Monday, September 20, 2010

Genetically-Modified Salmon: Good Eats

If there is one thing that is as certain to happen as tomorrow’s sunrise it is the drone of opposition to anything new and different by the naysayers who are always suspicious of almost any improvement or innovation.

In the news recently is a story about genetically-modified salmon. The salmon is genetically enhanced to produce more of a different salmon’s growth hormone, which causes it to grow much larger, thus producing more salmon. This will help alleviate the problem of overfishing in some areas and result in more food for human consumption.

But the cynical crowd is having a conniption. A feature report on NBC News shows people at a fish market saying things like, “I’m not going to eat any of it,” or “They are playing God.”

These opponents to genetically-modified food have different reasons for opposing the process and the products that result. Some of them believe that humans have no right tinkering with God’s creation. I dismiss this argument out of hand. First and foremost, there is little chance that a supernatural creator being actually exists. And even if I grant that there is an outside chance that God is real, there is a 100-percent chance that the personal God of the bible does not exist. So why should we worry about whether anyone “plays God” if there is no such entity?

Then there are those who insist that we shouldn’t play God in the metaphorical sense. They believe that what took nature millions of years to produce probably shouldn’t be tampered with and then consumed as food. Although I can understand their skepticism, in my view it is unlikely that changing a single gene will produce a Frankenstein-like fish or other creature that would be harmful for human consumption. I would not hesitate to eat one of these “Frankenfish” salmon, as some people have dubbed it.

The last group of cynics may have a better reason to be cynical. Some people are allergic to fish anyway, so they are afraid that an extra boost of hormone might cause the fish to be more allergenic, causing some people who can consume normal fish to suddenly develop an allergy to it. Although not likely, this scenario might be possible. At least people who are highly allergic to other foods might be prudent to proceed with caution. But it does not mean that genetically-engineered salmon should be banned. Lots of people are allergic to peanuts, but it would be ill-advised to ban the sale of peanut butter because a few people might die from eating it. A warning label is all that is required.

Maybe they should genetically engineer salmon to display its own warning label to appease the naysayers.

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