GM In our food – Are fish threatened?

The buzz word for the new millenium in the scientific community is GMO – Genetically Modified Organisms, which in laymans terms means that the basic genetic makeup of the organism (food, animal) has been modified in such a way that it will become something nature never intended it to be.

How does this related to the sport of freediving? Well, it relates more to the sub-category of spearfishing. Again you ask, Why?

Spearfishing is the most popular activity while freediving, and harvesting a wild fish is the ultimate expression of getting back to nature, and meeting the prey on an equal footing. GMO has the potential to change the whole notion of “Wild Game Fish”.

Here is an example: one third of the corn and half of the soybeans grown in the U.S are genetically modified. Much of the food you buy contains genetically engineered ingredients: Sodas, milk, baby food. These products are not labeled, and nobody knows what hidden effect their genetic modifications might have on human beings.

Now envision this being taken to the level of GMO fish farms. Say a company, in order to increase it’s profits, decides to farm certain species of fish, genetically altered to grow faster, and thus increase turnover to market. Now imagine what would happen if some of these fish “accidently” were released into the wild? What would the ramifications be on the gene pool of said fish species?

No one knows what will happen when those engineered mutants begin to interact with their native counterparts.

Salmon are the current flavor of the month regarding GMO food. A recent New York Times report stated that a Canadian company is anxiously awaiting approval to sell genetically modified salmon eggs to U.S fish farms. A vast majority of the farms are located in coastal areas. The disturbing evidence states that these fish eggs have been modified in such a way that when they become fish, there growth hormones are basically pumping all the time. They reach their “salable market size” of seven pounds in approx. 18 months.

A typical wild salmon takes three years.

This is disturbing news for native species of salmon. And for us as the end consumer. What will consuming these genetically engineered foods do to our own genetic makeup? We eat food to maintain our health, and overall well being. So what happens when we consume this food? What changes might occur by doing so?

What does this bode for other species such as tuna, which are fastly decreasing in their worldwide populations due to an ever increasing demand of the flesh for sushi? Evidence is pointing to expanding this controversial technology to other forms of food to meet an ever increasing world population.

Including other fish species.

We have expanded our capacity for technology faster than our capacity for understanding it. This has unforseeable concequences.

Maybe it is time that scientists ask themselves this question: “Just because we could, does it mean we should?”

And the point in how it relates to our sport?

We who freedive do so because we want to experience less technology in our sport. If we wanted technology, we would scuba dive. So do we want technology intruding on the very thing we hold sacred – ie; the wild open blue, with its natural bounty for us to partake of? Who wants to doubt whether the seafood they harvested naturally and are eating could have been genetically altered because some scientist could?

I want to make the choice of what foods I eat, not some egotistical scientist trying to play God.

I can think of no one better to eloquently state the magnitude of this crisis. John Sterling, Director of Environmental Programs for Patagonia said: “Genetic engineering represents an attempt to cast off humility and to rewrite Nature’s plan. This is arrogance of the worst kind”

Some food for thought.

Cliff Etzel

Cliff is the former Freediving editor of DeeperBlue.com. He is now a freelance journalist and film-maker.

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