Alison L. Van Eenennaam

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Alison Louise Van Eenennaam is an agricultural extension agent specializing in animal biotechnology and genomics.[1] She was a temporary voting member on the FDA's Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee in its September 2010 meeting on the genetically engineered AquAdvantage salmon.[2] In the past, she has worked for Monsanto.[3] She also serves on the USDA's Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21).[4]

In 2010, Van Eenennaam won a bronze award from the Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Life and Human Sciences for producing a YouTube video called “Animal Biotechnology.”[5][6] The video compares genetic engineering and cloning to traditional animal breeding, artificial insemination, and in vitro fertilization, referring to all as "biotechnology." The video oversimplifies genetic modification by describing it as cutting DNA from one genome and pasting it into another, when in fact, the actual process of genetic engineering is nowhere near this precise and orderly.

Previous Work on Transgenic Fish

In light of Van Eenennaam's appointment to the FDA VMAC committee evaluating the AquAdvantage salmon, here are some of her previous work relating to genetically engineered fish. Van Eenennaam's publications on genetically engineered fish date from as early as 1998, when she wrote about sturgeon. She later wrote about the specific cases of zebrafish and Atlantic salmon, as well as the larger issue of genetically engineered fish in general.

In 2004, she published a fact sheet on genetically engineered fish for the University of California.[7] She reiterates many of the same points in a later, 2006 article, "Careful risk assessment needed to evaluate transgenic fish," co-authored with Paul G. Olin.[8] Here, she specifically addresses the issue of fast-growing genetically engineered salmon. The paper cites a number of benefits of genetically engineered fish, including:

  • A large number of eggs laid per female
  • The fact that "fertilization and embryonic development occurs outside of the mother (in most species)"
  • The lower probability of carrying human pathogens
  • The fact that "aquaculture is a rapidly expanding market"
  • Increased feed-conversion efficiency, providing "economic and potential environmental benefits such as reduced feed waste and effluent from fish farms"

However, the paper notes one downside to producing genetically engineered fish, stating, "aquatic organisms are also the most likely group to present environmental concerns if accidentally released into the environment. Unlike most other agricultural species, fish are both difficult to contain and highly mobile, and they can easily become feral and invade native ecosystems (NRC 2002)."

About the AquAdvantage salmon specifically, the article says: "The mature weight of these fish remains the same as for other farmed salmon, but their early growth rate increases by 400% to 600%, with a concomitant 25% decrease in feed input and a shortened time to market (Du et al. 1992)... Assuming a positive regulatory approval decision and consumer acceptance, the enhanced growth rate and feed efficiency of these transgenic salmon could increase salmon aquacultural productivity significantly, and would likely necessitate that salmon aquaculturists adopt the technology to remain competitive (Aerni 2004)."

From her writing, she clearly sees many benefits to genetically engineered fish, specifically salmon, and her main - and perhaps only - concern is the possibility of the fish to escape. She continues to pursue that issue in a later article, "Transgenic Approaches for the Reproductive Containment of Genetically Engineered Fish," co-authored with Andrew C. Wong in 2008.[9] This article argues that genetically engineered fish will provide humans with benefits, provided that the fish can be "contained" (i.e. prevented from breeding with native fish populations). From the abstract: "Aquacultural applications of transgenic technologies have the potential to supply the ever growing demand for food products derived from aquatic resources. However, before any benefits of genetically engineered fish can be realized, methods for the containment of transgenic fish must be developed to help prevent their interbreeding with native populations should they be accidentally released or escape."

Education and Employment

Van Eenennaam began her career as an International Agricultural Exchange Association trainee at Genetic Resources Inc.'s bovine reproduction facility in San Marcos, TX in 1984.[10] Following her graduation from The University of Melbourne (Australia), where she earned a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with Honors with a major in animal science in 1987, she spent nearly a year as a development scientist at Coopers Animal Health in New South Wales, Australia from 1987 to 1988.

She then moved to the United States to pursue her graduate education, where she continued her education at University of California, Davis. There she received a Master of Science in 1990. Her next employment was as a regional dairy and livestock farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension in San Joaquin and Sacramento counties, California from 1991 to 1993.

She received her PhD in genetics from University of California, Davis in 1997 and then, in 1998, went to work for Monsanto in July 1998. She began as a research scientist at Monsanto's Calgene campus, and became a project leader in 2000. In 2002, she left Monsanto to serve as an Assistant Cooperative Extension Specialist in Animal Biotechnology and Genomics at the Department of Animal Science of University of California-Davis. In 2006, her title changed to "Associate Cooperative Extension Specialist in Animal Biotechnology and Genomics," and it changed again to "Cooperative Extension Specialist in Animal Biotechnology and Genomics" in 2010.

