Anti-GMO fanatics, start your engines. The first genetically altered fish is about to hit your plates.
According to The New York Times, "government regulators moved a big step closer last Friday to allowing the first genetically engineered animal -- a fast-growing salmon -- to enter the nation's food supply."
The Food and Drug Administration says the Frankenfish will have "no significant impact" on the environment and that the salmon is "as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon." The agency's draft environmental assessment will be open to public comment for 60 days, but don't waste your outraged breath -- it's gonna happen, though ultimate approval could still be months away.
Of course, environmental and consumer groups are already madder than Moby Dick. Some members of Congress have also tried to block the FDA from approving the fish, according to the NYT.
"The G.E. salmon has no socially redeeming value," Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group opposed to farm biotechnology, said in a statement. "It's bad for the consumer, bad for the salmon industry and bad for the environment."
AquaBounty Technologies, the company that developed the salmon, has been seeking approval for more than a decade. The so-called "AquAdvantage" salmon is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon and a genetic switch from the ocean pout, an eel-like creature. The switch keeps the gene on so that the salmon produces growth hormone year round, rather than only during warm weather months. That means the fish -- which will all be female -- reach market weight in half the usual amount of time -- in about 18 months instead of three years. (Yes, you girls do look fat.) If approval comes early next year, some salmon could reach American dinner tables by late next year.
The company is also developing genetically engineered, fast-growing trout and tilapia.
The main concern of environmentalists and other rational people is that the genetically engineered salmon could escape and establish themselves in the wild, with detrimental environmental consequences. The larger salmon, for instance, could conceivably outcompete endangered wild Atlantic salmon and eventually wipe them out.
The FDA said the chance this would happen was "extremely remote." The salmon would be raised in inland tanks with "multiple barriers" to escape. Even if some fish did escape, the nearby bodies of water would be "too hot or salty" for them to survive, the agency says. And reproduction would be unlikely because the fish would be sterilized, although the sterilization technique is not foolproof.
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