Genetically altered salmon? It doesn't stop there

Sep 22, 2010 By SETH BORENSTEIN and MALCOLM RITTER , AP Science Writers
In this Monday, Oct. 31, 2005 picure, a harvester works through a field of genetically modified corn on the dairy farm owned by Al Lafranchi, near Santa Rosa, Calif. Lafranchi started growing the genetically modified corn six years ago, which he says is more resistant to weeds and provides cleaner feed for his dairy cows. For thousands of years, humans have practiced selective breeding. That concept was refined to develop plant hybridization and artificial insemination. Now comes an Atlantic salmon that is genetically engineered to grow twice as fast as a regular salmon. If U.S. regulators approve it, the fish would be the first such scientifically altered animal to reach the dinner plate.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(AP) -- We've always played with our food - even before we knew about genes or how to change them.

For thousands of years, humans have practiced selective breeding - pairing the beefiest bull with the healthiest heifers to start a new herd. That concept was refined to develop plant hybridization and . Today we've got tastier corn on sturdier stalks, bigger turkeys and meatier cattle.

Now comes an Atlantic salmon that is genetically engineered to grow twice as fast as a regular salmon. If U.S. regulators approve it, the fish would be the first such scientifically altered animal to reach the dinner plate.

Scientists have already determined that it's safe to eat. They are weighing other factors, including environmental risks, after two days of intense hearings.

Whatever the decision on salmon, it's only the start of things to come. In labs and on experimental farms are:

- Vaccines and other pharmaceuticals grown in bananas and other plants.

- Trademarked "Enviropigs" whose manure doesn't pollute as much.

- Cows that don't produce methane in their flatulence.

And in the far-off future, there may be foods built from scratch - the scratch being DNA.

Sometimes when science tinkers with food, it works. Decades ago, Norman Borlaug's "Green Revolution" of scientifically precise hybrids led to bigger that have dramatically reduced hunger.

Sometimes it flops. Anyone remember the Flavr Savr tomato? Probably not. It didn't taste good. "There was no flavor there to save," one expert quipped. But you might remember 10 years ago when genetically modified corn meant for animal feed wound up in taco shells?

To the biotech world, precise tinkering with the genes in plants and animals is a proven way to reduce disease, protect from insects and increase the food supply to curb world hunger.

To skeptics, put the natural world and the food supply at risk. Modified organisms can escape into the wild or mingle with native species, potentially changing them, with unknown effects.

Over the last 15 years, genetically engineered plants have been grown on more than 2 billion acres in more than 20 countries. Consumers eat genetically engineered plant products in large quantities in the U.S., often in unlabeled products such as oils and processed foods.

The same crops are viewed more suspiciously in Europe and other countries, including India. China, meanwhile, is working to develop genetically modified rice that would be less prone to insect damage.

In fact, some experts say the natural food of our forebears is for the most part long gone. That's mostly due to breeding and other now-commonplace practices.

Old-fashioned breeding has led to turkeys that "can't have sex anymore because we've been breeding them for big chests," says Martina Newell McGloughlin, director of the University of California's Biotechnology Research and Education Program.

"All of the animals, plants and microbes we use in our food system, our agricultural system, are genetically modified in one way or another," says Bruce Chassy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "That, or they're wild."

The modifications are mostly from and hybridization, the traditional ways of changing plants and animals. But these methods used for thousands of years are compared by genetic engineers to using a sledgehammer. They say their techniques are like using a scalpel.

"Genetic engineering is more precise and predictable, yet it is regulated up the wazoo," McGloughlin says. "Yet there is no regulation at all on the traditional breeding system."

She finds fears over genetically engineered food and the regulations that accompany them hard to stomach.

More than four-fifths of the soybean, corn and cotton acreage in the United States last year used genetically engineered crops, according to a 2010 National Academies of Sciences study.

David Ervin of Portland State University in Oregon, who chaired the committee that wrote the report, said it found no large-scale environmental risks associated with the current genetically engineered corn, cotton and soybeans in the United States. As for future crops, "you just have to be very cautious," depending on the nature of the plants, he says.

