Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Reason To Take Up Fishing

Salmon is always on restaurant menus. No matter where you go, you can get a piece of pink-fleshed fish for your day's supply of protein.

On the face of it, eating salmon or ocean pout wouldn't be appreciably different. They're both aquatic creatures, swimming along until caught and pan-fried.

I shouldn't have any qualms about consuming salmon that also contains the genetic material for the anti-freeze gene of the ocean pout. But I do.

By inserting pout genes into the part of salmon DNA that regulates growth, scientists can make the salmon grow faster, which means more profit for the salmon farms.

The salmon-pout hybrid then reproduces, replicating its man-made genetic code, and there you have what is essentially a new species of salmon that goes to market quickly. That translates into an abundance of pouty salmon for all.

However, the anti-freeze in deep water fish is special fat that doesn't freeze in the cold water, so will the salmon taste of this pout fat? By inserting the DNA in the middle of a salmon gene, does it get read in a different way and no longer code for fat but for protein-building enzymes?

To me, it makes no difference. I don't eat farm raised salmon because it's tasteless. It's wild caught or nothing. Might as well open a can of tuna and enjoy the savory richness of mercury with lettuce and mayonnaise.

What might happen if this man-made creation escapes into the wild and intermingles with those delicious Copper River salmon of Alaska? Will the genes be dominant and swamp the natural populations? Will an overpopulation of fast-growing fish overwhelm spawning grounds and further drive out the natural-occurring population?

When there's money to be made, some questions don't get answered thoroughly.

It's being touted as a done deal, that the fish not found in nature will soon be available in local grocers everywhere.

I won't be eating it.

I'm not getting any younger, and by the time enough data is collected to determine if the genetically modified salmon is thoroughly safe to eat, it will either have escaped cultivation and destroyed God's own salmon, or it will be found to be hazardous after twenty years of consumption.

Where did I put my fishing pole and tackle box?

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