AquaBounty Technology’s genetically modified salmon just got a financial boost from the USDA, Grist reportss. The company received US$ 494,000 awarded to study technologies that would render the fish sterile. This would reduce the likelihood to reproduce with wild salmon, should any fish escape into the wild. The Atlantic salmon AquAdvantage has been genetically altered with a growth-hormone gene from a Chinook salmon and a gene from an ocean pout that will allow the fish to grow all year round, reaching market size much faster than traditional salmon.
AquaBounty points out that FDA approval requires eggs only be sold to contained inland facilities that are approved and subject to subsequent inspection by the agency, and there is no danger of escape. But industry watchers, like Ocean Conservancy’s aquaculture program director George Leonard are concerned: “They have done no quantitative risk and failure analysis. It is true that net pens aren’t in the immediate future, but clearly there will be pressure to farm them there. There is an entire industry infrastructure that could accommodate these fish. If eggs are sold to other countries, which must certainly be part of the business plan, there is no guarantee that they will follow the same guidelines as the FDA.” The fish are already being shipped to Panama and Canada for grow out.