Reason Writers Around Town: Katherine Mangu-Ward on Frankenfish at Esquire.com

Messing around with DNA is serious business, and the registered trademark symbol at the end of "AquAdvantage® Salmon" is a little creepy. The equally unpleasant word "Frankenfish" has been floating around the blogosphere atop scare stories about the future of food. And there is serious (and legitimate) concern that modified fish will sneak out of their aquaculture pens and join Atlantic salmon for wild aquatic sex parties, crossbreeding with — and potentially out-competing — their genetically pure peers. The specter of piscine promiscuity understandably makes people nervous. But they needn't worry, writes Senior Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward at Esquire.com today in an article about the FDA's anticipated approval of genetically modified salmon for human consumption.

Read the whole thing here.

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  • Mr Whipple||

    ....the FDA's anticipated approval of genetically modified salmon for human consumption.

    ...and the anticipated approval of a long-term patent, of course. But as I was reminded the other day by a liberal, without patents, there would be no original thought, and the reason why I didn't understand that, was because I never had an original thought. I really wish it were possible to strangle somebody through these internets.

  • cynical||

    You should invent such a device and patent it. And then never return to the internet.

  • Mr Whipple||

    You're being cynical, right?

  • ||

    Salmon is healthy. Increased consumption of salmon is a good thing. We know this. What we don't know is whether GE salmon may or may not have some unexpected and unknown risk to some unknown bodily function at some unknown time in the future. Should we ban good food because of the unknown? Of course, I suppose flipper babies will always be the counterpoint to this argument.

  • ||

    Or it could give us superpowers.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Not necessarily true for all salmon that it is healthy and increased consumption is good.

    Check out the levels of mercury and PCBs in some fish. Even salmon.

    Mercury ends up in the water largely from airborne deposition, some (much?) of which comes from coal-fired power plants.

    I like me some salmon now and then, but only now and then.

    On a side note, the big, new, fancy Kroger that just opened a few weeks back near my house has some actually very good sushi. Just had some for dinner last night.

  • ||

    I'm not saying that people should go all Jeremy Pivin on the fish, but increased consumption is good for the heart.

  • ||

    Did you know that there was a time when people were afraid to eat tomatoes?

    "At one time, tomatoes were thought to be poisonous, especially by the English. When they were taken to Europe in the 1500s, people were afraid to eat them ..."

    http://www.evalu8.org/staticpage?page=review&siteid=594

  • ||

    Tomatoes are in the nightshade family or something like that, right?

  • ||

    Yes. Had fear of the unknown prevailed, there'd be no spaghetti al pomodoro e basilico. Of course on the plus side, there be none of that Chicago deep-dish crap either. It's like they make it in a cat box.

  • ||

    I keep forgetting, all the following are in the Nightshade family:

    Brinjal, Cayenne, Capsicum, Eggplant, Ground Cherry, Banana Pepper, Bell Pepper, Chili Pepper, Green Pepper, Red Pepper, Sweet Pepper, Paprika, Pimento, Potato, Tabasco, Thorn Apple, Tobacco, Tomato.

    I didn't know what Brinjal was (according to wiki it's eggplant - which is also on the list*), but the rest are essential to the deliciousness of one recipe or another.

    *But then Capsicum includes all of these: Banana Pepper, Bell Pepper, Chili Pepper, Green Pepper, Red Pepper, Sweet Pepper, Paprika, Pimento and Tabasco or at least I though it did.

  • B.P.||

    Used to be called a wolf's peach.

  • zoltan||

    Nightshades can be inflammatory; it's one of the first food groups to be removed from the diet of an arthritic. Poisonous though? Delicious poison, I say.

  • Basil||

    "The remote chance of new allergens — a fear thoroughly investigated by the FDA — is offset by the known health benefits of eating more salmon."

    How is it that Reason accepts the legitimacy of the FDA's sanctioning of engineered salmon, but, all too often, rejects the FDA as being a bunch of nannying nincompoops? (See http://reason.com/search?cx=00.....Search#871 )

    So...is the FDA a bunch of geniuses or not?

  • Mr Whipple||

    When the government intervenes in the market, by, for example, offering patents and IP rights, it creates scarcity where none exists. Therefore, a second government intervention is needed, like the FDA, to temper the first intervention. It's like feeding a lion with one hand, while whipping him with the other.

