Today, the Food and Drug Administration has, for the first time ever, approved a genetically altered animal as safe for human consumption in the U.S. The new animal is a fast-growing super salmon that critics are calling a “frankenfish.”
Officially, it’s called the AquAdvantage Salmon, which was created by Massachusetts-based company AquaBounty. CEO Ron Stotish touts the fish as a “game changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats.”
The AquAdvantage Salmon grows twice as fast as a normal salmon through the help of a growth hormone from the Pacific Chinook salmon and a gene from an ocean pout, an eel-like fish. The ocean pout gene allows the modified salmon to produce the growth hormone all year long rather than only part of the year like a normal Atlantic salmon.
The new fish is also supposed to be safe for the environment. It’s bred to be sterile and only female (like the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park”), though a small percentage might still be able to breed (also like the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park”). However, the company believes their potential for escape in the real world to reap destruction on native salmon populations is low.
The FDA believes the fish is unlikely to harm the environment and that there are “no biologically relevant differences in the nutritional profile of AquAdvantage Salmon compared to that of other farm-raised Atlantic salmon.” However, even the Obama administration stalled on the fast-growing salmon for over five years over concerns that consumers would not view the approval favorably.
William Muir, a genetics professor at Purdue University, said in a statement regarding the fish:
“The scientific review is clear, there is no credible evidence that these fish are a risk to either human health or the environment. In contrast, the current practice of using wild caught salmon as a food source is not sustainable, our oceans are over fished. This development provides a safe and sustainable alternative.”
While genetically modified crops are already widely used, the potential benefits for genetically modified animals still can’t seem to trump the fear of eating them or the ethical issue of breeding them. Lisa Archer, a food and technology program director for the activist organization Friends of the Earth explained:
“Despite FDA’s flawed and irresponsible approval of the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption, it’s clear that there is no place in the U.S. market for genetically engineered salmon. People don’t want to eat it and grocery stores are refusing to sell it.”
To eat or not to eat the overgrown genetically modified “Jurassic Park” salmon? That is the question.