Anne Kauscinski Questions Safety of Genetically Engineered Salmon (Pew Marine Fellow, 2001)

On 9 December 2011, Joe Palca interviewed Anne Kapuscinski, a professor of sustainability science and chair of the environmental studies program at Dartmouth College, on National Public Radio's “Science Friday.” The episode, titled “Debating Genetically Engineered Salmon,” focused on the biotech company, AquaBounty Technologies, which has developed a genetically modified Atlantic salmon that grows twice as fast as regular salmon. Last fall, the Food and Drug Administration held a public hearing and convened a panel of experts to review the food safety and environmental risks posed by these salmon. Their conclusion: AquaBounty salmon was safe, as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon.

But some scientists and environmental groups have said there are questions about the safety of genetically modified fish. In the interview Kapuscinksi said, “I was concerned that there were some problems with small sample sizes, some problems with statistical analysis, and I was even more concerned that there were key parts missing from the risk assessment. The other part that was missing is what could happen if they did escape? And then finally, the risk assessment lacked a formal uncertainty analysis. And this is really important, especially in environmental risk assessment, because there are always going to be scientific uncertainties. So I was worried that if this application is approved with these low standards of science and these missing parts of a risk assessment and it sends the message and sets the precedent that this is what the U.S. government will expect.”

To listen to the interview or read the manuscript, visit the NPR website.