The report, which didn't consider health impacts of eating genetically engineered crops, did recommend large-scale studies of ecological effects of such crops, Ervin said.

Marion Nestle, a New York University professor and expert on food studies and public health, says that in processed food, "if it's got beet sugar, soybean or sugar, it's got an 85 to 95 percent chance of being genetically modified."

Nestle fears unintended consequences in the food supply and environment. She previously served on Food and Drug Administration advisory boards, and she opposes the genetically engineered . In the 1990s, she voted against allowing genetically engineered plants.

Animals are a bigger problem in trying to prevent mixing with nongenetically modified populations, she says. "Millions (of farmed fish) escape, not one or two, but millions."

L. LaReesa Wolfenbarger, a professor of biology at the University of Nebraska who was on the National Academies study team, finds a distinct difference between old-fashioned breeding and genetic modification. What is happening recently is that we are mixing genes of plants and animals that in normal evolution or nature don't mix, she says.

Or as Margaret Mellon, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, puts it: You can't breed a cow with a starfish.

Such DNA-mixing is not necessarily bad, but it's something to be careful with, Wolfenbarger and Mellon say.

"These are things that we can look at as long as we also have the ability to kind of brainstorm and figure out what the unintended consequences are," Wolfenbarger says. She contends that so far, at least with plants, science has had a good handle on preventing problems.

Not so, says NYU's Nestle.

Back in the 1990s, she recalled, opponents of genetically engineered crops were "laughed out of the room ... and they turned out to be right." Just as critics warned, the pollen of genetically modified crops is drifting into natural areas. Weeds and insects have become resistant to the anti-pest modifications, she said.

But scientists who work on genetic modifications insist time has proven them correct.

James Murray, a professor of animal sciences at the University of California at Davis, says the fears surrounding genetically engineered foods sound similar to concerns about microwave ovens, which some people initially thought would give off dangerous radiation or blow up pacemakers.

Murray is working on genetically modified goats as a way to produce milk that can fight devastating diarrhea in poor nations.

With the world population predicted to surpass 9 billion before 2050, genetically engineered food is the only hope to avoid starvation, he says.

That many people cannot be fed "using agriculture as it is right now," Murray says. "What is the cost to humanity if we do not use this technology?"

Explore further: Tricking plants to see the light may control the most important twitch on Earth

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newscience
1 / 5 (2) Sep 22, 2010
Current transgenic "Biotechnology" is based on an outdated model of molecular biology. There is no "precise and exact" its very sloppy. Gene expression is a function of of the information the gene is receiving from a vast network. We know very little how this vast network behaves and cannot predict the outcome of gene expression. Transgenic engineering is dangerous because its foundation is built on outdated science. It is only appealing to companies because transgenic patents are given greater protection then other plant patents. This is threatening the Plant Variety Protection Act as well the the Endangered Species Act. Native salmon are now threatened with extinction from transgenic salmon. Everyone is moving fast forward creating all these transgenic forms without a proper understanding of the science.
Djincs
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 23, 2010
" Native salmon are now threatened with extinction from transgenic salmon."
Do you beleave yourself?

"Genetic engineering is more precise and predictable, yet it is regulated up the wazoo,"

This is exactly true, do you know the most used way of genetic modification in the past which was used to developed new strains of crops-radiation, you take the seed and expose them to radiation, then you see what has happened, in this way you scrumble the DNA and hope to have the desirable trait(thats hopw you end up with tasteless vegetable and food lots of thing in the genome are f*cked up, even the production of vitamines and so on), the engeneering is more precise and predictable.

