Update [2008-8-22 13:20:9 by Tom Philpott]:I was alerted to the rBGH-tilapia news item by this blurb in the Organic Consumers Association news feed on Aug. 19. But when you click on the link provided by OCA, you’re taken to a source dated 2003. Unlike reader Mr. Mean, who (very cordially) comments below, I sloppily didn’t notice how old this “news” is. I emailed E. Gordon Grau, the Hawaii-based scientist who performed the study on rBGH and tilapia, to ask him if there was anything new to report. He replied that there was no new data, and that his institute was no longer working on the project. He added that to his knowledge, the practice of feeding genetically modified cow hormones to farmed fish had never taken off. So, to the best of my knowledge, this is a non-story. I regret having run with it.

Want a snapshot of the state of research at the modern state university? Here’s one:

In collaboration with Monsanto Chemical Company and California Sea Grant, Hawaii Sea Grant Director Gordon Grau is characterizing the efficacy and safety of Monsanto’s recombinant bovine growth hormone in raising aquacultured tilapia.

Sea Grant is a publicly funded, nationwide network of 30 state-university research and extension programs designed to “foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources.” Sea Grant has a pithy little slogan: “Science serving America’s coasts.”

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In this case, it might consider modifying that to read: “Publicly funded research serving the globe’s largest agri-biotech company.” According to one account, the Sea Grant kicked in $100,000 to support the project, with Monsanto ponying up $80,000.

And what do you know? The experiment established a nifty new use for rBGH even as it’s being hounded out of the dairy market by concerned consumers. Turns out that feeding genetically modified cow hormones to fish makes them grow really big, really fast: They balloon to “nearly twice the size of control fish in four weeks.” The FDA has yet to approve rBGH as a fish feed. But given the way that agency has waved the agri-biotech industry’s creations onto the nation’s dinner plates with minimal testing, it’s hard to imagine this novelty encountering much resistance.

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