In a small lab in PEI, biologists have been developing genetically modified salmon eggs for almost 20 years. These eggs are spliced with the DNA of large Chinook salmon and the eel-like ocean pout—a formidable DNA combo that makes AquAdvantage salmon go through an endless growth spurt and making them market-ready fast.
On November 19th, the United States approved the sale of these high tech fish. It’s the first-ever genetically modified (GM) animal that has been approved for human consumption, and might even be making its way to store shelves and dinner tables over the border here in Canada.
What does that mean for food safety professionals? For starters, it adds more fuel to the fire on the debate over genetically modified foods.
The Benefits of GM Salmon and Other Engineered Foods
Genetically modified foods aren’t new. In fact, they’ve been on the market—and on store shelves—for roughly fifteen years. There’s even a good chance you’ve eaten some GM food already.
The first genetically modified organism was developed in 1983, and, since then, new strains of genetically enhanced foods have been making their way onto farms, shelves, and forks. Today, some estimates state that over 90% or corn, soybeans, and cotton are genetically modified.
Part of the reason why genetically modified foods have become so widespread is that they come with several advantages. They can be designed to have useful traits like a longer shelf life, or they can even be made to be more nutritious.
AquaBounty Technologies, the company behind AquAdvantage salmon, designed its fish to grow at double the rate of regular salmon, making it easier and cheaper to farm. This fish can be ready for markets in half the time it takes regular salmon, reducing the cost of feed, upping production rates, and making fish more affordable for low-income families.
Arguments Against Genetically Modified Fish
Professionals with food technology training know that for a food product to be approved, it needs to be deemed safe for consumers. That’s why throughout GM food’s long history, numerous studies have examined the safety of genetically modified foods.
Some studies have demonstrated the safety of GMs, while others have raised some red flags. Together, those mixed messages have made some consumers worried. It even prompted Chipotle to eliminate GM foods from its menus.
Other arguments against genetically modified foods are that they might contaminate wild varieties, increase the use of pesticides, and potentially harm the environment.
How the GM Debate Affects Food Technology Training
Food technology professionals play an important role in keeping consumers safe and fed. That’s why they get a thorough education in food safety while they complete their food safety certificate. These professionals need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of a new food product.
In the United States, food safety professionals at the FDA carefully examined the data on AquAdvantage salmon before approving it for consumption.
How do you feel about GM foods? Do you think they’ve provided key benefits to our food system, or that they do more harm than good?
Join the debate by starting your career in food safety today.
Visit our website to enroll in our food technology diploma program or to speak with an advisor.