  • Mr Whipple||

    The FDA also provides "cover" for some of these businesses, like the SEC does for financial institutions. I was watching former Lehman CEO Dick Fuld's Congressional testimony yesterday, again, and he said, "if there was something wrong, the SEC would have said something". I shit you not.

  • Basil||

    Exactly! Which is why I find a Reason editor's citing of the FDA in defense of this somewhat surprising. Is there any independent food safety voice out there?

  • Mr Whipple||

    Kosher?

  • Mr Whipple||

    Who can compete with an agency funded by the government?

  • Don Corlione||

    Exactly what I asked myself when I started out in business.

  • Ray Pew||

    How is it that Reason accepts the legitimacy of the FDA's sanctioning of engineered salmon, but, all too often, rejects the FDA as being a bunch of nannying nincompoops? (See http://reason.com/search?cx=00.....Search#871 )

    So...is the FDA a bunch of geniuses or not?

    They're simply the institution that must be appeased. They aren't scientifically ignorant, nor geniuses (might have one or two), but they are highly political, which often pressures their decisions.

    That's just the way the system is.

  • ||

    When the FDA doesn't block something that doesn't need to be blocked, they are not nannying nincompoops. When they block something that should or shouldn't be blocked, nincompoopery becomes an issue.

  • Basil||

    Fair enough. But whether or not the FDA says something is safe is certainly irrelevant to the reality of the situation.

  • Ray Pew||

    Fair enough. But whether or not the FDA says something is safe is certainly irrelevant to the reality of the situation.

    It's not irrelevant, so long as their reasoning agrees with the evidence. Undoubtedly, they have presented reports and arguments that are contrary to the evidence, which demonstrates their political nature.

  • ||

    Heard a report on NPR early this morning. It concluded with a sound bite of a black couple at a market, responding to the specter of genetically engineered salmon:

    Black woman: Dat don't sound right.
    Black man: No, dat don't sound right.

    It might have been a dream, but I laughed.

  • Mr Whipple||

    No, that was genetically engineered canned mackerel.

  • ||

    Dat don't sound right neither.

  • Basil||

    And, one more thing: the attempt to keep Asian carp confined to special ponds "on land" hasn't worked so well.

    I also don't recall that "sterile females only" strategy working out in Jurassic Park, either. (Oh wait...)

  • AlmightyJB||

    You won't be laughing when these GE salmon take over the world. What will Charleton Heston think when he visits earth in the future?

  • ||

    "Damn you all to hell, and pass the lemon!"

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Planet of the Salmon?

    Sentient salmon have taken over after the human race has mostly eradicated itself and devolved. The salmon have developed the ability to ride horses and use firearms, and a very high level of medical technology, despite their lack of opposable thumbs, or, for that matter - fingers.

    "Get yer filthy fins off me, you damn dirty FISH!"

  • Almanian||

    Gentically altering fish so they grow faster than the "natural" variety? I'm telling you, it's going to be like those movies I saw when I was a kid, with giant tarantulas and ants and stuff.

    Only it will be SALMON, and it will be REAL.

    *shudder*

  • ||

    The genetic engineering freaks people out because they have no fucking idea how awesomely complex genes are, and how messing with genes beyond the tiniest amount is almost 100% guaranteed to wind up with a failed (meaning dead/unviable subject).

    Now, we can't expect everyone to understand the complexities of DNA, but we can ignore them when they don't. And we can decide that shitty movies about it that bomb at the box office are or are not representative of public views on genetic engineering.

  • ||

    That movie really lost me when the female lead spoke the following line:

    "I don't even know who you are anymore!"

    Ugh.

  • ||

    db, I don't even know who you are any more.

  • Almanian||

    db, I don't even know who you are any more.

  • Mr Whipple||

    "Never send a monster to do the work of an evil scientist."

  • Ray Pew||

    Like clockwork, the typical Lefty rails against anyone who doesn't support federal funding of stem cell research, labelling their opponents as anti-scientific and anti-progress, while at the same time shitting their pants over any possibility of genetic alteration of food.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    The difference perhaps being that they won't be eating the product of stem cell research - and hopefully it would not be finding its way into the food stream.

    Your comparison is not only inapt, it's inept.

  • Almanian||

    Oh, no - lefties are well-known baby-leftover eaters.

    Where you been, Barely?

