Technology

Escape of the Clones?

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Genetically enhanced T-bone? Biotech giant salmon filet?

For nearly seven years Americans have safely eaten foods made from genetically modified crops. Now the era of genetically modified steaks and filets may be dawning.

Researchers and entrepreneurs are already working on these new biotech foods from animals. Today The Washington Post and other leading newspapers report on the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on the health and environmental safety aspects of genetically modified animals.

The chief problem identified in the NAS report is that some genetically modified animals might escape and have deleterious effects on wild animal populations. For example, giant genetically enhanced salmon might escape and out-compete wild salmon. Or mosquitoes genetically modified to resist malaria parasites might proliferate more than their wild cousins.

One way to handle any concerns about giant salmon is to make sure that they are sterile. Also, it might be prudent to keep animals and plants bred as pharmaceutical factories, so-called pharming, out of the food supply. Still, the bottom line of the NAS is this technology has great promise for producing food and drugs for human consumption.