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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

FDA Considers Allowing Sale Of 'Frankenfish' In Stores

Kristen Villarreal |
September 20, 2010 | 6:24 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

(Creative Commons)
(Creative Commons)

The FDA began hearings Monday to determine whether the ‘frankenfish’ is safe for human consumption.

The media-coined ‘frankenfish’ is a genetically-modified Atlantic Salmon that is officially named the AquAdvantage Salmon. If approved, the AquAdvantage Salmon will be the first genetically-engineered animal on the market. 

Scientists created the salmon by injecting atlantic salmon eggs with a growth hormone gene from a Pacific Salmon and then adding genetic material from an Ocean Pout.

The growth hormone from the Pacific Salmon allows the fish to grow twice as fast as a non-modified salmon. The genetic material from the Ocean Pout allows the fish to grow throughout the year.

The FDA will review information this week from AquaBounty Technologies, the company that developed the fish. 

Critics of the genetically-modified salmon worry that, if approved, the FDA would not require a label to help consumers identify the AquAdvantage Salmon from natural salmon. The FDA's current tests for safety of fish products were put into use before genetically-modified animals for consumption were possible. Therefore, according to Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food, the tests cannot determine the full allergenicity and toxicity of the modified salmon. The AquAdvantage Salmon are said to have a higher tolerance to the toxins in their environment and there is rising concern these toxins could end up in consumers. 

Critics also say there is no way to determine the impact the AquAdvantage Salmon will have on the natural environment and population of non-modified salmon. Although Aqua Bounty assures the FDA and public they will raise their fish in land-based facilities where ocean escapes are impossible, critics wonder what will happen to those companies that breed the altered salmon in ocean pens. The fear lies in the idea that one day the AquAdvantage Salmon will be released into the wild, compete with the native population of salmon for food and wipe out non-modified salmon all together. 

However, Aqua Bounty insists their fish product is safe and environmentally sustainable. FDA officials agree with Aqua Bounty’s claim. The ongoing FDA hearings will determine if the AquAdvantage Salmon will hit store freezers anytime soon.

To reach reporter Kristen Villarreal, click here.

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