over the safety of Gulf seafood. Chemicals in the oil and in the dispersants used to break up the oil, some say, could still contaminate the region's prize cuisine -- a concern I heard from many people on my trip through the region last year. The Times-Picayune reports from this week's Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference in New Orleans:
  • The seafood safety issue has remained a bone of contention for some fishermen and coastal residents who have reported finding either deformed fish or evidence of hydrocarbons in shrimp or oysters. But Robert Dickey, director of the FDA Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory and the agency's Division of Seafood Science and Technology, insists that the testing conducted in the aftermath of the spill, the most comprehensive in the history of the agency, continues to show that commercial seafood is safe to eat.

  • Seafood also holds the power to decontaminate. In fact, prawn farming could help eradicate a killer disease and alleviate poverty in part of Africa, according to researchers. Schistosomiasis kills more than 200,000 people a year and causes long-term health problems for the many more who become infected through contaminated waters. But a recent experiment in Senegal has bolstered hope. The BBC reports:
  • Researchers believe if the shell fish are reintroduced into the West African nation's rivers, they will eat the snails that host the parasite that causes schistosomiasis.