- Apr 2016
a few genes from other fish
Echoing JEGallegos, this phrase is misleading. Only one gene from Chinook salmon was used along with the regulatory DNA sequences from Ocean pout.
A few fun facts about Ocean pout: it's an eel-like fish that lives in predominantly cold waters of the Atlantic. The DNA they used from Ocean pout are from an antifreeze gene that gives the fish the ability to survive in cold conditions without their blood freezing (*an artificial version of this protein has been used in ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming).
So, to sum up exactly what the DNA integrated into Aquadvantage salmon includes: the promoter sequence (turns the gene on) from the Ocean pout antifreeze gene--the growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon--the ending sequence from the Ocean pout antifreeze gene (the stop signal). Definitely not a few genes. Also, the gene and regulatory sequences they used were not "thrown in" since the process requires numerous and precise checks at every step along the way. (see Yaskowiak ES. et al. 2006 for a detailed characterization of the transgenic DNA used)
- Feb 2016
has broad support from the public, researchers and the plant-breeding industry
It'd be cool to have some sources or specifics here.
Gene editing changes the genetic code using material from outside the target organism,” said Franziska Achterberger of Greenpeace. “Much like older genetic modification techniques, it also entails numerous risks and uncertainties. The engineering process is not well-understood and can result in unexpected and unpredictable effects on the environment and human and animal health.”
Without critiquing the statements in the quote (the matter of which is a secondary issue of scientific correctness and vagueness) I'm not sure that a representative from Greenpeace can offer much in the way of scientific debate here. This is exactly the type of quote I would expect from Greenpeace regarding gene editing. It opens up several cans of worms that are not addressed later on. I worry about leaving these type of claims uncountered or unrepresented from the other side of the issue.
technique that has emerged only in the past two or three years
This needs some clarification. There are publications about gene editing and genome editing as far back as 2006. And there are publications about tools to use for gene editing as far back as 2003. The technique is itself not a recent invention.
Lord Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association
First off, I can't find Lord Melchett on the Soil Association's website. Correct me if I missed him: http://www.soilassociation.org/aboutus/whoweare/whoswho. Second of all, Lord Melchett is a character on the TV show Blackadder. So that's weird.
I did, however, find a Peter Melchett with the title of Policy Director for the Soil Association by googling "Melchett Soil Association." Still couldn't find him on the staff page though.
...Hold up, I found a Lord Peter Melchett too. This one has been arrested previously for uprooting a test field of GM corn with Greenpeace at the helm. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/934110.stm This reads much like the protesters who uprooted the GM barley test fields of Professor Harwood to me. All in all, I don't think he's a very good source, especially since there is already a Greenpeace affiliate in the article. It also points to the fact that Greenpeace may not be a good source of information on this topic in general given its fervent bias.
- Jan 2016
This information comes from the work of Robert Devlin (see a review here: [http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/06/05/biosci.biv068]). While the authors report differences in behavior and immune function between transgenic and non-transgenic fish, they have cautioned against assuming that because of these differences that the fish are more apt to die than their unaltered counterpart in nature. One author of the review likens GM fish to invasive species, with similar potentials to survive or die in new habitats. (see [http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/06/24/413755699/genetically-modified-salmon-coming-to-a-river-near-you] for statements by the authors on this point).
For now, AquaBounty says that’s unlikely to happen since it plans to grow AquAdvantage in land-based tanks. The company will also use only female fish that are sterile so breeding in the wild is also unlikely
My problem with these two comments is the tone. Specifically the use of "For now" and "unlikely." These subtle phrases add an unfair sense of uncertainty to the issue of containment where I don't think it is necessary or appropriate. While there is chance of an escape occurring in any system, I think anyone assessing the precautions built into the Aquadvantage system would classify the risk as very low, or very unlikely. Not to mention the added precautions taken to ensure that the environment and natural populations of fish are safe just in case of an already very rare contamination.
Also I don't think the risk level is likely to change as long as the strict containment protocol is followed (not "for now" but "for as long as containment is a priority").
The changes could also harm the plant or animal and make them less fit to survive.
I find this a bit confusing. In some production systems you want to limit the ability of the modified organism to survive in the environment (to prevent gene flow to wild or non-modified relatives and contaminating the genetic resources therein).
What the author is referring to as "harm" could either mean changes that cause undue harm on the individual, modified organism or changes that prevent the organism from reproducing and continuing their lineage. Neither of which I think is a major concern.
Firstly, in any production system health and robustness of the producer (whether it be a plant or an animal) is of prime importance. A "less-fit-to-survive" plant or animal would probably not be a good producer. Potential detrimental growth or survival effects on the plant or animal is therefore monitored and avoided at all costs in the engineering process.
On the other point, you definitely want to control the genetics of these modified organisms and prevent them from contaminating non-modified counterparts, which includes preventing (harming?) their ability to transmit their genes to other organisms.
Aquadvantage salmon does this by only producing sterile females. So that in the very rare event of an escape, the GM fish could not produce offspring, leaving only those GM individuals to eventually die off in nature.
unpredictable and potentially worrisome ways
Same as mentioned by others, statements like these gloss over the potential benefits of using GM fish and cause undue focus on the potential of harm to the environment (for which every precaution is taken to avoid). There is not equal attention give to the positive impacts this method of fish production has over the current system.
policy keeps consumers in the dark.”
The FDA also mentions labeling GM products with a brief description of why the product was genetically engineered (for example: "'This Atlantic salmon was genetically engineered so it can reach market weight faster than its non-genetically engineered counterpart.'"). I think it's a cool idea and would potentially help with the issue of consumers feeling "in the dark," especially if they look at it from a production standpoint. Additionally, it might also help make the distinction between the process of genetic modification and the product itself more obvious.
along with guidance about how to note the genetic changes.
I think this is an incredibly important aspect of the labeling issue. Regardless of what side you're on, what goes on the label matters. It needs to be scientifically accurate, easy to understand and, perhaps most importantly, NOT misleading.
I particularly liked this point by the FDA:
“An example of a statement in food labeling that may be false or misleading could be the statement “None of the ingredients in this food is genetically engineered” on a food where some of the ingredients are incapable of being produced through genetic engineering (e.g., salt)”.
Yes! This gets me every time. Seeing "no GMO" on products for which a genetic engineered version doesn't even exist.
...Makes as much sense as saying something like, a certain brand of computer is certified to not strangle you in your sleep. Doesn't it make you wonder if there are computers out there that will strangle you? (There aren't. So why label it unnecessarily?)
Most studies on animals that are fed genetically modified foods don’t show serious health effects, though there are a few that hint at potential harm to organs like the kidneys, liver and heart, as well as increased risk of cancers and early death in these animals.
I'd like to see citations for this section. Without citations it's difficult to interpret this statement as anything more than speculation. They are referring to a retracted (and republished, however not without harsh criticism by most scientists in the field, see [https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/06/24/scientists-react-to-republished-seralini-maize-rat-study/] for comments by scientists) paper by Seralini et al. To me, the "few studies" that hint at those effects amount to just this single, controversial and scientifically questionable study. Then again we don't know for sure how many studies they are referring to because none were cited.