AquAdvantage Salmon

AquAdvantage salmon is the trade name for a genetically modified Atlantic salmon developed by AquaBounty Technologies. It has been modified by the addition of a growth hormone regulating gene from a Pacific Chinook salmon and a gene from an ocean pout (the Atlantic salmon has 40,000 genes). These additions enable it to grow year-round instead of only during spring and summer.

The purpose of the modifications is to increase the speed at which the fish grows, without affecting its ultimate size or other qualities, though conventional salmon growers have publicly challenged the purported fast growth rates of AquaBounty’s salmon. The fish grows to market size in 16 to 18 months rather than three years. The latter figure refers to varieties whose growth rate has already been improved by 2:1 as a result of traditional selective breeding.

Genetically modified salmon have raised concerns over the environmental impact they could have if they escaped into the wild. Modeled invasion scenarios in semi-natural environments suggest that genetically modified salmon would have the ability to outcompete wild-type salmon. Genetically modified salmon can potentially survive twice as long as wild-type.

Smoltification is the process of salmon adapting from freshwater to marine water. Concerns have been raised around the genetically modified salmon’s ability to potentially achieve smoltification in only one year. This could allow genetically modified fish to reach freshwater quicker. The ability to reach freshwater first could allow genetically modified salmon to be in the presence of more food with less competition from the wild-type salmon. Under simulated models, genetically modified male salmon lack reproductive success and have a reduced number of offspring survivals.

Additionally, they lack in swimming capabilities as compared to wild-type salmon. They also expel more energy when swimming than wild-type salmon. This is most likely due to the type of muscle fibers. The genetically modified fish’s muscle fibers are smaller in diameter than wild-type salmon. The force a specific muscle can generate is proportional to the diameter of the muscle, and with a smaller muscle diameter than wild-type salmon, they produce less force than their wild type counterparts.

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