Despite Alarms, GM Food Appears Inevitable

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Though environmentalists are raising loud alarms about the dangers of a genetically modified "super salmon," continued overfishing and increasing demand for cheap protein sources probably mean its advent is inevitable. An American firm is reported to have developed genetically modified (GM) salmon that grows 10 times faster than normal farm-raised varieties, according to a BBC report, a development that could cut the cost of raising salmon by more than half.

The news has caused consternation in Europe, where GM food has become a particularly hot issue, with environmentalists concerned about the modified fish's potential impact on wildlife. They say that although the experimental fish are bred to be sterile, one mistake — one fish that escapes — could ruin wild populations. The GM fish are known to have a lower egg-survival rate, weaker muscle structure and poorer swimming performance than normal salmon. But the economic arguments seem sure to outweigh the environmental ones. "After all, we've practically fished out our oceans already," says TIME science writer Frederic Golden, "and we need an alternative supply." To counter the risks, the developers of GM fish say they will apply an electric shock to the super salmon embryos, causing infertility in adulthood, and that the fish will be raised in closed or inland tanks.