Courtesy of AquaBounty Technologies, Inc.
Above, a normal-sized salmon and its larger, genetically modified counterpart. The altered genes allow it to grow faster.

Genetically Engineered Salmon Safe to Eat: U.S. Food and Drug Administration


First corn, and now salmon.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on November 19 approved genetically modified salmon for human consumption. After a five-year review, the FDA said it had determined that it was safe.

“The data demonstrated that the inserted genes remained stable over several generations of fish, that food from the GE salmon is safe to eat by humans and animals, that the genetic engineering is safe for the fish, and the salmon meets the sponsor’s claim about faster growth,” the FDA said in a statement announcing its decision.

Environmental groups immediately said they’d sue, and numerous stores, from Trader Joe’s to Target, said they had no intention of selling it.

“The fish is essentially Atlantic salmon with a Pacific salmon gene for faster growth and a gene from the eel-like ocean pout that promotes year-round growth,” Reuters reported.

The gene alteration was done by a company named AquaBounty, which created a fish that would grow faster and bigger, thus shortening the amount of time needed from birth to market.

“AquaBounty says its salmon can grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon, saving time and resources,” Reuters said.

The fish would be segregated from other salmon populations in hatcheries in Canada and Panama, Reuters said. In addition the population would be comprised solely of sterile females. This would ensure they don’t breed with other salmon.

None of that allayed environmentalists’ concerns.

“This unfortunate, historic decision disregards the vast majority of consumers, many independent scientists, numerous members of Congress and salmon growers around the world, who have voiced strong opposition,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the group Food and Water Watch, in a statement quoted by The New York Times.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth denounced the approval, not least of all because it could pave the way for modification of nearly three dozen other fish species, “along with chickens, pigs and cows, are currently under development, and the FDA’s decision on this genetically engineered salmon application sets a precedent for other genetically engineered fish and animals,” the group said in a statement, while Food and Techhnology program director Lisa Archer called the move “flawed and irresponsible.”

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