  • Ray Pew||

    The difference perhaps being that they won't be eating the product of stem cell research - and hopefully it would not be finding its way into the food stream.

    Your comparison is not only inapt, it's inept.

    Which could be worse, since digestion provides a significant protection through proteases, nucleases and denaturation, whereas injections of stem cells bypasses such barriers. The latter is as much introducing "genes" into the host as the former.

    I have no problem with either science, but the cognitive dissonance on the Left demonstrates blind ideology and not science.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    No. But they will take those genetically modified body parts and shove 'em inside to see if they work.

    Your critique is not only inapt, it's inept.

  • Edwin||

    uhhh.... Am I the only one paying attention here? Why would these salmon out-compete with natural salmon? They grow FASTER. That means they need more nutrients. This might be a boon to human industry, where we can feed them the extra amount and it's worth it, but it's a losing trait in the wild.

  • ||

    They would be farm raised.

  • ||

    Exactly, Edwin. I would bet that natural selection has already developed the salmon that can grow as fast as possible on nutrients available in the wild. Why wouldn't it?

    If these escape, why wouldn't they either (a) grow not much bigger than natural salmon, because there simply isn't the nutrient base for them or (b) starve?

  • ||

    "Why wouldn't it?"

    Because natural selection doesn't work that way. It doesn't produce the ideal salmon. It produces a salmon just good enough to survive and breed. After you hit that threshold of adaptation, you don't necessarily get any better because there is only one level of survive and breed.

    If what you were saying were true, every animal would be evolved to some ideal form. And they are not. They are evolved to a survivable form.

  • ||

    Actually, evolution doesn't care about 'survive'. Only 'breed'. And once breeding is taken care of, then it refines to breed more. Survival is part of the refining--the longer you survive, the more you breed. Every species on the planet is a refined version of something else--and all lead back to one thing

  • ||

    True. But they are not the most refined. they don't have to be.

  • ||

    The refining is continuous. It can never stop.

  • Almanian||

    The refining is continuous. It can never stop.

    One look at Jessica Biel's ass is all I need to know that this is true.

  • ||

    JB does have a fine donkey, that is a certainty!

  • ||

    According to the guy last night on the PBS News Hour, the salmon would die if they escaped. He said these fish do not know how to hunt in the wild. They are fed food pellets. When they se a shadow above the water they think it's time for lunch. When a wild salmon sees a shadow above the water, it thinks a preditor.

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb.....09-20.html

  • ||

    these could be fun for fishin' big, strong, and dumb as hell. it ain't huntin' but it sure is fun!

  • ||

    If these escape, why wouldn't they either (a) grow not much bigger than natural salmon, because there simply isn't the nutrient base for them or (b) starve?


    I may have misunderstood, but I took that to be Edwin's exact point.

    Why would these salmon out-compete with natural salmon? They grow FASTER...they need more nutrients. This might be a boon to human industry ...but it's a losing trait in the wild.
  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    It's simple: the rats breed twelve times faster than the cats. So we will have four rats to feed each day to each cat. Now what shall we feed the rats? We will feed the rats the carcasses of the cats after they have been skinned.

    Now get this:

    We feed the rats to the cats and the cats to the rats and get the cat skins for nothing!

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    It should not be called "Frankenfish" unless it literally is made by sewing together pieces of other fish and it has bolts sticking out of opposite sides of its, uh, neckal region.

  • ||

    ^^THIS^^

  • Almanian||

    I actually LOL'ed at this

    "neckal region", for the win!

  • Robert||

    "Frank 'n' fish" sounded like it could be a good sandwich.

  • Frank||

    I disagree.

  • DanD||

    Someone on here--I forget who--presented a wonderful caricature of an anti-GMO activist that went like this:

    "OMG U EATED A GENE"

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    What did Gene have to say about it?

  • ||

    It doesn't produce the ideal salmon. It produces a salmon just good enough to survive and breed.

    Sure, sure. I'm just saying that in a highly competitive ecological niche, for a species that has refined over millions of generations, I doubt there's any real difference between "just good enough" and "ideal."

  • The Gobbler||

    Three words:

    Copper River Salmon.

  • ||

    For those concerned the fish might not be safe to eat... Don't eat it.

    Leave more yummy salmon for me!

    As for mercury levels - farm raised fish have lower levels than wild.

  • jtuf||

    Liberals are way to obsessed with genetic purity. They get that attitude from Europe.

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