The Washington Post is reporting that the FDA may be getting ready to approve the first genetically modified animal for human consumption. The FDA released a briefing document stating that the food from AquaAdvantage Salmon “is as safe to eat as food from other Atlantic salmon.” The findings will be presented to a panel of scientific experts on September 19th to determine whether or not the fish will ultimately be approved.
AquaAdvantage is using an Atlantic salmon which has been given two gene modifications. The first is an “antifreeze” gene from an ocean pout (an eel-like fish), which allows the fish to build growth hormones during the colder months, when their growth would ordinarily be stunted. They also received a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon. The result is a fish which can achieve market size in 18 months, rather than 3 years. Growth speed is supposedly the only difference between AquaAdvantage and ordinary Atlantic salmon.
Backlash against this proposed genetic modification comes from a few different directions. Much of it stems from the protection of confidential information, which keeps a good deal of the research, and the FDA's findings, out of the public eye. There is also fear regarding the potentially complex environmental ramifications, especially if any of the genetically modified salmon escape from farms and threaten the endangered wild salmon population.
Should the salmon be approved, there are then concerns over what other genetically modified animals might be coming next. Genetically modified plants are already used in the United States, including corn, soybeans, and canola.