A genetically engineered salmon has moved a step closer to appearing in stores after the FDA announced that the fish did not pose a threat either to the environment or to consumers.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has partially approved a food "product": AquAdvantage salmon eggs; but declaring that risks to consumers and to the environment is unlikely. The FDA has now opened its report for public comment and will review the situation after 60 days and make a final decision. The consultation is due to end in February 2013.
In reaching its initial view, the FDA reviewed more than 50 safety studies, including one that shows that the engineered salmon poses no more of an allergic potential than wild salmon.
AquAdvantage has been developed by a company called AquaBounty Technology, Maynard, Massachusetts. The company set out to produce fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon. The developed fish is a a sterile Atlantic salmon female containing a Chinook salmon gene.
According to experts, wild salmon require a lot of work: they require clean water, a bountiful ocean and restraint to ensure that they aren’t fished out of existence.The ability to create fish that are not as reliant upon such conditions leads, at least in theory, to easier rearing and more plentiful supply. The genetically modified fish can reach market weight in 18 months instead of 36, according to Science Daily.
As well as salmon, the company are also developing hybrid trout, and tilapia, which are also designed to grow faster than traditional fish.
Opponents of the GM salmon, which some have dubbed the "Frankenfish", include Peter Riley, of the pressure group GM Freeze. Riley is quoted by the Independent as saying: "The sterility system does not guarantee that there will be no escapes into the wild and some of them will be fully fertile. It's also debatable whether anyone wants to buy GM salmon, even in the US, if it is properly labelled."
Genetically modified foods (sometimes called GM foods, or biotech foods) are foods derived from genetically modified microorganisms (often abbreviated to GMOs). The GMOs have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques.
The salmon is what is classed as transgenic food. Transgenic means that genes have been inserted into one plant or fish (or animal) that are derived from another species.
There are many genetically modified foods on the market. Most of these are crops like corn, soy, sugar, canola oil, aspartame, and papayas (the Natural Society hosts a top 10 list of genetically modified foods).
However, there are others who consider that genetically modified foods pose potential risks to the environment and consumers.
Consumer confidence has also been hit by scientific controversies, such as the recent case of Chinese scientists undertaking trials on school children without consent of the children's parents.