Frankenfish (genetically modified salmon) comes alive!
A genetically modified Atlantic salmon may soon be available in supermarkets. The company behind it insists it's more environmentally sustainable.
This story was originally covered by PRI's Living on Earth. For more, listen to the audio above.
The Food and Drug Administration is considering approval of the first genetically modified animal for human consumption. The animal, a farm-raised Atlantic salmon, carrying a gene and gene marker from two other fish species, grows faster than other salmon. The company behind the fish, Aquabounty, believes that if the fish gets more popular, it could create be a boon for the environment.
Some groups disagree. They call it "Frankenfish" and "mutant" in a campaign to block FDA approval. These groups say the fish could have profound unintended effects on wild fish and could open the regulatory doors to approval for other genetically altered animals.
The company's president and CEO, Ron Stotish, believes more genetically altered animals could be a good thing for the world. He told PRI's Living on Earth, "This technology could be adapted to allow other production systems -- it could be land based -- that have the potential to reduce transportation costs, reduce the carbon footprint of transportation of large quantities of salmon."
The fish "is an Atlantic Salmon first and foremost," Stotish emphasizes. "What has been done is a single copy of the growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon has been inserted into this Atlantic salmon genome." That makes it grow considerably faster than more conventional fish.
Stotish believes the cultivation of GM fish will "basically be a sustainable method of production of a safe and readily available seafood product." The genetic modification "significantly alters" the economics of land-based aquacultures, according to Stotish, "making this a safe and sustainable alternative."
If the FDA approves the genetically modified salmon, consumers may not know that they're eating it. "Under the current US labeling policy and laws," Stotish says, "the use of a label for a material that is not materially different, or not different in any significant aspect is not necessary." Stotish thinks that labels could, in fact, kill the product before people have a chance to try it.
Stotish believes much of the opposition to the fish stems from misunderstanding. He points to people who are "vehemently opposed to new technology, and particularly, technologies that may be based in genetic modifications." He emphasizes that the new fish is "wonderful. It's exactly the same as a high quality Atlantic salmon."
Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth."