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GE Fish Threaten Human Health

Center for Food Safety

As the long-shelved AquaBounty transgenic salmon is the first genetically engineered (GE) animal intended for human consumption, the importance of thorough human health studies and consumer opinion can not be understated. This animal should not be approved for human consumption until further study indicates that they are safe for consumers and the environment.

We are very concerned about the potential toxicity, allergenic effects, and diseases posed by the commercialization of transgenic fish.  While data on human health impacts of GE fish is sparse, especially since FDA has yet to share the data it has reviewed, some recent studies have provided cause for serious concern. For example, the routine use of antibiotics to control diseases often found in farm-raised fish may already be impacting human health. Some research has suggested that transgenic fish, including that presented by the FDA for the approval of the AquAdvantage salmon, may be susceptible to more diseases than fish currently grown in aquaculture facilities.[1]  Consequently, the amount of antibiotics given to transgenic fish may be higher than the amount currently given to farmed fish; already farmed salmon are given more antibiotics than any other livestock by weight. By eating farmed fish treated with antibiotics humans will be ingesting antibiotics that may be harmful. Indeed, some antibiotics are toxic and can even cause fatal allergic reactions.

Finally, the use of antibiotics in aquaculture also exacerbates the significant problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The potential human health concerns connected with the use of antibiotics in aquaculture, including the unique role transgenic fish may play in exacerbating such use, must be fully assessed by FDA. The feed given to farmed salmon often also contains questionable additives and dyes to artificially turn farmed salmon’s grayish flesh more pink and appetizing to consumers.

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1. Rebecca Goldberg and Tracy Triplett. Murky Waters: The Environmental Effects of Aquaculture in the U.S. (p 44). Environmental Defense Fund (1997).

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