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Study: ‘Frankenfish’ GM Salmon Can Transmit Genes Breeding with Wild Brown Trout

Size difference between wild salmon and GM AquaBounty Aquadvantage™ salmon (Photo: AquaBounty)

Size difference between wild salmon and GM AquaBounty Aquadvantage™ salmon (Photo: AquaBounty)

Scientists in Canada have discovered that genetically modified salmon could escape into the wild and pass on their genes while breeding with other fish.

The BBC reports that researchers found that transgenic Atlantic salmon can cross-breed with brown trout, a closely-related species. The GM salmon, which have been modified to speed up their growth, pass on the quick-growth gene to their hybrid offspring.

The Independent reports that some scientists are concerned that the hybrid fish could out-compete existing species for food.

“[Under hatchery conditions] the transgenic hybrids grew faster than the wild salmon, wild trout and wild-type hybrids,” Dr. Darek Moreau of the Memorial University of Newfoundland is quoted by the BBC. “The GM hybrids also outgrew the GM salmon.”

In a simulated laboratory stream, competition from these GM hybrids stunted the growth of other fish.

“This was likely a result of competition for limited food resources,” Dr. Moreau said.

The genetically modified salmon were created by a Massachusetts-based company called AquaBounty Technologies Inc., which is on the verge of receiving approval from the US Food and Agriculture Department (FDA) for its GM fish. While proponents of GM salmon tout the fish’s potential to provide food for large numbers of people, critics claim there hasn’t been enough research to determine whether or not what they call ‘frankenfish’ is safe for human consumption or for marine and riparian ecosystems.

AquaBounty claims that the environmental risks of its GM salmon are negligible because they would be kept in land-based tanks and the fish are all sterile females.

The new Canadian research is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences.

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