Monday, September 06, 2010

Frankenfish coming soon to...your table

Genetically modified organisms; GMOs. They strike fear into the hearts of Europeans and US dark greens. But they have promise in helping to feed the world. Where do you stand?

Regardless, it looks like we're going to do the experiment of growing and serving GMO salmon in the US. Do you think labels on the GMO fish will have the scary "Frankenfish" name? Do you think menus will disclose GMO salmon with butter sauce? Labeling is required, but there's labeling and then there's real disclosure--which is harder to achieve.

I think the risks of GMO food have been overstated, but that doesn't mean I think GMO salmon are completely safe either. All new technologies have risks, and we need to evaluate risks and trade-offs. We shouldn't give up forever on GMO fish, but we also shouldn't rush into production without knowing the risks. And the trade-off question gets more and more important these days...perhaps important enought to be a deciding factor in what to do.

What kind of tradeoff? In our modern world where CO2 threatens to overwhelm all other environmental problems, reducing the carbon footprint of food production, as GMO salmon promise to do, is a good result. The fish require less food and less time to reach marketable size. But at what cost? We need to look into the possibility, and we need transparency, clarity, and good safeguards so that we can make responsible decisions.

photo, top left: does she or doesn't she (have foreign genes)? only her hairdresser knows for sure. one fish is GMO the other isn't, guess which one.


Anonymous said...

I am less worried about eating GMOs than I am about them escaping into the wild and the pollution that their "ranches" cause. I have stopped eating fish anyway, sadly, because of overfishing, by-catch, and habitat destruction.

of the Sweetwater Sea

Tony Wildish said...

I'm not too fussed about GMO in itself. GM is a tool like any other, and as such can be used or abused.

I think it's potentially less damaging than many of the things we do now, like stuffing animals with antibiotics and hormones to make them grow, or spraying pesticides and fertilisers on (people living near) crops.