“At the end of the day, economics will win,” Bendukidze recently told the New York Times. And it was economics, he said, that brought him into the industry in the first place. “I had no idea of aquaculture. I was just looking for some diversified investments.”
The AquAdvantage salmon is one of an unknown number of GE fish and animals being developed around the world. It would be impossible to track down every lab on earth, especially those that are independently funded and not applying for patents or approvals. It’s possible that gene escapes have already happened, or that GE fish are secretly being grown somewhere and fed to us.
At the VMAC meeting FDA fisheries biologist Eric Silberhorn admitted that if GE fish were being imported, they probably wouldn’t be detected. He also alluded to reports of GE shrimp already in the food supply, before cutting himself off.
Silberhorn is on the team that’s overseeing AquaBounty’s consideration under NADA, the New Animal Drug Application. But he wears many hats at the agency, and presented on three separate occasions at the two-day VMAC meeting. A discussion about the possibility of inadvertently importing GE fish to the U.S. included this exchange:
Dr. McKean: What percentage of the salmon do you test coming into the United States?
Dr. Silberhorn: A fairly low percentage.
Dr. McKean: That is what I expected.
Dr. Silberhorn: I mean, I will be honest with you; there are reports that there are transgenic shrimp in—there are all kinds. But we won’t go there.
Dr. McKean: Don’t muddy the water for me please.
Reached by email, Silberhorn declined to elaborate on the transgenic shrimp he referred to, saying he can’t comment on anything related to the still-pending AquAdvantage decision.
“I know that there’s some research going on,” Kapuscinski said, “but I’m not aware of any transgenic shrimp, a viable line of them having been developed with a trait that’s worth culturing them commercially. But it’s possible. It’s plausible.”