" foundation is built on outdated science"- oh really you think the people doing it dont know the latest info about the DNA and how it works, your adopted thinking is really funny!
Djincs
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 23, 2010
Like it or not this is the future, there wont be single crop not being GM , it is matter of time, and this is good for us and for the envirenment, with this fish farmed , less will be the fishing! People who opose it makes the tehnology to be used only for the purpouse of profit, becauce it wont be bought if it is not cheeper, but this can be used for making more healty food at general.
Kev_C
1 / 5 (3) Sep 23, 2010
Oh dear! It would seem that all these extremely clever and precise scientists have made a big mistake and really do need to go back to school.
GMO, GME, GM, Transgenic technology, biotechnology, whatever you want to call it makes not a jot of difference.
Cross breeding of plants and cross breeding of animals is what we have been doing for thousands of years. Not GMO GME etc. That modern idea is so recent it is still in pre-school shorts and playing with Lego bricks which is about as close and accurate a description as you will likely get. Mix up several boxes of bits and put them back together randomly and Picasso would be proud of the results. On the other hand the natural environment would certainly suffer big time from the human race's interference with the evolutionary processes.

GM etc is dangerous and we are totally clueless about it.
Now as for the scientists knowing what they are doing. Wrong! They don't even now the function of 95% of the DNA components of the human Genome.
Kev_C
1 / 5 (3) Sep 23, 2010
As for the future the only way we will survive is through organic agriculture not chemical agriculture or GMO + more chemical agriculture.

Ask the tribal people of Paraguay if they believe that GMO's are the future. Ask the people who have been sued for so called patent breeches in the US if its the way forward.
The truth is that this form of technology is bad for everyone and any dumb fool who believes the sales pitch from those suited and booted salesmen/women from the likes of Monsanto really do need to get a life and wise up quickly.
The only reason that it is being touted as the way forward is because it was approved without scientific evidence on the orders of G W Bush Snr when he was in power. Its also very profitable for the company that brought us agent orange, DDT, Aspartame, rBGH, Dioxins and PCB's.
Now please stop trying to muddy the waters with corrupted and inaccurate science. GMO/GME etc is not the same as what went before. Mother Nature governed the previous methods.
Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2010
Kev, I think you should go back to scholl really!
"human race's interference with the evolutionary processes."- how all the crops came to be, and where is the suffering, what we all will do if there is no crops, your point is pointless. The suffering of the environment is another part, dont you eat?We are part of the ecosistem and we need our share.
"GMO + more chemical agriculture"-yes giving the plant natural solution of dealing with pests and fungy and so on includes more chemicals, great logic congratulations.
"Mother Nature governed the previous methods."
Mother nature dont give shit about you, the one who does are the other humans, we were at constant battle for survival, and science make it not to strugle all the time, GM crops and animals should be tested if it is ok then there shouldnt be prejudice.

Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2010
"Ask the tribal people of Paraguay if they believe that GMO's are the future" yea man why to ask scientist and smart people , lets ask tribal liders , they will ask their gods by casting stones and stics, exelent idea, congratulations again.
And about that we dont know what is happening, when you radiate the seed and hoping for resinstance, etc. to accur do we know how that happens, NO but still this has been done 1000 of times in the agriculture and no one tels nothing about that, it is totaly more clear what is happening whit the engineering, you know what is the protein which deals with the fungy you take the DNA, the right place is really not intended but when it works then it is at the right place, and you can see where the DNA you have put is by sequensing the DNA, with the radiation you dont know 0% what has happened, you dont know what to look for, and even where to start from.
dtxx
3 / 5 (6) Sep 23, 2010
For people to come here and claim we don't know anything about GMO, we're still in diapers, etc, they sure seem to know a lot about how the bad consequences will play out.
newscience
not rated yet Sep 23, 2010
Transgenics is completely different than random genetic mutations which happen naturally in your body or in plants. Radiation increase the natural rate of these mutations. To equate random mutations with transgenics is completely wrong. Transgenics is when you put one species into another, something nature has never done. Horizontal gene transfer does happen between bacteria, but that is a different subject.
Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Sep 24, 2010
You continue to show your ignorance, but this is something that I expect from all people hating this tehnology...nothing new.
What you trying to say now is that random mutations are more reasonable, well gues what 99,99% or even more are pointless, they can lead to new proteins that can be harmful, or you think this is inposible?From where all the poisonous plants got their poison-they just have it right?
GMO are tested for such things and thats why are safer, no body test the radiation MUTANTS-thats why the furst gmo werent tested neither, I dont say this is right.
Your logik is dum-it is natural-it is ok then, we are doing it wolll it is sceary, unpredictable-yes but radiation is even more unpredictable!
The truth is they should be tested, this fish is tested and it is ok, then you should shut your mouth, thats it.
Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Sep 24, 2010

