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Science Forum

  1. 26 Apr '17 16:29 / 1 edit
    Maybe it's been discussed here before, but I wanted to hear what people think about the genetically-modified AquAdvantage salmon that grows 2x faster than Atlantic salmon. To me, this could go a long way towards improving the efficiency and quality of global food supplies. But there are very passionate, visceral objections to these biotechnologies from smart people. I'm all for healthy skepticism, but I don't understand this one.
    As the first genetically engineered animal developed for human consumption, the AquAdvantage salmon can be understood as an early form or precursor to products of more advanced practices of synthetic biology. Even as the power and precision of these techniques increases and the particular technical challenges associated with the salmon are left behind, the core issues and deep public resistance around the AquAdvantage salmon will likely persist and haunt continued efforts to reshape environments, economies, and human life through the biological sciences.The debates over the AquAdvantage salmon aren’t narrow and technical—they’re multifaceted, laden with questions of political, economic, and social values[1].


    What is the core issue here opposing this and other GM tech? What are the specific concerns not being addressed by the current food supply approval process? Are they legitimate concerns? Or is it just a general fear of new technology? Who should be looking into those concerns?

    [1] http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2017/04/the_aquadvantage_salmon_debate_and_skepticism_about_biotechnology.html
  2. Standard member DeepThought
    Losing the Thread
    26 Apr '17 19:49
    Originally posted by wildgrass
    Maybe it's been discussed here before, but I wanted to hear what people think about the genetically-modified AquAdvantage salmon that grows 2x faster than Atlantic salmon. To me, this could go a long way towards improving the efficiency and quality of global food supplies. But there are very passionate, visceral objections to these biotechnologies from sma ...[text shortened]... logy/future_tense/2017/04/the_aquadvantage_salmon_debate_and_skepticism_about_biotechnology.html
    Fast growth in a farmed species is desirable, but in a wild species it is not because they have to feed themselves fast enough to maintain the growth rate. So my worry is that a gene pump from farmed to wild salmon will damage the wild stock. The normal mechanism for weeding out the deleterious gene won't work, because the farmed genetically modified animals are nurtured by humans and their population growing with the market.
  3. 27 Apr '17 15:51
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    Fast growth in a farmed species is desirable, but in a wild species it is not because they have to feed themselves fast enough to maintain the growth rate. So my worry is that a gene pump from farmed to wild salmon will damage the wild stock. The normal mechanism for weeding out the deleterious gene won't work, because the farmed genetically modified animals are nurtured by humans and their population growing with the market.
    Good point. These things would not survive well outside of captivity, since their normal mechanisms for slowing growth rate during winter months has been disrupted. The company making the fish are guaranteeing that they each batch of eggs is at least 95% sterile. Their sterility is apparently a huge benefit in augmenting growth rate on its own, since they don't need to expend energy for reproductive purposes.

    And the impaired survival of these guys n the wild can be a positive, since even if a non-sterile fish got out, its offspring would not be very competitive in the wild.

    It does seem eerily like a real-life Jurassic Park scenario though, "Life finds a way".
  4. Standard member DeepThought
    Losing the Thread
    27 Apr '17 16:43
    Originally posted by wildgrass
    Good point. These things would not survive well outside of captivity, since their normal mechanisms for slowing growth rate during winter months has been disrupted. The company making the fish are guaranteeing that they each batch of eggs is at least 95% sterile. Their sterility is apparently a huge benefit in augmenting growth rate on its own, since they ...[text shortened]... wild.

    It does seem eerily like a real-life Jurassic Park scenario though, "Life finds a way".
    Which means up to 5% are viable. I wonder about sperm since my worry is contamination of the wild gene pool.

    There was a nice cartoon in New Scientist along these lines, eventually I worked out to search for "Tom Gauld robo-bees":

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BR6DLJbB9Nk/
  5. 27 Apr '17 18:05 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    Which means up to 5% are viable. I wonder about sperm since my worry is contamination of the wild gene pool.

    There was a nice cartoon in New Scientist along these lines, eventually I worked out to search for "Tom Gauld robo-bees":

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BR6DLJbB9Nk/
    Reminds me of "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly...."

    EDIT: If you're already going through the hassle of manufacturing robot bees, it should be relatively easy to include some sort of self-destruct feature, right?
  6. Standard member sonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    01 May '17 17:13
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    Fast growth in a farmed species is desirable, but in a wild species it is not because they have to feed themselves fast enough to maintain the growth rate. So my worry is that a gene pump from farmed to wild salmon will damage the wild stock. The normal mechanism for weeding out the deleterious gene won't work, because the farmed genetically modified animals are nurtured by humans and their population growing with the market.
    Fish farms are ALREADY harming native fish. It seems that farmed fish held in pens in beach areas have an excess of parasites because the parasites have a great fishing ground themselves, an infinite supply of food whereas in the open ocean the same parasites would have a much thinner chance of encountering a target fish so the fenced in fish get the parasites in much greater numbers and so fish close to the mesh of the barrier have a statistically greater chance of attracting that parasite so the parasite load on the native fish grows exponentially around the vicinity of the pens and therefore to the fish population of a quickly growing geometric domain for the parasites.

    And that is before ANY genetic manipulation, just natural consequences of fish farms.