Friday, September 03, 2010

FDA to consider safety of genetically engineered salmon

UPDATE 9/8: The Food and Drug Administration ruled Friday "salmon genetically engineered to grow quickly is safe to eat and poses little risk to the environment," Andrew Pollack of The New York Times reports.The assessment makes it more likely that the fish will become the first genetically modified animal to enter the American food supply." (Read more)

The Food and Drug Administration is set to decide this month if a faster-growing, genetically engineered fish is safe to eat, which could pave the way for other genetically engineered meats. "The fish, made by Aqua Bounty Technologies Inc., is manipulated to grow twice as fast as traditional Atlantic salmon, something the company says could boost the nation's fish sector and reduce pressure on the environment," Susan Heavey of Reuters reports. "But consumer advocates and food safety experts are worried that splicing and dicing fish genes may have the opposite effect, leading to more industrial farming and potential escapes into the wild."

(Aqua Bounty photo comparing engineered
salmon with Atlantic salmon of same age)
"They're basically putting the fish on permanent growth hormone so it grows faster ... so they can sell bigger fish faster," Jaydee Hanson, a policy analyst for the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, told Heavey. If the salmon, left, is approved, the FDA decision could pave the way for "the company's engineered trout and tilapia," Heavey writes. "Other scientists are also developing altered pigs and cows for food." FDA will host a three-day meeting about the salmon beginning on Sept. 19 where it will hear available data and advice from outsiders.
Aqua Bounty Chief Executive Ronald Stotish told Reuters the company has analyzed its salmon and found no differences that warrant any kind of special labeling. "This is an Atlantic salmon in every measurable way," he told Heavey. "When you look at the fish, it's impossible to see the difference." Stotish also noted his companies' salmon could help wild salmon populations and curb costly imports. "We're not saying if they approve our salmon we're going to feed the world," Stotish told Reuters, but "there's a general consensus that overfishing is a fact of life." (Read more)

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