And about that you are saying-horizontal is not natural ,it happens even in mammals , viruses often play that role.:
http://www.scienc...5856.htm
It is great way of rapid up the evolution in fact, but cells dont axept free and another's DNA because in the most cases it is virus which can kill them.
newscience
not rated yet Sep 25, 2010
True, there is small amounts of horizontal gene transfer that occurs between small and large species but with transgenics you are making unpredictable unwanted evolutionary changes. Are you sure you want your kids to be part of this experiment? Thanks for the science article.
Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Sep 25, 2010
There is no way that evolution can be predictable, with GM on the other hand you put some logic and can lead the proces of modification, about this-unwonted, of cource the magority of the experimented crops wont be good, but with enough money and smart people at the end the wonted thing happens. You are tipical case of person beleaving too much to people talking bad fairitails about GM.I am shure you havent studied biochemistry or something like that, am i right?
Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Sep 25, 2010
Of cource I wont the best for my kids, and if we talk about food there are much more bad things happening in the agriculture- pesticide, nitrats,(GM even on this early stage shows we can cut of this things significantly) and then in the processed food-conservants-the magority of them have been prooven to be bad for your healt-100% no doubts harmfull, but no one say nothing-everybody are used to it(this doesnt meen they arent bad), and GM- not proven to be bad(and hundreds of people try really bad to do this but they cant) but this is new thing, and just thats how the human brain works , you fear from the unknown and new, the old is not a treath because we have survived it.Another example is the fear from the clone animals-freaks so many people out, is it bad - NO no chance, doesnt happen in the nature but this doesnt mean nothing.
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (2) Sep 25, 2010
I know the story here, the lone voice of reason opposing the mob is hardly ever heard.

The "Frankensalmon" case is precises the type of transgenics that should alarm everyone, because it takes genes that would normally never have a chance to be cross-bred into a population, i.e. from a totally different species. It is completely un-natural.

On the surface, I must admit the ability to grow more efficient fish and livestock and crops is very tempting.

However, the threat of a hybridized virus that could normally never exist, or the threat of an invasive species that anihilates the environment is much greater than people WANT to admit.

Much like the atomic bomb, once you let the cat out of the bag, it is out for good, and once "Frankenfish" escapes the native population will never be the same again.

They claimed it is the same meat, but how do they know a percentage of the population isn't allergic to it now with the extra gene in there?
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (1) Sep 25, 2010
And what about our pets? It's possible a portion of cats and dogs and etc might be allergic to the modified fish so that if it's added to their food people's pets could get sick and so on.

Just because it doesn't happen in the specific case of the Salmon doesn't guarantee it will never happen.

There was an episode of "Seven Days" that dealt with a similar issue in which a virus was used to cure cancer, and then the virus itself mutated and became a pandemic and killed almost everyone.

While this is certainly a worst case scenario, it illustrates a very real danger of transgenic animals and other life forms.

If the frankenfish has an abnormal level of growth hormone in it's tissue, then this means whoever eats this food would be ingesting an abnormal level of these hormones. Can nobody else see how this could be poisonous or possibly mutagenic or God forbid, terratogenic, etc, in humans?

