Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon May 1 11:58:55 MDT 2000

New York Times, May 1, 2000

Altered Salmon Lead the Way to the Dinner Plate, but Rules Lag


With quaint fishing villages dotting its shores and farming still one of
its mainstays, the pastoral landscape of Prince Edward Island seems an
unlikely place to encounter one of the most modern creatures on earth. Yet
it is in the tanks at Aqua Bounty Farms on the island off New Brunswick,
Canada, that hundreds of truly novel fish swim: schools of genetically
engineered salmon that await approval for sale in the United States.

These fish look like Atlantic salmon found in groceries around the world,
but for their age they are enormous. Endowed with foreign genes that
produce growth hormones, they grow to market size -- about seven pounds --
in 18 months, twice as fast as normal salmon.

Experts on the biotechnology industry predict that these fish will be the
first genetically modified animal to make it onto American dinner plates,
alongside genetically engineered vegetables like corn and potatoes, which
have been available for several years.

Elliot Entis, president of A/F Protein Inc., the biotech company that owns
Aqua Bounty Farms, said that the company already had orders for 15 million
eggs and would be ready to ship them next year, should they receive federal
approval. Approval is also being sought to sell the fish in Canada.

A menagerie of other genetically modified animals is in the works,
promising what biotech backers say will be advantages like cheaper and more
nutritious food. Borrowing genes from various creatures and implanting them
in others, scientists are creating fast-growing trout and catfish, oysters
that can withstand viruses, and an "Enviropig," whose feces are less
harmful to the environment because they contain less phosphorus.

Scientists are also developing a pig that makes a leaner pork chop, one of
the first genetically modified animals that would offer direct benefits to
consumers and something biotech advocates hope will make the marketing of
genetically modified foods easier.

Mr. Entis and colleagues describe their fast-growing fish as part of a blue
revolution in aquaculture that could feed more people more efficiently and
more cheaply.

But critics and even some Clinton administration officials say that
genetically engineered creatures are threatening to slip through a net of
federal regulations that has surprisingly large holes.

While food safety issues should be addressed, some scientists say, the
bigger concern is the environmental threats posed by genetically modified
animals like the salmon. For example, a recent study showed that
populations of wild fish could, in theory, be wiped out by mating with
certain kinds of genetically engineered fish, should they escape. In
addition, there is the possibility of unpredictable environmental
disruptions, like those that occur when non-native species invade
ecosystems, as the zebra mussels have the Hudson River.

Yet United States regulators interviewed could not point to any federal
laws specifically governing the use or release of genetically engineered

"This is a very big hole," said Dr. Rebecca Goldburg, senior scientist at
the Environmental Defense Fund, a group that has been highly critical of
the biotech industry and the federal regulators. "There's nothing clearly
on the books. There are no regulations about what you can and can't do."

Complete article at:

Louis Proyect

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