Professional Committee Appointments

Van Eenennaam serves on the following committees:[11]

  • Appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to the national USDA 16568 – “Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21)”. This committee examines “the long-term impacts of biotechnology on the U.S. food and agriculture system and USDA, and provides guidance to USDA on pressing individual issues, identified by the Office of the Secretary, related to the application of biotechnology in agriculture.” (6/2005-present)
  • Appointed to be the National Cooperative Extension Representative on the National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium Advisory Committee (NBCEC) (6/2005-present)
  • California Beef Cattle Improvement Association (CBCIA) Advisor (2004-present)


The following are publications Van Eenennaam wrote or contributed to:[12]

Grant Record

The following are grants Van Eenennaam received to conduct research:[13]

  • Integrating DNA information into beef cattle production systems. USDA-NRI ANIMAL GENOME INTEGRATED GRANT 1/1/2009 - 12/31/2012 A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • Economic analysis of integrating DNA information into beef cattle production systems. UC Davis Academic Federation Professional Development Award. 7/1/09-6/30/10. A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • Whole genome associations for sire prolificacy on California commercial beef cattle ranches. University of California/California State University Collaborative Research Program. 1/1/10-12/31/10. A. L. Van Eenennaam (Co PI) and B L. Golden (Co PI)
  • Alterations in membrane composition and function with calorie restriction. NIH RO1 10/1/07 - 9/30/12. Jon Ramsey (PI). Collaborator A. L. Van Eenennaam
  • Assessment of the well-being and behavior of genetically engineered dairy goats. USDA–NRI 10/1/05 – 6/30/10 E. Maga, J. Murray, J. Mench and A. L. Van Eenennaam (Co-PI)
  • 2009 Beef Improvement Federation Annual Research Symposium and Annual Meeting. USDA-NRI ANIMAL GENOME Conference Grant. 1/1/2009-12/31/2009 A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • 2009 Beef Improvement Federation Conference. UC Davis CA&ES Programmatic Initiatives. Conference grant. A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • 2009 Beef Improvement Federation Conference. California Beef Council. FY 2009 Proposal. Conference support grant. A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • Development of an Integrated Animal Identification and Tracking System. University of California Core Issues Grant 3/1/07-2/28/09. A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • Biological containment of genetically engineered fish. USDA – BRAG Biotechnology Risk Assessment 9/1/05-8/31/08. A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • Validation of new technologies for beef cattle improvement. California Cattlemen’s Livestock Memorial Research Fund. 7/1/05 – 6/30/06. A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • Animal Identification Outreach Contract. California Department of Food and Agriculture 07/01/2005 - 06/30/2006. A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • Coexistence of Diverse Production Systems in California Agriculture Development of Science-based Educational Materials and Outreach Programs. UC ANR Core Issues Grant. 3/1/05 – 2/28/06. A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • Functionality of recombinase/fluorescent marker fusion proteins in eukaryotes. UC Davis Academic Federation Research Grants Program Innovative Development Awards 7/1/05-6/30/2006 A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • Using replacement heifers to estimate carcass quality of herdmates. California Beef Cattle Improvement Association. 5/2005. A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • Using replacement heifers to estimate carcass quality of herdmates. California Beef Cattle Improvement Association. 5/2004. A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • Pilot Study on Mammary Expression of Novel Desaturases. NIH NICHD R03 Small Grants Program. 7/1/04 – 6/30/06. A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI)
  • Identification and characterization of the lysophosphatidic acid acyltransferase from the echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) mammary gland. NSF Women's International Science Collaboration (WISC) Travel Grant Program. A. L. Van Eenennaam (PI).

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Curriculum Vitae, Accessed September 13, 2010.
  2. Meeting Participants for Aquadvantage Salmon Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee, U.S. FDA, Accessed September 13, 2010.
  3. Curriculum Vitae, Accessed September 13, 2010.
  4. Curriculum Vitae, Accessed September 13, 2010.
  5. "Animal Biotechnology", YouTube, Accessed September 14, 2010.
  6. Recent honors for UC Davis faculty and staff, August 23, 2010.
  7. Van Eenennaam, A.L. 2005. Genetic Engineering and Fish. UC ANR, Agricultural Biotechnology in California Series, Publication # 8185.
  8. Alison L. Van Eenennaam and Paul G. Olin, "Careful risk assessment needed to evaluate transgenic fish", California Agriculture, 2006.
  9. Andrew C. Wong and Alison L. Van Eenennaam, "Transgenic Approaches for the Reproductive Containment of Genetically Engineered Fish", Aquaculture, 2008.
  10. Curriculum Vitae, Accessed September 13, 2010.
  11. Curriculum Vitae, Accessed September 13, 2010.
  12. Curriculum Vitae, Accessed September 13, 2010.
  13. Curriculum Vitae, Accessed September 13, 2010.

External resources

External articles