So first of all what the hell is a GMO? A GMO is a Genetically Modified Organism, the concept is not really new and the theory is quite simple. You have an organism like say a salmon and it takes 24-30 months to reach maturity. Then you have the ocean pout which reaches maturity much more quickly say 18 months. You take the gene from the pout that controls growth and slip it into a salmon in place of its normal growth gene. Bam! You now have a salmon that reaches it’s nice fat, juicy, readiness to eat in 18 months, a full 6 months faster than normal. Now this is a little bit of an over simplification but really catches the gist of what scientists can do. Similarly plants we eat can be combined with plants that need less water so they can grow in more arid environments and if you take five minutes you can start to see lots of other potentially beneficial ways to combine things.
So the Frankenfish you have been hearing about in the news is a salmon that has had genes added from another salmon and also the ocean pout for the purpose of getting the salmon to market more quickly. Mucho profits for salmon growers assuming people will buy and eat them.
Below is the wiki for GMOs and it does a pretty in-depth job of explaining:
Below is a link to an article on the company and the infamousFfrankenfish that was approved:
So why is everyone so freaked out by GMOs? There are a number of concerns with GMOs, first people are afraid that these “super species” might take over the world and out compete their natural counterparts which could very negatively impact biodiversity. Second there is a fear that cross-pollination (reproduction) between GMOs and natural species could have unforeseen circumstances. There also are potential issues that new species’ pollen could have unexpected allergy impacts for humans. Finally, since these GMOs are “unnatural” lots of people don’t want to eat them, and want to be informed of what foods and seeds being sold are GMOs and which aren’t. So labeling has become a very heated point of contention particularly in Europe. Now the reality is there probably is no major threat from these GMO species but that threat is certainly not zero and if the worst case scenario should develop, well then we’re living in a science fiction nightmare and that’s what scares the hell out of people.
Here’s a link to Oak Ridge National Lab’s page on GMOs, their benefits and risks: