What is in this article?:
- GE salmon approval creates growing list of 'what if' scenarios
- Escape possibilities
- No GE catfish
- News that the U.S. government is close to approving the first genetically engineered animal – AquaBounty’s Atlantic salmon – for production and consumption has upset biotech naysayers and kicked off a lengthening list of “what if” scenarios.
Is it fair to say that some of these GM salmon will eventually escape into the wild? Like with Asian carp?
Engle rejects the comparison. “Asian carp did not escape from fish farms. That’s not what happened. … Asian carp escaped first from hatcheries – state and federal hatcheries – that did not have screens over drains back in the 1970s. Back then, no one was paying attention to whether fish were getting off hatcheries, or not.
“We also know that Asian carp were stocked into sewage treatment lagoons in small municipalities. The EPA was encouraging these small towns to stock Asian carp to help treat wastes in their sewage lagoons. There is evidence that Asian carp did escape from some of those facilities directly into the White River and elsewhere.
“So, the initial escapes did not come from fish farms.”
Regarding the likelihood of GM salmon escaping, Engel says “nothing is impossible and I won’t say that it is not possible for a fish to get off a farm. It is possible.
While she hasn’t spent as much time on salmon farms as she has on catfish ponds, Engle has seen how both operate. “The way things are done today and with the level of technology employed, I believe that it is unlikely that many salmon would escape from farms.
“This is because I know how these farms are run. Salmon farms are high-tech operations that are run by sophisticated corporations. They have been under a microscope primarily due to concerns on the West Coast over the possibility of their escape. One of the concerns on the West Coast is that the salmon raised are Atlantic, not Pacific salmon. So, there are cages of Atlantic salmon being raised in the Pacific Ocean.”
Such operations have been scrutinized “for decades because of possible escapes of Atlantic salmon into the Pacific. Salmon farmers go to great lengths to prevent escapes.
“Whether there is a real problem from escapes depends on how many fish might reach the wild. I think that it is unlikely that large numbers would get into the wild.
“But it is possible. A typhoon or something similar could come through that would result in some escapes, but the probability is low.
“Again, the magnitude of the environmental effect would largely depend on the number of such (GE) fish that might get into the wild.”