My Soapbox

As the name implies, this is opinion and nothing more. Sometimes I post, but mostly I just tell myself that I should.


This Fish is a Drug

On November 2nd, the FDA approved GMO salmon for widespread farming (read an about that article here).  Because of the technology patented within its genes, they have also classified it as a drug. Wait, what?

Yes, a fish is a drug.

There are some far-reaching political, economic, and societal effects of this new classification, topics that I may get into at some point in the near future. For now I'd rather focus on the new fish/drug creature itself.

And it is new. It is a species of fish never before seen on Earth. It did not evolve within strict environmental constraints; it did not fill some previous, unknown niche. It was birthed in a sterile room, by scientists with pipettes and latex gloves.

And how do they plan to keep this thing from spreading into the wild? Human-imposed constraints, of course. They will sterilize all the fish, and, all the fish will be female.

What percent success rate is the sterilization process? 99%? 99.999%? Any chance for failure means that it will, and, given enough time, there will be an accident. Eggs will get flushed down the wrong drain. A worker will take some fry home to use as bait. Someone will forget to turn on the sterilizer. An eagle will snatch one out of their growing tanks. Flooding, valve failures, intentional introduction into the wild.

And that's just with the fish on the farm. What about the breeding facilities? Unless these are cloned fish, there must be a facility that produces the fry. All the possible points of failure in the above paragraph apply here, too.

So here's the hubris: Humans, once again, take a thing, change it, then think that they can control the result (think Dr. Frankenstein's monster). History is rife with such intentional/unintentional situations: the introduction of rabbits in Australia; GMO corn/soy/wheat crossbreeding with heirloom varieties. Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes, and Asian carp heading there, too.

Ah the Ego. That little piece of Humanity's psyche is what makes us powerful. It's what allows us to fly into space and walk on the moon. But it's also our enemy. Once we let it off its leash, it can destroy everything just because it has convinced us that we cannot fail. That's exactly what has happened here. It has fooled everyone into believing that we have this fish thing under control. We won't notice a problem until it's far too late.

But really, I guess it's all ok. We won't pay for the consequences - our kids will.