To me, it's horrible something like this could be forced into the food supply...
Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2010
Congatulations, great sci fiction, really good.
"the threat of a hybridized virus"-no such thing, only in your little head.And viruses regularly move from one to another species, and when you are sick with to viruses in the same time the posibility of hidridisation exist really.
"invasive species that anihilates the environment"-name one domesticated species(this salmon start to become domesticated)that have done this, here I am not talking about releasing pigs into the Australia or on some island, great difference.You cant make something more competitive than the wild thing, or you can really hard if this is your purpouce.
Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2010
"once "Frankenfish" escapes the native population will never be the same again"-this fish has no chance in the wild!
You have taken genes from not alergenic species of fish, and put it on not alergenic species, where the alergen will come from smarty!
"ingesting an abnormal level of these hormones"-high level yes but still far from being able to affect you, I am not 100% shure but I think this fish hormone is not like the humans one, or even if it is taking it per os is not active.
" possibly mutagenic or God forbid"-yes radiation is not mutagenic, and God doesnt forbid anything- this is evidence for your ignorance, people thinking like you should not have the power to take important desisions or we are doomed, stupidity is the greatest treath from all.
rgwalther
not rated yet Sep 26, 2010
Djincs gets my vote for the funniest post of the week. No one could possibly make that many outrageous spelling errors by accident.
Kev_C
not rated yet Sep 26, 2010
Well it wouldn't be so bad with the spelling mistakes but his science also leaves a lot to be desired. Pity as he also has a lot of time on his hands which he is either using frivously or he's on a 'piece work' rate. Can't get enough of these pro GMO/Chem Ag copy writers you see.
Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2010
On my native language you write what you hear, english is another story, and I have learned english mostly by listening not reading,
and the other part is I dont surch for the right spelling, the important thing here is what you say not how, but this is just my opinion.
And still I think it is far more funny to think GM will destroy the World than my "outrageous spelling errors".If you know foreign language better than I know enlish I will shake your hand.
And Kev your critic of what I say doesnt bother me knowing your level of understanding biology.
ereneon
not rated yet Sep 26, 2010
Though I think this tech could have a bright future, I'm not eating these things until I see *long term* safety studies. Though I think some people above don't understand how much is known about genetics, I think we can all agree that we don't know all the answers and we should proceed with caution. We are still unraveling the complex web of genetic interactions that run even a single cell. It is just not accurate to think that we can really predict exactly how a whole organism will change when one of its genes is modified.
Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2010
It is complicated yes, but this thing -one gene modified, furst GM is not really accurate term, you have genes from another organism, produsing somethin that is tested, I will say this maybe for 3-rd time but radiation is the one who modifie existing genes.
And if we have to take conclusion about what is the efect of combination of different genes from two species take for example the hybrids- the mule is good example, and about something that you may dont know, crossbreads between the serval and the domesticated cat-the result is really fine animal, also caracal and the domesticated cat. And here the information is 50/50-and this is much more hard for the organism, 2 different informations for lots of things, if the scientists take only one gen(from the serval lets say) and put in to the cat the whole world will start to explain how wrong is that and so on(nonsense as always).
The whole anti-gm thing is NONSENSE.
Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2010
It is complicated yes, but this thing -one gene modified, furst GM is not really accurate term, you have genes from another organism, produsing somethin that is tested, I will say this maybe for 3-rd time but radiation is the one who modifie existing genes.
And if we have to take conclusion about what is the efect of combination of different genes from two species take for example the hybrids- the mule is good example, and about something that you may dont know, crossbreads between the serval and the domesticated cat-the result is really fine animal, also caracal and the domesticated cat. And here the information is 50/50-and this is much more hard for the organism, 2 different informations for lots of things, if the scientists take only one gen(from the serval lets say) and put in to the cat the whole world will start to explain how wrong is that and so on(nonsense as always).
Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2010
you can make a plant produsing cianide and another one produsing vit A lets say,you cant say-the furst is bad and then the second is bad as well because the both are "GM", and at the same time radiation is ok, great mistake!Scientists know that really well but who is listening the crowd knows better , Monsanto are the bad one who will argue with that.
Crucialitis
5 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2010
People's fears regarding GMO are irrational. They should be afraid of going outside just the same because there's a POSSIBILITY they'll increase their chances of developing cancer.